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Classical 101

'Listen to This'; Essays by New Yorker Music Critic Alex Ross

"Listen to this," cries Alex Ross's new collection of essays. The music critic of the New Yorker is both a terrific writer and a see-all-hear-all expert on music from British alternative rock band Radiohead to Greek soprano Maria Callas. He writes about both, and more.

In fact, the best description I've read of Callas' voice comes from singer-songwriter and music producer Bjork, a Ross favorite. "Callas had the grrrrrr in her voice," says Bjork. Alex Ross takes us on tour with the Brentano String Quartet. We go to an inner city neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island where a string quartet has taken over an abandoned storefront, and where any kid who wanders in is given an instrument and taught to play. The gut wrenching appeal of Italian Romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi's music is examined along with, The Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard's and german composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's. No ending on a sour note here. Ross's enthusiasm for all aspects of music is on every page. It's a long book, but a short read that leaves the reader wanting more. P.S. - I tried to get an interview with Alex Ross. Back came a note from his publicist, "Not doing interviews right now, thank you very much." I interviewed Beverly Sills 35 years ago two hours before she walked out to sing Norma. God rest her, you could not shut that woman up! So phooey! But read Listen to This anyway.