A Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Compiled and Edited by Theodore Baker ; With Portraits From Drawings in Pen and Ink by Alex. Gribayedoff

Product Description
Originally published in 1900. This volume from the Cornell University Library’s print collections was scanned on an APT BookScan and converted to JPG 2000 format by Kirtas Technologies. All titles scanned cover to cover and pages may include marks notations and other marginalia present in the original volume.Amazon.com Review
The splendid Biographical Dictionary of Musicians was begun in 1900 by Theodore Baker. Nicolas Slonimsky undertook the fifth thro… More >>

A Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Compiled and Edited by Theodore Baker ; With Portraits From Drawings in Pen and Ink by Alex. Gribayedoff

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  1. #1 by AR on April 17, 2010 - 4:31 am

    According to the reviews by the editors, as well as customers, this was supposed to be an updated edition by Slominsky. However, I received a reprint of the 1900 first edition. It was extremely out of date and not at all what I expected to receive. It even used old print plating and was difficult to see the words clearly. Buyer should be sure to confirm the edition of this book. I am very disappointed.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. #2 by Craig Matteson on April 17, 2010 - 5:51 am

    This book is really indispensable for anyone who cares deeply about classical music. It is a fabulous reference for almost all the composers you can think of and many you have never heard of, many historically important performers, musicologists, theorists, and lots of other great information. Since it is a single volume handy reference the articles tend to be concise and very informative. You learn not only biographical information, but important works in that person’s life (whether composing or performing them).

    There are several specialized versions of Baker’s this or that. For example, there is one for twentieth century musicians and another for popular music. However, this is the bedrock main version.

    While this volume is presently out of print, it can be had on the used market relatively affordably. A ninth edition is planned for 2007, or so I hear. However, it is going to be something like $300! Of course it is worth it, because of the wealth of information, but you can get this version for about a quarter of that price or less.

    This is a book that is simply fun to flip around in and read things you never even suspected to exist. Make sure and read Slonimsky’s article on himself. It is a hoot.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. #3 by FrKurt Messick on April 17, 2010 - 8:39 am

    My first copy of this book was the 1958 version, the fifth edition of this text, which represented a major increase in the text (from fourth to fifth, there were some 2300 additional biographies, which can give one a sense of the scope of this text even then). It is now an impressive tome that covers not only the ‘classical’ world but also the pop, rock, jazz, country and other more modern areas of music to a significant degree.

    The research methodology for this book has continued to be developed over time. The first edition, in 1900, relied extensively on musician biographies and autobiographies, but this has since been supplemented a great deal with outside research, musicologist and historian contributions, and innovative methods by Nicolas Slonimsky (for example, Slonimsky contacted the Palais de Justice in Paris to verify the dates of Wagner’s imprisonment for debt, something Wagner omitted from his official life story; he contacted the Vienna Bureau of Meteorology for a weather report on the day Beethoven died to confirm the story of the thunderstorm).

    This is a dictionary of musicians, but it includes many other peope connected to music – Slonimsky suggested once that the title should be ‘Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Librettists, Publishers, Impresarios, and Sundry Other Men, Women, and Children Who Have to Do with Music.’ The entries go back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but as Slonimsky states, the biographical details of music figures from those periods is rather scant, even if their importance was major. There is a major section at the beginning that discusses the standards of the dictionary, the spelling and naming conventions used, the preservation of details in different ways, and the free use of qualifying descriptions (neither Baker nor Slonimsky were shy at giving their opinions about the quality or talent of the figures involved).

    This is an incredibly useful dictionary, from Aaron, abbot of St. Martin and St. Pantaleon in Cologne (circa 1050) to Alberich Zwyssig, a Swiss composer of the 1800s. I find it one of my most frequently used reference books, both the older fifth edition and the new eighth edition. It is a valuable book in any edition.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. #4 by Anonymous on April 17, 2010 - 10:35 am

    While I don’t actually own this book, I have used it a great deal for a college music class. The definitions are helpful, well-written, and present helpful, relevant information in a concise form. The biographies are good for a quick reference, but they also lead to further, more complex research questions.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. #5 by G. Steven Krogh on April 17, 2010 - 12:42 pm

    I do not believe I can say enough to extol the virtue of this book. I am finishing my Music Composition degree and Baker’s has been an indespensible tool for my research. Concise and informative, this book even includes the opinions of the musical scholars. To say that this is just a dictionary would be like saying that the sun is dull.
    Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians could be used like a “Who’s Who” if the musical world. While the Harvard Dictionary of Music is the reigning authority, written differently from Bakers, which is easier to follow.
    Specifically, I wanted information on J.S. Bach. Baker’s has a particularly well-detailed, extensive section on Bach: everything I needed.
    I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand the finer facts of music history.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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