Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last of the Classical Music

This about rounds it out.  I have thought about doing the same thing with soundtracks at some point in time - we'll see.  Hope your holidays are fantastic, that you aren't stressed and that your spouses and children and roommates are keeping the teasing/tormenting to a minimum.  In the meantime, if you are going with a must listen to from this list, consider the Anvil Chorus, The Ashokan Farewell and A Lark Ascending. Incidentally, they are all pretty relaxing.  Go on, you deserve it.
Tarrega  - Recuerdos de la Alhambra
Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto #3, The Nutcracker Suite, 1812 Overture, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Marche Slave

Ungar – The Ashokan Farewell

Verdi – La Traviata, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Nabucco), Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore),  Dies Irae (Messa Da Requiem), La donna è mobile (Rigoletto), Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera
Vivaldi – Four Seasons, Guitar Concerto 

Wagner - Overture (Tannhauser), Ride of the Valkyries, Overture (The Flying Dutchman) 

Webber – Invocation 

Williams, John – Call of the Champions

Williams, Ralph Vaughn -  A Lark Ascending, 5 Variants of 'Dives & Lazarus', Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, Fantasia on Greensleeves

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rachmaninoff to the Strausseseses (yup, there's two)

Rachmaninoff  and Saint-Saens round out my top five composers (Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven are the others).  There is so much emotion in Rachmaninoff's compositions - beautiful and powerful.  Saint-Saens would maybe restore my faith in French composers, but the rest don't sound like him, which is probably why I like him.  You must experience his 3rd symphony where you have good stereo and surround sound.  

Rachmaninoff– 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Prelude in  C# minor, G minor and B flat minor, Elegie, Op. 3, No. 1 (piano, not vocal), Symphony No. 2

Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade (there is a really cool interactive site teaching all the different parts of the story here), Flight of the Bumblebee

Rossini – William Tell Overture

Saint-Saens – 3rd Symphony, 2nd Piano Concerto, African Fantasy, The Carnival of the Animals (especially The Swan), Piano Sonata in B, Dance Macabre, Bacchanale

Schubert – Symphony No. 9

Schumann – Piano Concerto in A minor,

Shostakovich – 2nd Piano Concerto,

Sibelius – Finlandia, Romance Op. 24 No. 9
Smetana - Overture  and Dance of the Comedians (The Bartered Bride)

Stravinsky – The Firebird Suite, Rite of Spring
Strauss, Richard - Thus Spoke Zarathustra,
Strauss, Johann - By the Beautiful Blue Danube (orchestral)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Khachaturian to Prokofiev

Seriously, how many blog posts can start with that title?  Within this grouping, there is probably my top five piano composer, Franz Liszt.  He was quite the showman - would throw his green velvet gloves off at women in the audience during performances - kindof a rockstar of classical music - if there is such a thing.  His works are ridiculously impressive - I suggest taking the time to hear all the Hungarian Rhapsodies, but put down my favorites.  And if you were to see the sheet music of La Campanella while listening to someone perform it, it just doesn't seem possible.  
Mozart is here, but relatively small.  I think most people have heard more Mozart than they know, and it would just take too much time to put all the works of his that are impressive, so I did a top five.  
Khachaturian – Sabre Dance
Lecuona - Malaguena, Córdoba, Gitanerias
Liszt – Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Hungarian Rhapsodies 2, 4 and 6, Sospiro, La Campanella, Liebestraum
MacDowell – Hungarian Op. 39 No. 1
Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor, Concerto for Two Pianos,  Symphony #4

Mozart – Clarinet Concerto, Ave Verum Corpus, Symphony No. 40, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Marriage of Figaro
Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition
Orff – O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)
Pachabel – Canon in D (strings)
Paderewski – Piano Concerto, Polish Fantasy
Parry -  Jerusalem
Puccini – Nessun Dorma, Humming Chorus (Madame Butterfly)

Prokofiev - The Montagues & Capulets (Romeo and Juliet)
Probably just one or two more posts on this subject matter - then on to other witty ideas :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Composers C through J

Sorry for the delay on the rest.  I had the goal of posting them every other day, but just had my other foot surgery and was working on that...percocet free I'm happy to report.  Of course, it hurts more, but I can think - decent trade-off I think :)  Lots of contemporary works in this group of composers, but I don't think any of them enter the weird phase.  And apparently blogspot hates me right now and the formatting is very strange...not sure how to fix without doing an intensive html overhaul...sorry.

Fanfare for the Common Man, Appalachian Spring
Capua & Capurro
O Sole Mio
Farewell to Stromness
Cake Walk, Clair de Lune
The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Humoresque in G-flat minor, Symphony No. 9, Piano Concerto in G minor 
Cello Concerto, Enigma Variations, Violin Concerto in B minor
Cantique de Jean Racine
1st Piano Concerto, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, In the Hall of the Mountain King & Morning (Peer Gynt Suite - I have horrible memories of trying to earn Anita's Dance from this - still hate it)
Rhapsody in Blue (orchestral), Piano Concerto in F
Zadok the Priest, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Messiah,Water Music
Mars & Jupiter (The Planets - You should probably listen to the whole work at least once, but these are my favorites - Neptune really drives me a bit mad...) 

