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 Handbook series; 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 Masters by 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 two of them: 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 Chronicle and 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.