a Classical Music discussion

Jan H

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Jack,

I'm assuming you've heard the Naxos 7th, so I'll take your recommendation to heart. Right now, sound quality is the most important thing for me, and while Boult sounds great, I'm dying to hear the London Symphony on Chandos that won the Gramophone award. Have you heard it?
 

Steve Y

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yay!!
i like it when these discussions pop up. not that i mind reading all the prog discussions.

i don't have the money or space for lots and lots of CDs, or even really the time to listen. i think i play my musical instrument just as much as i listen to CDs.
i'm glad i'm not the only one with problems using the term "classical music". (using "serious music" is also problematic i think). i'm afraid of turning people off who might have preconceptions with the standard 'classical terminology' (or fear that someone might correct a misuse of snobby classical terms).. i sometimes just tell them "piano music" or "orchestral music" or "music for string instruments and a solo harp" or "a piece for two violins, a viola and a cello" (etc.), trying to be as literal as possible for those who might not know what is meant by "ahh, dahhling, a delightful septet in Bb minor, ahhh yeeesssss..." .. I'm afraiding hearing the words "a classical symphony" will send people either into hiding or put their ears into "supermarket music mode", where they aren't listening to the individual instruments in the cacophony but just taking in the overall 'delightful' or 'nice' effect of the muddy noise of this thing called 'classical music'.
i think the semantics (and the idea that you must employ an 'extensive musical vocabulary') scare a lot of people away from "pure" instrumental/vocal music. really the terminology is something that can come to you over time - i've spoken with people who use all the exotic terminology but seem to have only a slight handle on the soul and joy of the noise, and those who "get it" but don't know a cadenza from a credenza. so it really doesn't matter. you need a plan, a bridge (as someone said above) to build between something they KNOW and then this strange noise which isn't really so exclusive.
that is.. you can't listen to a mahler song cycle in the same way you listen to a weezer song cycle (heh), but once your ears are 'trained' to be excited by BOTH kinds of noise, your enjoyment will expand geometrically.
here are some of my favorites at the very moment, which unfortunately represent only 1/10,000 of what i want the time to recommend (circulating in the CD player or whatnot):
- the early simple haydn sonatas, which i am busy learning on piano... clean, beautiful lines and trills, and really nice melodies. restrained versus showy, but nonetheless quick and clever.
- schoenberg, the suite for piano op.25, and pierrot lunaire (shoenberg's serial music is actually really in the Romantic tradition [not so much like boulez], but personally speaking i had to "learn" to listen to it.. it's not music you hum in the shower necessarily, but it's moody as hell and really exciting and chaotic)... pierrot lunaire is a really frightening piece of vocal music (for soprano and piano), especially on headphones. haunting!
- please listen to alban berg's op.1 piano sonata.. right now!! at least give it a chance. it really reduces me to tears, literally. it drifts in and out of dissonance, and finally resolves in a defeated harmony. i know that sounds like nonsense but listen to it and keep those words in mind, it's really incredible (for an op.1 no less).
- the fifth symphony by prokofiev, which is a really crowd-pleasing piece of music with a really impish sense of humor, a blackness to it.. and it has a conclusion with solo violin that just bowls me over every time i hear it.. also the fifth, sixth, and seventh piano sonatas are "OH MY GOD" fun to the millionth degree.
- the mid-late shostakovich quartets have a similar 'exhaustive energy', though more somber. for those who aren't used to chamber music, i play them the op.118a chamber symphony, a barshai transcription for chamber orchestra that deepens, if perhaps slightly cheapens, the musical lines from the tenth quartet.
- lots of people talking about Dvorak. for those who don't want the full "hitting" orchestra effect just yet, or have friends who shy away from cymbals and horns, play them the op.22 serenade for strings, which is really pastoral and lovely and extremely memorable. i too prefer the 8th symphony to the 9th, but overall i like the more eastern euro sounds of his 7th/down versus his op-repeated 'american folk song' style.
- richard strauss's opera 'der rosenkavalier' is funny, heartbreaking, extremely moving, scary, it's everything. i love it.. it's long but really worth every minute. as with any opera it's better to see live but in lieu of that we might have liner notes, a comfy chair, a nice sound system and over three hours to burn.
it's getting late but darnit, there are a million more we could suggest to each other. thanks for this thread!!!
steve
p.s. since holst is also being discussed, i too like the 'planets' on record with sir adrian boult and the ambrosian singers. unfortunately i can't find this one on CD.. perhaps there were more than one? maybe one of you can help me here. it's a vague memory. (i don't actually own the record but a friend did and we have fallen out of touch).
 

