Author: Clemency Burton-Hill
Year of Wonder is an ambitious project. Writer, radio/television presenter and professional violinist Clemency Burton-Hill selected a classical piece to share each day of the calendar year, including Leap Year Day along with historical notes and a brief explanation for each choice. The intention was to introduce the genre to newcomers with varied and easily digestible tidbits and also exhibit enjoyable works beyond the canon for those more knowledgeable. I read along for the entire year and also managed to find a not quite complete Spotify playlist so I could listen, too.
It's made for a most enjoyable year, at least as far as listening to quality music is concerned. Burton-Hill includes a wonderful variety by era, instrumentation, nation, etc. In particular, she included the work of numerous female composers, a most welcome consideration at our house. I've always enjoyed learning about composers anyway. I first learned the stories of the big names - Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, etc. - from flim strips (remember those?) shown by my elementary school music teacher. To me, they were like characters in a book. As such, learning lots of new names was fun. Not surprisingly, quite a lot of composers have lived, shall we say, colorful lives.
There are flaws, including a predictable northern hemisphere bias where seasons are concerned (the author is British). Also, Burton-Hill takes the Mozart Effect at face value and one most definitely should not. But overall, the strengths far outweigh the few nit-picky flaws. I would love to see similar books for jazz and rock. Might I have to write those myself?