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Bach, Beethoven and the Boys: Music History as It Ought to Be Taught
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Bach, Beethoven and the Boys: Music History as It Ought to Be Taught

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  427 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Bach, Beethoven and the Boys chronicles the lives of the great (and not-so-great) composers as you've never read them before - exploring their sex lives, exposing their foibles and expanding our knowledge of these remarkable but also human creatures.
Paperback, Tenth Anniversary Edition, 160 pages
Published September 1st 1996 by Sound & Vision Publishing (first published 1986)
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Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
مسخره بود
David W.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to everyone who has made BBB such a success!

And yes, what I wrote was to the best of my knowledge (and to my research) the truth!

My books are now being republished under and new and revised editions are available on Amazon Kindle, KOBO and through online stores around the world! ( / to name a few).

You can send me an email anytime at or to my publisher at

I look forward to hearing from
Ali Reza Rahiminia
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
به گمانم بد نيست گاهي هم بتهوون ( يا شايد بيتهوفن) ، باخ و بقيه را از وراي ديدگاه رايج كه خيلي رسمي و عصا قورت داده است ، ببينيم. شخصا براي من جالب بود كه بتهوون به شوخيهاي شهرستاني علاقه داشته ، يا مثلا چايكوفسكي يك دستي رهبري مي كرده. كتاب را كه بخوانيد براي شما هم نكته هاي جالبي روشن مي شود. اگرچه نويسنده كاملا هم بي غرض ننوشته و تا توانسته از اپرا بد گفته ( كه در واقع خيلي هم بيراه نيست!) اما مطالب را خيلي شيرين و روان و با طنز خاصي كه بخشي از لطفش در ترجمه از بين رفته، بيان كرده.
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
I bought this book when I graduated from college with a music degree. Many of my fellow graduates also purchased it. We actually bought a copy for our music history teacher who would appreciate the humor in this book (he was Jewish, sarcastic, clever no had a habit of giving the Hitler salute whenever Wagner was mentioned). It's a fun read and I find I agree with many of the things the author says. If you are new to music history or you are an expert but bored with the same old narratives I high ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Bit light on music more of a gossip column on long dead composers which could have been written by Andy Griffiths.
Kulturalnie z Anią
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
🎻 Zdecydowanie radzę czytać po jednym kompozytorze na dzień,bo inaczej humor może Was przytłoczyć i odebrać przyjemność z czytania.Chyba,że jesteście wprawieni i przedmiot szkolny czy akademicki "historia muzyki" czy "literatura muzyczna" nie jest Wam obcy,wtedy możecie przeczytać ją za jednym razem i nadmiar informacji nie przytłoczy 🎻
Don Libes
May 16, 2014 rated it did not like it
Cute book but with excessive focus on humor and trivia which hurt the overall coherency an readability. And I really don't like his style of footnotes. I found myself either looking carefully at every word to see if there was a footnote marker OR, if I'd reached the end of the page somehow having missed a reference to a footnote, I'd have to laboriously scan the entire page again for the marker.


The humor is lame. I stopped reading the footnotes entirely and I realize now that the main tex
Apr 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
One word:


Two words:


Three words:

Is that true?

Four words:

That CAN'T be true!

This book was borderline crazy and comical. Some of the ridiculous ideas and habits of respected composers and musicians were more than hard to believe. I mean, DID Beethoven REALLY saw the legs off of his pianos so he could sit on the floor and feel the vibrations?

Did Mozart at age 7 really propose to Marie Antoinette?

And seriously... was Tchaikovsky weird enough to seriously hold his head up while he comp
Sep 15, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Niczego ciekawego jeśli chodzi o samą muzykę w tej książce się nie znajdzie. Jest to jedynie zbiór krótkich, komicznych (w zamyśle autora) notatek biograficznych wybranych muzyków. Nie ma nawet wzmianek o tym co dana osoba wniosła do muzyki, a jedynie z kim i ile razy spała i jakie miała dziwactwa. Wszystko okraszone bardzo topornym humorem, który prawdę mówiąc strasznie mnie irytował. Spodziewałam się po tej książce, że prosty sposób pozwoli ona czytelnikowi poznać dzieje muzyki i dokonania kol ...more
David W.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Thank you everyone who has made BBB such a success!

And yes, what I wrote was to the best of my knowledge (and to my research) the truth!

My books are now being republished under and new and revised editions are available on Amazon Kindle, KOBO and through online stores around the world! ( / to name a few).

You can send me an email anytime at or to my publisher at

I look forward to hearing from yo
Mary Catelli
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-modern
A short, light-hearted, but accurate history of Western music

Starting with Gregorian chant because that's the first time anyone wrote down the music (having invented a way to do so) and go onward, through the composer named Palestrina -- actually that's his home town, not his last name -- through the greats. Purcell writing an ode to St. Cecelia every year; he died the day before her feast. . Haydn's staid, settled life -- his love life was a little lacking, though -- and the time he wrote a sym
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, music
A pleasant diversion into a lighthearted view of musical history. While reading I checked a few facts to see if it was made up, and usually found what he stated.

