The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Monday, June 14, 2010

TIMELESS TWELVE CLASSICAL FAVORITES

Music samples are available on the accompanying playlist so turn on your volume if you would like to hear them.  I invite you to open up your mind if you think classical music is boring or too complex or anything like that.  The music of the past is the foundation of most of what you listen to today.  When you learn about the music and the composers and the eras in which they lived, you enter a time machine that will take you to magical amazing places.  Let go and let the music fill you and lift your soul.

          My omissions from my previous lists were nothing compared to this present list.  Here I am condensing a list of twelve favorites from a field of potential considerations spanning 400 years worth of great (the greatest?) music--how in all fairness does one do that?  

           Even to confine into a single genre of music labeled as "classical" multiples of different types of music makes no logical sense.  In reality this list should be broken down into favorites of Baroque, classical, romantic, impressionistic, and all the various other subcategories, including 20th century music which diverges off into realms such as atonal, neo-classical, electronic, and others.  To compare Mozart with John Cage is like comparing do-wop to heavy metal--they just don't fit in the same lists.

        With that being said, in my list I have tried to cover the spectrum of music from the Baroque period up to the mid-nineteenth century.  In compiling this list I have had to bypass many subcategories of musical styles that are placed under the broad umbrella of "classical" music as we would see for example in your local music store.  I have also blatantly passed over many great composers in order to come up with twelve favorite pieces of music.  These are not necessarily the greatest, but twelve that I enjoy listening to or that have particularly shaped my listening over my many years of enjoying classical music. 

My Timeless Twelve Classical Favorites:



Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1741) -- The Four Seasons Concerto is one of the most popular pieces of music of all time and for good reason. This is music of the Baroque Period. The amazing complexity of notes, instrumental parts, and rhythms result in a work of simple, but soaring beauty. The concerto musically depicts each of the seasons of the year. This is definitely a timeless musical treasure. 

            Johann Sebastian Bach  (March 21, 1685 – July 28, 1750) -- Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 is my favorite of the series of six like named concerti.  I particularly like the driving sound of the harpsichord in this one, especially in the first movement where the keyboard verges on either musical madness or the voice of the powers of heaven.  I often think of Bach as one of the greatest mathematicians, although his formulas have been written as some of the most incredibly intricate and beautiful musical sounds of all time.   Fortunately, recordings of the Brandenburg concerti often come as a complete set so you can usually get all of them in one purchase.  I am convinced, and studies have suggested, that listening to J.S. Bach will make you more intelligent.  I highly recommend this music as background music for writing.  Bach's music is in the Baroque style.
                                   


          Ludwig van Beethoven (December 17, 1770 –  March 26,  1827) -- Symphony #7 is my sentimental favorite, but Symphony #9 is arguably his greatest.  One thing for certain is that every Beethoven symphony is great and if he had written only one of any of them, Beethoven would still be recognized as a great composer.   I personally have an affinity for his orchestral works, but Beethoven also left a legacy of great piano and small ensemble music. Beethoven's music is in the classical tradition, but falls into the transitional period that leads up to the Romantic Period.  Beethoven set a standard for composers who were to follow.  His music seems to capture the angst and ultimate triumph of the human spirit. 


           Franz Schubert  (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828)-- Piano Trio in E Flat Major D929 is definitely high on my list of Schubert favorites, but his string quartets and quintets could also fit the bill.  Schubert is probably my favorite composer overall.  Considering he died before his 32nd birthday he was amazingly prolific having written around 600 songs, not to mention all of his keyboard, ensemble, orchestral, and other works of music.  Like Beethoven, Schubert's work falls into the Post-Classical period and begins the age of Romantic Music.  What could this incredible composer have accomplished if his life could have been longer?


Georges Bizet (October 25, 1838 – June 3, 1875)--- The Pearl Fishers is an opera that is probably not as good, nor great as Bizet's more famous opera, Carmen, but it is a personal favorite mainly because of the beautiful aria "Je crois entendre encore" .  Bizet was a composer of the Romantic period who wrote many great works of music



               Johannes Brahms   (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) -- Symphony #4 is my long-standing favorite of the symphonies of this Romantic composer.  I first became familiar with this during my college days in the early 1970s.  The music still stirs me when I hear it, although now having heard the other symphonies of Brahms I enjoy all of them.  He also wrote many other fine pieces of music.


           Camille Saint-Saëns  (October 9, 1835 –  December 16, 1921)-- Symphony #3 "Organ Symphony" is the amazing work of music that leads me to Saint-Saens.  He is probably most well known for his "Carnival of the Animals", which I have been well familiar with since childhood.  I discovered the stirring "Organ Symphony" when I was in college.   This is an exciting piece of music with moments of great beauty.  Then when the pipe organ kicks in, I am lifted to another plane of listening.   I also like the Piano Concertos of Saint-Saens. His style is greatly influenced by the Classical Era but also falls in the Romantic style and begins the Impressionistic Era. 



