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This is more or less the standard history of music text on most degree courses, and has been for ever and ever amen. It's only a skeleton history of music. By which I mean that it only includes what are supposed to be the forming points in the development of western art music. Thus it deals only with those composers who revolutionised the language, rather than the craftsmen who inevitably follow and exploit those revolutions. So you get to read about Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in the Classical period, but not about Stamitz, or at least not at any great length. And obviously, as it moves into the 20th century, where it still isn't necessarily too clear what the dominant influences were, the trend becomes more extreme, so you may find that it is missing the composer who you believe to have been the focal point of all musical history. And even in dealing with the giants of music history, it is massively simplified. You will rarely read, 'So and so claims....but such and such believes.' Everything is given as black and white, and then your lecturers have the unenviable task of informing you that nothing at all about music history is terribly certain. So read with care, but I don't know of a better all round music history. At least reading it gives you some kind of feel for the overall picture that you can then destroy one bit at a time.
This is a sound reference book for anyone studying Music History. Although it has several ommissions of more obscure composers, and only goes up to early 20th Century, it is useful if you you want to see how a particular composer was placed in relation to era, contemporaries, musical development, etc. A History of Western Music is a large, heavy book, although it is now out in paperback, which has improved the whole weight thing. New editions are constantly coming out, but although this alters page numbers, the essence and content is basically identical. Retailing at about £17, this is a pricey book, and may not be worth your while - especially if you have access to the Grove Dictionaries of Music. You may want to see if anyone else on your course wishes to sell it at a cheaper price. However, it's useful for quick reference, and is layed out chronologically, which is convenient. The index is also clear, and there are a number of pictures and illustrations. Overall, the book is somewhat useful, but not the best. It's more compact than grove, but too big to actually read from cover to cover.