...one of this book’s central pleasures is that of watching a kind of translation at work. With an enthusiast’s brio, Murakami sallies forth with his idiosyncratic, often fanciful ideas about Ozawa’s music ... Though [certain] expositions might not always, on the page, be entirely intelligible, they’re also some of the most beguiling, straining as they do against the limits of what can be expressed in words ... for those who aren’t already devoted to classical music, the book may be of limited appeal ... Still, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented treasure, valuable if for no other reason than that these conversations mark the first time that Ozawa has reflected at length on his 50-plus years of conducting.
It’s an effective pairing: readable, accessible, highly entertaining, educational. Ozawa provides all the deep knowledge of a storied classical career, while Murakami supplies his trademark down-to-earth metaphors and a layperson’s curiosity ... What most fascinates about Absolutely on Music is how it unlocks the challenging question of what makes for genius in the performance of music ... a pleasing step away from the increasing banality and sameness of Murakami’s fiction, a book that opens a new side of his authorial persona and that will open doors for people who want to love classical music. It is a quirky, oddly compelling book carried along by the smooth, laid-back rhythms of its relaxing conversations.
Since Mr. Murakami asks most of the questions, which are generally pitched at an elementary level and often repetitive, the musical novice should have no great difficulty with the concepts addressed here ... There is much good, solid musical discussion and information here. But there are also too many muddled volleys off the top of the head, lacking the needed factual follow-up and correction.