          Claude Debussy  (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918) -- Prelude à L'après-midi d'un faune (Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun) is one of my Debussy favorites, although many of his works could be interchanged with this work.  Debussy composed in the dreamy, shimmering style known as impressionism.  On the surface Prelude and many of Debussy's other works seem slow, boring, and perhaps even depressing.  However I am amazed when listen closely to Debussy's compositions.  I wonder how did he ever think of music that would sound so beautiful.  If there was ever music to recreate your thoughts on a dreamy lazy day Prelude does that.  It is music that is introspective and relaxing. 





            Erik Satie  (May 17, 1866 –  July 1, 1925) --- Trois Gymnopédies is the music that really inspired me to explore classical music in 1969.   Public television had shown a documentary about Impressionistic/Avant-garde French composer Erik Satie.  When I heard the Trois Gynmopedies I knew I must find out more.  Satie primarily wrote short piano pieces.  His catalog of music is not real extensive, but the Gymnopedies are all I need from him.




          Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945)  --The Six String Quartets does not grab me melodically, but stylistically it is an incredible piece of modern music.  Often harsh, tense, angry, and introspective this is music of the modern age.   A forerunner to progressive rock music except this is done string quartet style. Bartok composes new sounds for the string quartet that gives the ensemble new depth.  This could easily be music that could be used for a movie soundtrack.


 
            Igor Stravinsky  (June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971)   -- The Rite of Spring was so radically different at the time of its release that its premiere in Paris nearly turned into a riot.  People at the time did not understand this music.  Now it doesn't sound so uncommon, but it still sounds incredible with its perscussiveness and chaotic orchestral sounds.  This is music that seems to foreshadow the coming ages of jazz and rock and roll.
 


           Ralph Vaughan Williams  (October 12, 1872 - August 26, 1958) -- Symphony #7 (Sinfonia Antarctica) was originally based on a filmscore Vaughn Williams had written.   When I first heard this back in my college days I immediately fell in love with this symphony.  It has the grand organ, crystalline sounding xylophone, piano, choral voices, and, best of all, a wind machine.  When I listen to this I can visualize a ship sailing amongst the ice bergs and frigidity of the Antarctic desolation.  It is incredible modern music that fits in the tradition of film scoring.



I have left out many great composers and works.  Make sure you visit the other participants' sites to see what other classical music is beloved and appreciated.  And then, try to make an effort to seek out some of this music yourself.   If you allow yourself to let the music in, you will be taken to some of the most wondrous places that human imagination has ever created.  Beethoven is attributed to saying that "Music is the language of God."  When I listen to classical music I can easily believe that.

















17 comments:

  1. I applaud you Lee a fine list by any standard. I knew most of them and they brought back many childhood memories. Thank you.

    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting to see everyone's take on this blogfest!

    ReplyDelete
  3. rLEE-b ~
    You appear to have extensive knowledge of your subject and I enjoyed reading your commentary even if Jazz is about as close to Classical as I'll ever get.

    I do, however, own one compact disc titled "Dan Gibson's Solitudes: The Classics II". It's one of those modern poor man's mood discs with cheesy excerpts from compositions by various old dead White dudes like Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, etc. I bought it solely for Schubert's "Serenade", which I love - all three minutes and twenty-eight seconds of it. Never could get into the rest of the stuffs.

    Anyway, nice work on this list, buddy, even coming from a Classical non-fan like me!

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yvonne -- Between yours and my list, I think we came up with an excellent list of works for someone who would like to learn about classical music-- sadly there don't seem to be many of them.

    Diane -- yes mine and Yvonne's both so far. Too bad more people couldn't participate.

    Alex -- did you play it on a instrument or a playback mechanism?

    StMc -- Thanks for the commendation. You should give classical a serious try-- it is such a great form of music.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for this information, Arlee. I did notice you left out Neil Diamond though...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Brother Lee

    I don't know a lot about classical music but I do like to listen to it once and a while. When I was working I had the local classical music station set on my truck radio. When the LA traffic got exceptionally bad and stressful, I would turn on the c.m. station and found it to be very relaxing.

    BTW, you and Yvonne had some very good background music playing today.

