A History of Western Music? Well, It’s a Long Story
By JAMES R. OESTREICH
OXFORD HISTORY OF WESTERN MUSIC By Richard Taruskin
Illustrated. 4,272 pages. Oxford University Press. $500 until Dec. 31; then $699.
The Oxford History of Western Music
MOST of the news in classical music takes place on stage or on disc. But at the moment, one of the biggest stories (in more ways than one) is taking place on the printed page. Actually, 4,272 pages.
The new six-volume “Oxford History of Western Music” was 13 years in the making. Despite its bulk, it may seem to pale in comparison with, say, the 29-volume second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, of 2001, but that represented the work of more than 2,500 writers. This is the work of one, Richard Taruskin, a music historian at the University of California at Berkeley, who has been an occasional contributor to Arts & Leisure and other publications.
As historian, sometime journalist and blockbuster author, Mr. Taruskin emulates his mentor at Columbia University, Paul Henry Lang, the author of “Music in Western Civilization” (1,107 pages in its 1997 edition) and a music critic of The New York Herald Tribune. On a recent return to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Taruskin spoke with James R. Oestreich about the making of the new book.
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