Saturday, November 10, 2007

Educating Me

OK. I need help.

I was reading on about Papa Benedict's thoughts on Beethoven's Ninth as follows:

At the end of the concert, the Holy Father recalled that Beethoven composed his final symphony in 1824, after a period of isolation and difficulty "which threatened to suffocate his artistic creativity."

Yet the composer "surprised the public with a composition that broke with the traditional structure of the symphony," rising at the end "in an extraordinary finale of optimism and joy," the Pontiff said.

Benedict XVI continued, "This overwhelming sentiment of joy is not something light and superficial; it is a sensation achieved through struggle" because "silent solitude [...] had taught Beethoven a new way of listening that went well beyond a simple capacity to experience in his imagination the sound of notes read or written."


"God - sometimes through periods of interior emptiness and isolation - wishes to make us attentive and capable of 'feeling' his silent presence, not only 'over the canopy of stars' but also in the most intimate recesses of our soul," the Holy Father affirmed. "There burns the spark of divine love that can free us to be what we truly are."

... and it made me want to enjoy some truly good music, which I have so little of. But I need your help. I need a list of composers, compositions, and good interpretations of their compositions. Because I'm ignorant. Could you help? (I know some of you certainly can.) A list would do - your favorite classical music and the specific (if you have one) recording of it.

I would certainly appreciate it.

I listened to Beethoven's Ninth on the way to and from picking up Anna from school yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by it. Surprised by its beauty, but also surprised by its narrative. The beauty of so much of art was lost on me as a child. I was happy with boxed macaroni and cheese and hot dogs.

I intend to make up for lost time.


Freder1ck said...

I recommend the Spirito Gentil series.

kkollwitz said...

Probably it's easiest to enjoy some standard pieces that you'll be somewhat familiar with already by osmosis.

Since you've enjoyed Beethoven's 9th,you might try his 3rd,5th, 6th, and 7th as well.
Also his well-known sonatas, Moonlight, Appassionata, and Pathetique.

I think some of these you can hear excerpted on Wiki as well as online music stores.

Classical music is so gargantuan in scope it's hard to really stop listing music you may want to listen to. Better I think is to simply plan to make it a small part of your life from now on, and grow in appreciation at your own rate.

Your local library should have a wealth of recorded music and books for your edification.

Will Reaves said...

Strongly second the recommendation on Beethoven's 7th, which is probably my favorite of his works. I would also recommend Brahms' 1st Symphony; I would recommend more Brahms but sadly I haven't had a chance to listen to him.

You really can't have enough Bach. Start with the Cantatas.

Dan said...

Where to begin? :-)

I think there are two types of recordings anyone should have: music suitable for being great background to our lives and music that warrants a serious listen. Many of my favorite composers fall into the latter category. Gustav Mahler's Fifth Symphony could be my favorite--fantastic music, but not good for listening in the busyness of life. Great to listen to in the too few quiet moments of life with a glass of wine at your side. Reading about Mahler and his life would be so helpful in understanding the tempestuous music he writes that captures the up and down vagaries of life so well. I recommend a recording with the NY Phil, Zubin Mehta conducting. Perhaps my favorite orchestral recording of all.

I second the Brahms recommendations too. The Cleveland Orchestra cycle with Dohnayni is my favorite, though a relatively inexpensive cycle with the London Symphony and Marin Alsop is getting rave reviews right now. I've heard their Brahms 1 and it's very good. The third movement of Brahms Third symphony is something I could listen to on repeat play for a long, long time.

And while we're on Brahms, his German Requiem is absolutely fantastic. I can't say enough good things about it. It's my favorite choral and orchestra piece, beating the Mozart Requiem (which is a must) and any Mass of Bach. I love those, but Brahms German Requiem speaks to me like no other piece does. Following along with the words is a powerful experience. Perhaps one of my favorite moments inn the history of music is when Brahms sets the words "O Death, where is thy sting." He sets this text with a glorious fugue where the melody dances throughout the choir and orchestra in a way that has always captured for me better than any other what the end of death would mean.

We're actually performing it here next week and I can't wait.

I have much more to recommend, but I've got to run. But getting back to my first comment, as for "background" of our lives music, the baroque era is excellent. The Vivaldi Four Seasons, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos or Orchestral Suites are fantastic. And as to recordings of the Baroque, you can't go wrong with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Those will always be excellent, and so should anything conducted by Neville Mariner. more thing: the Bach Cello suites. Fantastic stuff. My favorite rendition is Janos Starker. Brilliant.

~m2~ said...

wow scott - could you not have asked an easier question, like "when will the Lord return?"


gargantuan is definitely one of the phrases i would use when it comes to recommending Classical music. like the commenter directly above me, i was going to suggest Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Bach Brandenburg Concerti. start simple and then move on from there. you will find composers you love, artists you adore, and others who are brilliant but, eh, not your *type*. you can get really as picky as you'd like.

i love cello and strings so i am more of a chamber music girl. i used to download off of napster and gathered a great deal of music from that venue.

be sure to come back and tell us what you have found that you enjoy :)

kkollwitz said...

Sites such as this may help: