Jump to content
Andrew

Classical Music

Recommended Posts

After emerging from the desert of CCM in the early '90's, I luxuriated in the pleasures of classical music for the next several years. (I even took double bass lessons for a while, but alas, I was stymied by an utter lack of talent and exhausted by the caregiving of my firstborn, so thus ended my musical career).

Anyone else out there who would like to share their favorites? Here are a few that come to mind for me:

1) Brahms' German Requiem - deeply spiritual, composed after the death of his mother. I find the 2nd section especially powerful.

2) Faure's Requiem - a lush, ethereal counterpoint to #1

3) Adams' Nixon in China - an opera done in melodious minimalistic style, with a witty libretto to boot.

4) Shostakovich's 5th and 7th symphonies - expressive works by a depressive Soviet composer who was always listening for Stalin's ominous footsteps, as he encoded subversive messages into his major works. A master of orchestration, less so of melody.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a cellist, but haven't picked up my cello in a couple of years. Hope to get back to it soon, though.

Shostakovich's 5th was always one of my favourites, too. I like anything neo-classical (Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Britten, perhaps). Of Shostakovich's other works, I am particularly fond of the piano concertos.

My listening over the last few days has included Janacek's Sinfonietta (very stirring), Sibelius's 5th and Britten's Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge. All very wonderful.

As you can see, my tastes lie somewhere in the late romantic/early-mid twentieth century period.

I do like John Adams, however. I once played The Chairman Dances from Nixon in China--the best of minimalism, I am sure, and very satisfying to perform. Oh, and Faure is one of my favourites. He wrote some beautiful pieces for cello and piano.

Btw, the London Proms begin on Friday, so I have that to look forward to. The season is about ten weeks, I think, all broadcast by the BBC. Is that something you can see in the US?


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A cellist and a pianist -- very cool.

Shostakovich: I love his piano concerti, too. Even though Dmitri wasn't fond of his 2nd, I love its romantic throwback quality. Have you heard his Chamber Symphony (a transcription of his 8th string quartet)? -- a gripping mixture of panic and despair.

John Adams: To be honest, I'm not that enamored with most of his other work, but I love "Nixon in China." If it's any encouragement for you to give it a listen, I find most of the actual opera to be much more interesting than "The Chairman Dances."

Janacek: I don't know that I've heard any of his works before. How would you describe them? What would some good starting points be?


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, Janacek is a very colourful composer... Think Mussorgsky... But far more inspired, a little more modern... Wonderful orchestration...

His Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba are great places to start.

The second piano concerto (Shostakovich) has a very Rachmaninovian slow movement, so I can see what you mean about it being a romantic throwback. The two concertos are certainly among his most accessible pieces, probably for that reason.

Oh, and one more recommendation, for all the Americans who have probably missed out: Malcolm Arnold. He is a British composer, perhaps best known for his film scores (lots of David Lean etc), but also with a whole wealth of brilliant orchestral and chamber pieces. I first came across his music when I was a lad, since his works are a favourite with youth orchestras (especially the English Dances, Scottish Dances etc). My personal favourite of his is the Piano Concerto for Three Hands (Two Players). It was written for two pianists, one of whom had lost a hand! If you are interested, you could do worse than to begin with his Dances.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

oh yeah! Either liking classical music doesn't make one a nerd or I have found several fellow nerds! Very few people I know would want to talk about Schastakovich, I have his #5 ranked very highly on my Launch Yahoo radio station!

I could talk about this forever. If one likes classical radio you may want to check out www.clasical1035.com

I am in the process of moving and a friend of mine got me tickets to go hear Leonard Slatkin direct the national symphony orchestra play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. I remember the first time I heard it on a United Airlines commercial when I was very young and thinking someday I will hear it. . . What a memorable evening.

In addition right now I am binging on Chopin and going back into an Aaron Copland phase. . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you read Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, by Elizabeth Wilson? I found this oral history to be a wonderful resource. There's something admirable about how DS remained subversive and true to his muse through such oppressive times, as well as how he spoke out against anti-Semitism (in his "Babi Yar" symphony and his Jewish songs) at a time when such expression could be quite costly.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You cello players... I've always regretted my not taking up that most expressive and sensuous of instruments. Like the horn, it's one of those instruments that seems designed for deep, rich, emotional music.

Anyone here interested in choral music, esp. Rennaisance (Byrd, Palestrina, Allegrhi, Tallis) and romantic (Tchaikovesky, Bruckner)?

Andrew, I like your list, particularly the Requia (come on, that has to be the plural). You should give a listen to Mozart's ever famous Requiem (try to find a recording with lighter-voiced soloists) and Poulanc's Gloria.

Some other favourites of mine:

-Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony - a frightfully beautiful musical autobiography/suicide note

-Rachmaninov's piano concerti - esp. 1 and 3

-Rhespigi's Church Windows

-Rutter's Requiem - just love those impecable British choirs

And I suppose I must mention the choral version of Barber's ever popular Adagio for Strings. Simply heartbreaking.


So you ladies and you gentlemen, pull your bloomers on...