My favorite part of the whole book is a paragraph that helps me tell two composers apart:

"For some reason, many people have trouble telling Schubert and Schumann apart. It's really quite simple: Schubert was the short, dumpy one, with curly black hair and little wire-rimmed glasses. Schumann was taller and married to Clara." (Page 97)
Todd Thompson
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
A fun book to read, this is a tongue-in-cheek romp through music history. One thing the author makes clear is that musicians and music-lovers are prone to take themselves much too seriously at times. For a change of pace from the deeper and more serious treatments of music history, this is an excellent book to fill the bill. I'm glad I read it. Still, though, a 3.5 rating is all I can muster.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this book a little Referring one!you know may be (the thing that happened to me)if you want to start reading it from the first page up to the last it will be some kind of Boring because of the form and structure of the book itself..It would be so much better if you guys get back to the book every time you wanna know anything about a particular singer or musician or on a project,article,workshops related to Music and these kind of things.

Good luck with that
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doskonały, przezabawny rzut oka (i ucha!) na muzykę klasyczną od strony człowieka, aniżeli mitów i legend otaczających jego sylwetkę. Autor w brutalnie szczery sposób ukazuje różnicę pomiędzy kompozytorskim, a moralnym piedestałem. Po lekturze tego jedynego w swoim rodzaju opracowania, zdecydowanie wolę dalej zachwycać się Beethovenem, Bachem i innymi chłopakami od strony ich muzycznego dorobku, a nie ekscentrycznych zachowań.
Mar 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
Would recommend for a teenager interested in music history or an adult who knows very little about music history that doesn't mind reading a style that sounds like a perpetually distracted person. Would not recommend to anyone who already knows anything about music history because you won't learn much, though the stories are entertaining.
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Talk about information! Wow! This is so informative. The footnotes are the best part. If you are interested in a comprehensive study of a composer, then this book is not for you. But for sheer joy, and if you need a good laugh, then this is the ticket. Barber has other books that are equally terrific.
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Short, humorous and factual. A great introduction to music history.
This is the first book written by David Barber which I read. I loaned my copy out to students several times and finally lost it. I shall have to replace it, since it and _If it ain't Baroque_ are two books I frequently encourage my music students to read.
Alycia Griesi
Aug 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
A hilarious historical novel on the famous to not-so-famous composers of the past. Definitely a more interesting and comical non-fiction I've read in a long time.

I'd suggest it to anyone who is even slightly interested in music (classical I suppose), for the satirical and sarcastic edge the narrator has makes the novel all the more fun to read.
Aug 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved that this book was hysterical while still very factual (and a little bit not so factual in certain places!). I laughed out loud many times, but also felt like I learned a lot. A good read for anyone interested in history, specifically music history.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Barber definitely applies to music the same historical acumen as Sellar and Yeatman did to English history. But with a few more facts and a lot more dates! Also, make a point of reading the footnotes...
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: علاقه مندان به موسیقی و طنز
Recommended to Amin by: Irsa Khaleghi
چرا همیشه باید آدمهای خفن یه جورایی با فاصله روایت بشن؟! یا نمیشه مثلا باهاشون شوخی کرد؟ احتمالا این سوالات روزی به ذهن برادر دیوید دبلیو. باربر رسیده و درنتیجه ایشان دست به نگارش این کتاب زده تا اون فاصله رو با خفنهای عالم موسیقی کم کنه! ـ
Jul 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
I expected to like this book, especially since it's about composers/music. I laughed a few times in the beginning, but it grew old very quickly and I gave up on it. The author commented that his friends found all the footnotes tedious and I agree!
Apr 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, classical
A fun primer of classical composers in the vein of 1066 And All That.
An entertaining and interesting account of music history... This book was a gift to me as a piano student in elementary school, and even then it intrigued me. I love to share the bits of trivia gleaned from this book with other music lovers!
Eirene Ritznore
Feb 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A farcical, yet informative glance into the history of classical music. Highly recommend this one for people who want to dip their toes into music appreciation, yet don't feel like wafting through a literary tome in order to do so.
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the way music history should be taught! The composers as people and not infallible machines. Their surprising and often hilarious antics remind you of your musician friend that always gets in trouble.
Holli Moote
This book was everything it promised and more. It was hilarious and informative. There is tons of surface humor and then he manages to constantly slip in small jokes that prove he really does know what he is talking about when it comes to music history.
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Quick, fun read! If you know anything about classical music, you'll enjoy this one. Not your normal history lesson. This has much more fun facts about the composers and who they really were. I'm interested to look into some of the author's other books.
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great, funny, interesting music history. Highly recommended.
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