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The Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame

Edited by Darren Henley, Sam Jackson, Tim Lihoreau
In September 1992 a new radio station was launched, one that was somewhat different to the usual pop culture station. This new station was Classic FM. A different and perhaps dangerous type of music was played – classical music. Most people had only heard classical music by listening to adverts on the TV or radio, not realising that the music being used as a background was indeed from the classical genre. Anyway, this station which appeared to have a narrow audience base took off and people started to realise the amount of music available of so many different types; the station became a success, not overnight, but steadily building up its core listener group.

Over the years the station has published Top 25/50/100 lists of classical music based on what is requested. Here three people, the CEO, Managing Editor and a presenter have brought us the greatest classical music of all time, as chosen by the station’s audience. This book lists the top 300. Now it is not just a list of titles of music, that would make for a very thin and somewhat boring book; no, what the editors have brought is the list of music and a bit about each piece, its composer, where it comes from and anything of interest about that piece. The start of the book gives an introduction what the editors are doing, who Classic FM are and the list of top 300 pieces of music. It then moves on the meat of the book The Hall of Fame and the story of each piece.

The book is set out alphabetically by composer, but has an excellent index to finding a particular article is very easy. Some composers naturally, have more than one entry in the Hall of Fame, Bach for instance; each piece is set out under the composer’s name and the place on the chart is given at the end of the particular article. Also given are recommended recordings, for instance for Bach’s Cello Suites the book recommends Yo-Yo Ma on Sony SM2K89754 making it simple to track down the specific recording either online or through a shop.

Included in the classics are tracks which some may not count as classical but are probably well on their way to being so – these are movie soundtracks. The book lists 25 movie soundtracks from films like Schindler’s List, to Saving Private Ryan, to Star Wars. Different but important enough pieces of music that they are included in this list. Obviously John Williams features heavily in this list.

Other lists slipped into the book are the 25 recordings you should own and the top 10 works by living composers, which has one of my personal favourites at the top: The Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar (No 75 on the List), a nice reminder for me to put on as I am typing this.

This is a lovely book and for those who think classical music is for posh folk then have a look at this, try out some of the music, you will be surprised to ‘know’ so many of the pieces from background music to films, TV programmes or adverts. This gives the background to each piece in the List so gives a greater understanding of it. For people who are already bitten by the bug this is a great book to have on your shelf and to dip into when you hear a piece and want to know a little about it and/or the composer. You may disagree with the individual placings on the list, but they come from votes by Classical FM listeners. My personal top three actually come fairly far down the list! This is quite a niche book so I am going to have to give it 3.5 Mr MRHs but if you are a Classical FM listener then it is a definite 5/5.

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