If you’ve ever wanted to delve into a particular piece of music, there’s nothing like a good guide to give you context and show you what to look for. We have any number of titles on individual works, such as Avatar of Modernity: The Rite of Spring Reconsidered(M1520.S9 A82 2013) and Who Should Sing Ol’ Man River? (ML410.K385 D44 2015), but it often helps to have a series dedicated to explaining music in a standard format. One of the best is the Cambridge Music Handbookseries; we have 44 of them covering such diverse works as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (ML410.V82 E84 1996), Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue(ML410.G288 S27 1997), and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5; search in the catalog for Cambridge Music Handbooks and they should all come up. There’s even one for The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band(ML421.B4 M66 1997), although that’s an exception to the generally classical works covered by the series.
Another good series is Unlocking the Mastersby David Hurwitz; this listener-friendly series focuses on works by the same composer rather than being book-length treatments of individual pieces. Each book comes with a CD featuring works used as examples in the text. We have The Mahler Symphonies: An Owner’s Manual(ML410.M23 H86 2004) and Sibelius: The Orchestral Music: An Owner’s Manual(MT92.S63 H87 2007). There are another twelve or so titles in the series—including Shostakovich, Dvorak, Handel, and others—and I expect to get more of them in the future.
Finally, there’s an excellent book called Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa. Haruki Murakami, a well-known Japanese author (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicleand others), had lengthy and very insightful conversations with the famous conductor. While we don’t have a copy in the Consortium Library, Anchorage Public Libraries does. It’s very enjoyable and well worth reading.