-Joe Henry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Somehow I wandered into choral music a few years ago. A friend turned me on to Bach masses, which I go on binges with as my preferred "morning music" at work. Lately, I've actually been testing the waters with opera, though haven't been able to get beyond "La Boheme." I loved the choral music for the Criterion "Joan of Arc," the "Voices of Light" piece: great on ten, makes me feel like I'm in a cathedral. My all-time-favorite choral recording, though, is "Dvorak in Prague: A Celebration". Incredible. Now there's a worship album.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And while we're on the topic of choral music

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you mentioned Beethoven - I particularly enjoy Symphony #9 (of course) and #7 (each movement is a gem, though I especially treasure the drunken carousing of the double basses at the end of the first movement).

Any fans of Saint-Saens here? His 'Organ' Symphony is well-known with good reason, but I think his 5th piano concerto deserves much greater appreciation. Allegedly, it was inspired by a trip he made to Egypt, incorporating an African lullaby as well as orchestral equivalents of Nile frogs and his boat's engine.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad someone mentioned Beethoven - I particularly enjoy Symphony #9 (of course) and #7 (each movement is a gem, though I especially treasure the drunken carousing of the double basses at the end of the first movement).
I'm sorta fond of 3, 6, 9.

Also fan of Holst's The Planets and anything by Copeland.


A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew wrote:

: I'm glad you mentioned Beethoven - I particularly enjoy Symphony #9

: (of course) and #7 (each movement is a gem, though I especially

: treasure the drunken carousing of the double basses at the end of the

: first movement).

Hear, hear. The 7th is a masterpiece. Though I am more fond of the second movement.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you mentioned Beethoven - I particularly enjoy Symphony #9 (of course) and #7 (each movement is a gem, though I especially treasure the drunken carousing of the double basses at the end of the first movement).

Yes! Those two symphonies are outstanding. I'll even add Symphony #3 and the ubiquitous Symphony #5 to my list of favorites. His Violin Concerto in D Major is also a masterwork.

Others I love:

-Brahms: Symphony #1

-Dvorak: Symphony #9 "From the New World"

-Mozart: Symphony #40

-Bach: Orchestra Suite #2 in B Minor, especially the delightful "Badinerie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Folks, do you think it would be valid to create a "Classical Music" forum, so that we could have individual threads on orchesteral, opera, chamber music and various recordings, conductors, composers, etc?

Quite honestly, I find the forum is divided up far too much as it is for my liking. Creating more subforums would only confuse me, I think!


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Folks, do you think it would be valid to create a "Classical Music" forum, so that we could have individual threads on orchesteral, opera, chamber music and various recordings, conductors, composers, etc?

Quite honestly, I find the forum is divided up far too much as it is for my liking. Creating more subforums would only confuse me, I think!

Understood; how would you simplify? Are you using the "View posts since last visit" feature?

Yes, I use the "View posts since last visit" feature, but then, if you happen to return and want to go back to a thread that hasn't been added to, it doesn't show up--then you have to remember where it was.

I think classical music fits just fine under the one music forum. Just my opinion, though.


Drop by The Grace Pages, a rest-stop for fellow pilgrims.

-- Dave aka Alvy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alvy wrote:

: Yes, I use the "View posts since last visit" feature, but then, if you

: happen to return and want to go back to a thread that hasn't been added

: to, it doesn't show up--then you have to remember where it was.

Yeah, it's a pain, actually, if you haven't logged on for several hours and you want to jump back into the fray JUST to post a link or something -- you can only jump back into the fray if you don't mind either (1) having to catch up on ALL of the new posts RIGHT NOW or (2) losing the links to all the posts that have been added since your last visit.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I realize I'm jumping into the middle of a tangent on the forums, but I had to make a quick comment on the love of classical music...

WhyFjord, I'm so glad you mentioned Rachmaninov. He's always been one of my favorites, and even though she'll be quick to tell you she's "faking it," my mother does lovely on-demand performances of Op. 23 and 3 (though it takes a lot of demanding on my part :wink: ). And recently Kimura Parker joined the Alabama orchestra for Rach's 3rd. So good! Just before the Rach 3, as a matter of fact, the orchestra (minus Kimura Parker) did a Stravinsky piece... not my personal taste, but still interesting to hear.

When I lived in Mississippi I heard a violin/piano pair perform, among other things, Gershwin pieces. Lovely, lovely stuff. I was blown away. (And then horrified by the lack of...appreciation...shown by some Mississippians, but that's a whole other issue!)

And I second all the love for Bach, Beethoven, et al.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've discovered a new classical piece to love over the past week:

"Medea's Dance of Vengeance" by Samuel Barber. It's a musical tone poem derived from his ballet, MEDEA. The ballet, in its full form, is also pretty fine stuff, but this shorter piece distills most of the best musical moments into one twelve minute piece. Very moving, and for a piece that isn't particularly thematic, I can't get it out of my head.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was 14 years old. Our school music teacher made us listen to Aleksandr Borodine's Polovtsian Dances one afternoon. My heart rose to Heaven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, Michael S' and my chat on the "State of the Forum" thread has prompted me to return here.  If things take off, I suppose we can break things down further to specific composers or artists.  Looking back, I see where my first post in 2003 was about my admiration for Brahms' and Faure's Requiems, Adams' Nixon in China, and Shostakovich's 5th and 7th Symphonies.  Some things have changed in 17 years, some not.  John Adams has dipped in my esteem, while my admiration for Shostakovich has only grown, and I still love Faure and Brahms just as much.

