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Book Review

International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010, 26th Edition

International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010
ISBN-10: 1857435532
ISBN-13: 9781857435535
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan Find it at JPC

This is a useful, comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date reference source for a wide variety of people (performers, composers, conductors, arrangers, writers and managers) involved in classical (and light classical) music in 2010. That it's the 26th edition and that it runs to nearly 1,000 pages is cause for encouragement. Few lovers of classical music would push the point that it's in as healthy a position as we'd like it to be. But that such a resource continues to be published and that it in turn reflects variously the career, education, repertoire, compositions, recordings, publications etc – as well as personal and contact information where appropriate – does suggest a strength for which we should be glad.

More than 8,000 musicians are included in this latest (2010) edition. Apparently those included are given the opportunity to amend and add to their entries in the interests of accuracy and currency. Routledge's editorial department is also engaged on ensuring accuracy and last minute updates. No book, of course, can ever keep up with developments in the way that online sites can. But there is no single source online that's as comprehensive as International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010, 26th Edition – not even the relevant pages of Classical Net.

It's expensive: nearly $500. So unlikely to be something the average music-lover would buy each year for their own shelves. But libraries, music departments in colleges and universities as well as other publishers, music venues and recording companies, agencies and the like would all benefit from access to the publication.

It's well organized. The first dozen or so pages have: notes on entries, alphabetization and transcription of names (Mac, Mc etc); seven pages of abbreviations; an obituary of the 58 people who died between 2002 and February of 2010; and even an international telephone code list. The biographies themselves take up the next 940 pages with a final directory comprising between half a dozen or so pages each on orchestras, opera companies, music festivals, music organizations and competitions and awards. Only the major festivals for each country are considered, it should be noted. For further details those interested would turn perhaps to the web. Nor is recording given much prominence in International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010, 26th Edition. Other publications cover that ground. So this is a clearly-targeted, scholarly and authoritative volume concentrating on the people who work in classical music.

The biographies themselves range in length from a few lines for the minor figures to nearly an entire column for the more prominent composers and conductors. It's easy to find omissions in almost any publication of this kind. And unfair to draw too many conclusions from so doing: no Benjamin Bagby, harpsichordist Richard Lester or violist John Mark Rozendaal, for instance. But for all those missing there is much to be learnt about those with whom one might not otherwise be familiar. The editors have presumably weighed exhaustiveness against an even higher cost still.

Although the font for all the entries is small (it has to be), the pages are highly legible. The schematic is logical and the references easy to follow. There is no bias even towards the English-speaking world: opera companies in Vietnam (one in Hanoi) and orchestras (the Hanoi Philharmonic and Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra), for example, are listed – with telephone and fax numbers, email addresses and websites. Entries, then, tend towards the factual, rather than the evaluative. But this, too, is as it should be. It's a work of reference.

International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010, 26th Edition is heavy at 2½ inches thick (it measures 11 x 8.4 inches) and is physically well-produced. So to expect it to meet the needs which it sets for itself – international biographies of leading figures in the field that are carefully-researched, current and accurate – is not to be disappointed. The price is off-putting, it has to be said. But that necessarily reflects the likely restricted uptake in a pretty narrow market. If your organization needs at its staff's fingertips an authoritative and comprehensive survey of the achievements and some factual information of many of the most prominent figures in music, music administration and performance, then International Who's Who in Classical Music 2010, 26th Edition can be safely recommended.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Sealey.