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December 02, 1990|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE RECORD SHELF GUIDE TO THE CLASSICAL REPERTOIRE By Jim Svejda (Prima: $16.95). Whether or not the reader agrees with Jim Svejda's recommendations (and half the fun of guides like this one is arguing with it), his descriptions of his favorite performances on CD are highly entertaining. Listeners to "The Record Shelf" on KUSC know Svejda as a witty commentator, capable of the often devastating mot juste. After praising Mstislav Rostropovich's performance of the Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano, he laments that the "once peerless cellist . . . has devoted so much of his time in the last twenty years to becoming the World's Greatest Amateur Conductor." Svejda generally prefers older performances, arguing that many contemporary recordings are technically brilliant but uninteresting musically, and he refuses to acknowledge the validity of minimalist works of John Adams and Philip Glass. Despite this prejudice, "The Record Shelf Guide" is an amusing and useful book to have at hand while shopping for holiday gifts.

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