Last year, I spent 6 months or more on a project to listen to and study Shostakovich's major works in chronological order, using the notes from Elizabeth Wilson's oral history to help me along.  Prior to this, I'd mostly enjoyed orchestral classical music, but a study of his chamber works and songs opened new doors.  His 15 string quartets are consistently innovative and intriguing, his song arrangements fascinating (the man knew literature, with an ability to quote entire poems or book passages from memory, so his text choices are impeccable).  And while the 5th and 7th Symphonies are still faves, I now hold his 10th, 11th, and 13th in similarly high regard.  And his second cello concerto and second piano trio are so haunting and affecting as well!  As a history buff, I appreciate the strong historical and autobiographical components to his compositions, which DS was quite transparent about in conversations with fellow musicians.

Next to DS, I'd say Brahms is the composer I esteem most highly.  I can go back to his piano concerti, German Requiem, or first symphony at any time and feel rewarded and swept away.  And I have fond memories of twice hearing his requiem performed, first at Tanglewood in the 90s, then most recently and serendipitously during a brief stay in St Malo in 2018 (we walked past its cathedral and saw that a local choral group would be performing it the following night).  And Brahms himself fascinates me as a psychologically complex dude, laid out so compellingly in Jan Swafford's recent biography.

Besides these two, the composer I probably return to most frequently is Saint-Saens.  Of course, there's his great organ symphony, but I regularly listen to his 2nd, 4th, and 5th piano concerti, and lately have gotten into some of his chamber music.

Next, I'd like to dig into Sibelius' music.  I've always enjoyed his 2nd symphony, but would like to give the other six a closer listen!

Lastly, a couple of months ago, I discovered a delightful classical music podcast, Sticky Notes.  Its host, Joshua Weilerstein, is the conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra.  I think he drops a new episode once or twice a week, where he either analyzes concert hall standards, interviews figures in the music world, or introduces us to music that deserves a wider audience (often by women or non-white composers).


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrew, thanks for posting this and reviving the thread. I always enjoy an opportunity to chat about music. Interestingly enough, my estimation of John Adams has gone the other way, especially as his music (to my ears) has become more dynamic. I'm really fond of his "Dharma at Big Sur," specifically a live recording with Lisa Josefowicz on electric violin (and I think the recording is available only as a digital download on iTunes and maybe on Deutsche Grammophon's web site). I also like his "Harmonhielehre," which the San Francisco Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas premiered and recorded. DG recently released his latest piano concerto, performed by Yuja Wang; it's great. 

By the way, Shostakovich's 11th symphony -- magnificent, and probably the one I like most after the 7th and the 10th.

I recently read Swafford's biography about Beethoven. He's a great writer. I need to read his book on Brahms next. With Brahms, I prefer his first piano concerto over his second, although I might be in the minority among listeners of his music. I think his second is more popular. If you've by chance not heard his string quartets and sextets, they're worth a listen. Among his four symphonies, I probably lean towards the second the most, although the opening of the fourth is famous for a good reason.

You'll likely enjoy Sibelius' symphonies. Among all seven, I like his first the most (which, by the way, is true for me of Mahler's nine -- I prefer his first - and of Tchaikovsky's first, among his six). Sibelus' fourth is very interesting; compared to his others, it's quiet.

To go back to Adams for a second (sort of) -- when it comes to living composers, Esa-Pekka Salonen (who's of Adams' generation, I think) is one of my favorites. For one, as a L.A. native, I appreciated how much cache he brought to the L.A. Phil by turning it into a top orchestra and also by good programming that often combined modern or contemporary music with more traditional warhorses. I'm fond of much of his composing, though I turn to his piano concerto and violin concerto the most.

Out of curiosity, do you listen to different recordings of specific works? I do (when I can) at least of music that really resonates with me -- it's interesting to hear different interpretations, even when the differences are subtle. 

I've never heard the Sticky Notes podcast, so I'll check that out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, where to begin, other than I should have checked the music forum years ago.

Among Shostakovich symphonies I especially love 4 and 5, I'm partial to Brahms' 3rd and 4th symphonies, but they're all masterpieces. Dvorak 8 also is one of my favorites.

Lately, I've been re-acquainting myself with Debussy's piano music, especially his suites.

Andrew, after going through Sibelius, his contemporary Carl Nielsen is worth exploring; the second symphony is probably the best place to start, and if you like it, go onto the 5th.

Joan Tower is a great living composer I'd encourage you to get to know; she manages to combine more contemporary harmonic practices with traditional references in a thoroughly integrated fashion. Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman tributes Copland, Petroushskates homages Stravinsky, and Night Fields Bartok. All three are pieces I'd recommend listening to.


"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...