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Ann Burns
Library Journal, November 2001

"Siepmann presents the lives of Beethoven and Chopin through two musical biographies. Combining each composer's music with narrative, he demonstrates the development of each musician's skills and growth as an artist. Each audiobook contains an eight-page booklet, which discusses the artist's role in the Romantic Movement, his music, and some information on his life. Also included are musical credits and an outline of each cassette, as well as the best-known works of each composer. The diction is clear and precise with either minimal or no accent on the part of narrators Bob Peck, Karen Archer, and Neville Jason, among others. While neither of these tapes provides startling new insights into the composers, they do present a thorough and interesting sound portrait that will hold the at tention of nonmusicians. This series would be of special interest to academic libraries and of use to large public libraries. Recommended."

Marc Shulgold
Rocky Mountain News, September 2001

"A new series on Naxos also offers considerable illumination on music and music makers. Actually, there are three series: "Opera Explained, "Classics Explained" and "Life and Works." Most ambitious is the latter collection, which consists of multidisc box sets devoted to Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt. Given all that recorded space, it's no surprise that the narration is richly detailed. Recitations of observations by contemporaries (Including words by the composer himself) are mixed in, as are musical examples. Nicely written companion books provide a look at the world of each composer, along with the printed text of the narration. These are thoroughly listenable collections, if you don't mind the heavily British speakers (Jeremy Siepmann is narrator, while fellow Englishmen Anton Lesser and Bob Peck portray Chopin and Beethoven...). In humanizing their subjects, these discs offer more than mere biographical information--they bring us closer to the men behind the music. Similarly, the opera and classics sets provide an understanding of such masterpieces as Verdi's Aida, Ravel's Bolero, Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Brahms' second Piano Concerto. In these discs, the narrator walks the listener through the music, offering historical background, plot synopsis and plenty of excerpts. In the orchestral works, the complete music is presented following detailed examinations. Naxos is thinking big with this project, promising nearly three dozen releases-including examinations of orchestral instruments and several volumes devoted to conductors, string players, pianists and opera singers."

Iain Fenlon
Gramophone, September 2001

"Naxos has been edging into the educational market with three cleverly conceived CD series, all of them calling on Naxos recordings that are already available separately. Life and Works is just that, a multi-pack set with a fat book and a spoken narrative interspersed with relevant chunks of music. Of the ones I've so far sampled, Chopin is portrayed by Anton Lesser, Beethoven by Bob Peck and Liszt by Neville Jason. All three commentaries are written and narrated by writer and broadcaster Jeremy Siepmann and it's a measure of his success that the result is gripping even in cases where particular facts, or stories, are already familiar.

"The books are very well designed, with biographies, historical background, a graded listening plan, recommended readings, a chronology, a glossary and the full spoken text. The discs are pitched at the usual super budget price point but the documentation warrants an additional charge which bumps the price up to around budget or 'lower mid'...These are expertly presented, richly documented productions, and well worth the money..."

Leslie Gerber

"This set is a fine introduction to Beethoven for a certain class of listeners. It is much too long, detailed, and serious for children. It is not for advanced musicologists, either. Author-narrator Jeremy Siepmann avoids musical analysis altogether, concentrating instead on biographical material about Beethoven and his friends and providing historical and social background. Siepmann's text is absorbing and is frequently illustrated with substantial music examples (usually complete movements) from the Naxos catalog. Unfortunately, the first such example (from the Seventh Symphony) sounds regrettably mushy, but otherwise, the performances are consistently rewarding. If Naxos has put together this set, with its very large booklet, partly to promote its catalog of Beethoven recordings, the company may well find listeners attracted by the examples offered. The complete reproduction of the spoken text seems like a waste of space and paper, but the remaining material in the booklet is intelligently written and useful. Even people generally familiar with Beethoven are sure to find something new and interesting here."

Rich Gotshall
The Indianapolis Star

"Naxos AudioBooks continues to show an appreciation of the unique nature of audio books far beyond that of most audio publishers. Two recent works show this well.

"The Life and Works of Beethoven by Jeremy Siepmann (5 hours, $22.98) not only gives an overview of the composer's life, it also presents his work within the contexts of both Beethoven's life and his times. Excerpts from some of his most famous pieces illustrate the author's points well. In addition, some of his less widely known pieces are presented that demonstrate particular points about his work or life.

"The author quotes extensively from letters by and about Beethoven. Additional readers present these, giving the work a sense of immediacy that might be lacking were the lead narrator (in this case the author) to read them himself."

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