Elite Syncopations, The Entertainer, Maple Leaf Rag - really his works are all quite impressive

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Whole Post for Chopin

Chopin is one of those composer names that many people know even if they don't really know music.  Part of that, I think, is because it is a name that isn't pronounced the way it is spelled and that tends to come up in conversation lots.  Chopin is also a composer that has many works familiar to even the most naive classical listeners because they watch cartoons.  

Chopin is a tricky fellow.  He's kindof like Beethoven in that when you hear the music, it doesn't always sound like it's very complicated and I suppose that is part of the brilliance in his compositions is that when it is learned well and performed well, it sounds easy.  I promise it isn't.

I suppose my loyalty to Chopin partly involves from being a pianist, because most of his works are for piano.  But he is able to express power and beauty, simplicity and passion with little white and black keys that you just have to push to make sound.  He was truly astonishing.  He is also the best thing to happen to the key of C sharp minor EVER.

So here are my favorites, grouped by kind of work - this is maybe a quarter of what he wrote.  
Piano Concerto
1 and 2 (Two is my favorite between these two and I'm partial to the live recording of these by a 9 or 10 year old Evgeny Kissen - talk about double brilliance) 
A major (Op 40 No 1) 
C-sharp minor (Op 26 No 1)
A flat major (Op 53) when my mom performed this in a pageant, the poor emcee didn't really know music and instead of pronouncing it like the name of the letter, he pronounced it like the article a.  Made it sound like the piano  had been tuned down to that key.  Ha ha ha!  Hmm.  That might not be funny to everyone else. 
D-flat major (Minute Waltz) Bugs Bunny could perform it in 30 seconds.
E-flat major (Grand Valse Brilliante)
C sharp minor (Op 64 No 2)
E-flat major (Op 9 No 2) This is the song that Sharon, pretending to be Susan, plays when she is fighting with her dad in the original Parent Trap when he asks when she learned how to play the piano
B-flat minor (Op 32 No 1)
C sharp minor (Op 72 No 2 Posthumous) If you have seen the movie The Pianist, this is the nocturne that is played throughout
D flat major, (Op 27 No 2) 
D flat major (Op 28 No 15)
A major (No 7)
for Two Pianos My mom and I are currently working on performing this one - hopefully in March?
Fantasy Impromptu C-sharp major 
C minor (Revolutionary)
 E Major (Op. 10 No. 3)
Ballade in A flat Major
B-flat minor (Op 31)
B minor (Op 20)
C-sharp minor (Op 39)
Sonata in B-flat minor (Op 35) The third movement of this work has what is often called the Funeral March - I know you have heard at least part of this if you have ever watch a Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes commercial where someone has (for the very brief moment) died.  Maybe in Alfred Hitchcock somewhere too.
I hope you and Chopin can become friends.  It's been a great relationship so far.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Music is in the Air

I think it is known by most people who read this blog that I have a certain level of nerdiness.  Two to three hundred years ago, it probably would have been the norm, but I probably would have also died because of my strong opinions that I feel inclined to express often, so I'll stick with being a nerd.  But what I know about most nerds is that many of you are closet nerds.  The next several posts will be for you.

I LOVE classical music.  I listen to this station every morning in my classroom when I prep (Confession - I hijacked an England post code to be able to do this - I keep waiting to feel guilt about it, but I don't.)  But I also have many works that are on both computers, own multiple discs with great works on them, etc.

Over the last few months, I started a list of my favorite classical works.  This was not a small project. When I first thought about uploading this list here, I realized it is so HUGE that if someone were to want to dabble in the classical realm, they would be completely overwhelmed.  So I kicked in some of my OCD and organized the list in alphabetical order by composers last name.  Not all the letters are equally represented, and I skipped the A's altogether (my favorites, remember?  If you like some of the A's, make your own list).

So today, I present to you my favorite classical works written by composers with the last name of B.  There are lots.  Beethoven alone could have taken up a page, but I've tried to make it concise and easy to read/find/experience/criticize/whatever.

Concerto in D minor for two violins
Air on a G String
Toccata and Fugue
Cello Suite #1
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor – Badinerie
Piano Concerto No. 1
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Adagio for Strings
The Damnation of Faust
Symphonie Fantastique

Pearl Fisher’s Duet
L'Arlesienne Suite
Piano Concerto No. 1 & 2
Rhapsody in G minor

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Violin Concerto No. 1
Scottish Fantasy
Concerto for Two Pianos & Orchestra

Symphonies (Love them all - favorites are 4, 5, 7 & 9)
Moonlight and Pathetique piano sonatas
Piano Concerto (Again, all are amazing - favorite is No. 5
Choral Fantasy
Turkish March
Egmont Overture

As always, I would love to hear your favorites and if you think I left someone or something off the list that absolutely should be there.