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How to Fully Enjoy Classical Music: Volume 1, Orchestral Review by Kathy Gelzer

Ralph J. Casale
dg ink publications
PO Box 1182
Daly City, CA 94017-1182

Would you like to gain a better appreciation for classical music? Is that a goal you have for your children? Are they currently studying an instrument? Would they benefit from more critical exposure to classical music? If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a look with me at How to Fully Enjoy Classical Music. Not a textbook, this is a workbook to guide people of all ages on a systematic path of listening and evaluating classical music.

The key element of this book is the "Rate the Music" charts that are included. There is one for the beginner and another for the advanced/highly advanced. These are a full page each and reproducible. (Perforations would make this easier.)

At the top of the page is a space to write down the composer and title of the piece. Then there are five categories to evaluate on a one to five scale: Introduction, Melody, Body (the transition, the flow, etc.), Finale, and Emotion (your response or how you feel about the piece). After that are three boxes to check: "This could become a favorite," "Need to listen again," or "Probably won't listen again." The bottom half of the rating sheet has space for comments.

There are three levels of listening choices: beginning, advanced A and B, and highly advanced A, B, and C. The levels are further divided into powerful, melodic, rhythmic, and soft for the beginning choices. In each section, recommended listening charts give a suggestion of what to listen to first, next, and last. How do you determine what level to use? It doesn't exactly say, but I get the impression the levels are not necessarily based on musical experience, aptitude, or age/maturity. Perhaps this kind of critical listening is best started at the beginning for everyone?

No guidelines for evaluating the music are provided in the book. The evaluations are completely personal and subjective. I think it would be appropriate and appreciated to suggest what the student should be paying attention to. Repetition of a theme? Specific instruments? Dynamic variation? Tempo changes? Familiarity of the pieces? If so, where has the student heard it before? How about a section on the chart where the listener notes what images come to mind as he is listening to the music, such as a pastoral scene, a raging river, a dance, a battle, etc.? I think listening to the piece two times and saving the evaluation for the second time through would be a good approach.

Some of these points are brought up in the "Thumbnail Previews" of each piece. Here the reader/listener will find from a few sentences up to a paragraph of information about the music. In the book you will also find additional listening recommendations, an abridged glossary of musical terms, an index of composers, and a bibliography.

You will need access to the recommended classical music, either through the Internet or from a vast collection such as the library's or your own. My eight-year-old wished CDs with all the recommended listening music had been included. That would certainly make this program easier to accomplish.

How to Fully Enjoy Classical Music has the makings of a great classical music appreciation curriculum, but parents and children may want to tweak the rating sheets to their liking. Without a doubt, this product will cause the listener to focus on classical music and thereby increase his appreciation of it!

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2009