    Ron

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love all of those too. And The Rite of Spring is my all time favorite symphony - bar none.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent list Arlee, I enjoy most of these composers, but you left out my favorite! I know, I know, it's your list!! Chopin, I love Chopin. I really lean towards classical piano!
    Love Di ♥

    ReplyDelete
  9. If I were to make a list of favorites, many of these would be among them. Good choices. Thanks for sharing; it was quite a pleasant visit!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm with you Lee on all of them except Bartok. I just never could relate.

    I've been looking forward to this post and have prepared my Fantasy Island Classical Favorites - :)

    The Student Prince & The Great Caruso Mario Lanza

    Voice of the Violin by Joshua Bell

    Romance of the Violin by Joshua Bell

    Vivaldi: The Four Seasons by Joshua Bell (I'm a big Bell fan)

    Chopin: Nocturnes Nos, 1-19; Four Scherzi Artur Rubinstein

    Leontyne Price: Arias from Verdi and Puccini

    Marian Anderson Bach, Brahams and Schubert

    Bach: The 6 Unaccompanied Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma

    Vivaldi: The Four Seasons/Tartini: The Devil's Trill by Giuseppe Tartini, Antonio Vivaldi, Anne-Sophie Mutter (primarily The Devil’s Trill)

    Just about anything written by Tchaikovsky and Bruch and Beethoven and recorded by either Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic

    ReplyDelete
  11. One of my favorite CD’s is the Best of the Classics, which includes a lot of the music you mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Betty -- Neil Diamond's pretty good--maybe I need to rethink my list.

    Ron-- Yes classical can have a very calming effect, but some is very stirring as well.

    Marvin -- Rite of Spring is indeed amazing.

    Diana-- Yes, I had a Chopin CD right here by my side-- it's great music. Yvonne put Chopin on her list, but I had to sacrifice some great music.

    Karen -- thank you for stopping to make a comment.

    Paula-- I was hoping to get your list. Good choices. I hated to leave off Tchaikovsky and Chopin because I love both their music. And Rachmaninoff and Mahler-- oh there are just too many.

    Bartok is an acquired taste. I didn't care for the music when I first heard it back in the 1970's and then I started picturing it done Rock and roll style and it started making more sense.

    Thanks for your great list!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Lee-

    Found the commentary of interest and like the samples.

    I will probably need to save the other lists for tomorrow.

    If I got into classical, where the heck would I keep the CD's?

    LC

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jane -- those sampler compilations are a great way to get introduced to the different composers. My parents always had records like those and I grew up with them. I still buy classical CD compilations on occasion.

    LC-- Start gradually. I'm sure you'll find room for the really good music.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a fantastic blog, Lee.
    I am so pleased I came and I will be signing up to your blog.

    This wonderful music is just up my street - I am doing a kitchen refurb at home and I listen to stuff like this all day long!

    Some of your fav composers are mine too.

    I just love 'bouncy' J S Bach - anything of his - all his piano/harpsicord concertos, all his violin concertos . . . and including the Brandenburg masterpieces. I love the St Matthew Passion and the Magnificat . . . . it goes on and on . . . and I play the piano so I love his 48 preludes and fugues.

    Vivaldi - Four Seasons is brilliant. On at the moment! I have Vanessa Mae playing this! brilliant.

    I would add Handel. Love his Messiah and all his organ conceros.

    Mozart - you omit him but I think he is wonderful. His piano concertos, his symphonies . . . clarinet concerto. Shame he was only 35 when he died.

    Schubert - I agree he is a must. I love all his symphonies, especially his last one.

    I have just heard Ave Maria. My daughter sings this on her CD which is on my Clouds blog (at the bottom of the blog page is an MP3 player - she sings some Eva Cassidy songs as well.

    Beethoven - my fav symphony is The Eroica No 3 but No 7 is great as well - the ALL are!! Like his romances for violin as well and his piano concertos. I have Daniel Baronboim playing and conducting (on DVD)

    Bizet wrote a wonderful symphony as well.

    Verdi - Love his operas

    Tchiakovski - love all his works

    Rachmaninoff - Beautiful 2nd Piano Concerto.

    You've got some more modern composers -I like these a little less.

    Mendelsohnn - inspiraional child prodigy, like Mozart, and a great composer.

    I could add many more and I enjoyed listing this lot.

    Best wishes and see you again soon.
    My blog is a mixture of humour and sad stories, some about my ambulance work before I retired. My humourous stuff is created out of thin air. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the visit. Totally agree about the composers you mention. I left out Mozart in order to fit in some of the composers I thought people would know less about. A list of 12 favorites is absurd because of what you have to leave off.

    I reviewed the movie Eroica on the day after I did the list post. Have you seen this BBC production. I thought it was absolutely fabulous.

    Look forward to future correspondance.

    ReplyDelete

Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.

Lee