Stefan A

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Oddly enough, even though I listen to Classical almost exclusivly, and I listen to Zappa when I am not listening to classical - I have never listened to any of Zappa's classical stuff. I may have heard snippets here and there. Zappa did a lot of listening to people like Varese - in fact I read that a Varese album is the first recoed he ever bought. So, he is influenced by him. But, Zappa never had any formal music training - at least nothing extensive. But yes, I would consider him a composer of classical music.

As for Vaughn-Williams, I only know a few things by him. It's nice stuff, especially if you like the English folk melodies. As a tuba player, I am pretty familiar with his Tuba Concerto. Tuba players consider this to be the definitive tuba concerto by a classical composer. There are many others, but none written by a composer of Vaughn-Williams' stature. His English Folk Song Suite is also pretty popular - especially with concert bands.

Yes, Alan Hovhannes is really good. I have the Reiner w/ CSO recording of Mysterios Mountain. I have a couple other symphonies of his which are just as neat. Prokofiev's 5th symphony is great as is his first (classical symphony). The 5th is a tubist's dream - as it is very exposed and is great music. I have 4 recordings of that plus a couple I recorded myself at live concerts.

This is a cool thread, but as someone pointed out, it is really taking an all in one direction. Perhaps if we start some individual threads on classical topics we would like to discuss, more people (who may not care about this thread) would read it. If we convince one person who doesn't listen to classical music to try it, then our mission is accomplished.
 

Jack Briggs

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Agreed.

This thread serves to identify the HTF "players" involved--it's our "coming out" party, as it were.

Now that we know who here loves serious music, let's consider thread options.

One I'd like to consider is best conductors with specific composers. The late Leonard Bernstein is considered to be the definitive Copland interpreter, as well as a Mahler champion. But Georg Solti was one hell of a Mahler man, too.

Who wants to start that thread?
 

Mike Broadman

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Question 1: I've seen George Lloyd on SACD. Who was he and what's his music like?

Question 2: Are there any high-res classical recordings that anyone suggests we avoid?

I also prefer Dvorak's 7th and 8th symphonies over the 9th. They are free from any thematic restrictions and allow his compositional style to flourish.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Re: Vaughan-Williams; a friend in college introduced me to his work, specifically "Fantasia On Greensleeves" & "A Theme From T. Tallis". I will have to check out his 2nd symphony -- I do have his 3rd & 5th symphonies.

Re: Holst: The Planets; all I have in my collection is a budget title from an orchestra and conductor who escape me at the moment. The performance left me uninspired. Can anyone suggest a better recording that will hopefully alter my opinion of this piece?

Re: today's film composers, such as John Williams, not being considered serious classical composers -- this seems contradictory to how Prokofiev is perceived in classical music. Didn't he create compositions for many of Eisenstien's films?
 

Jack Briggs

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Scott:

Vaughan-Williams's most technically "perfect" symphony is his eighth. Refer to the Adrian Boult performance. Excellent--if the multimiked, shrill sonics don't overwhelm you. It's an Angel/EMI disc.

If you love a thematic emphasis, check out Vaughan-Williams's violin-and-orchestra meditation, The Lark Ascending. Lovely music. It's only purpose seems to be just being beautiful. Simple, really.

As for the Holst megahit, check out Steinberg's BSO performance--it's rousingly energetic and the recording, though multimiked, is quite good even by today's standards. But Adrian Boult's performance has the edge.

Prokofiev was, first and foremost, a serious composer who did some work in film. But Williams is a mass-popularity film composer first, and a concert-music composer by a distant second. He just is not considered a "force" (no pun) in the world(s) of serious music.
 

Zen Butler

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If you love a thematic emphasis, check out Vaughan-Williams's violin-and-orchestra meditation, The Lark Ascending.
This is actually the name of the one disc I have by VW. I'm not sure if it's still availableThe Lark Ascending on Polygram has Symphony No. 2 conducted by Boult & VW's Oboe Concerto in Am conducted by Neville Mariner w/ Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
Before we get away from British composers, I have to mention Elgar's Cello Concerto op. 85 , I know many perceive him as "wooden", but have had a special place for this particular piece. Maybe not as light and airy as some of the other composers of the time (Debussy,VW), but stellar for lack of better term.
 

Justin Doring

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I'm glad to see some mention of Vaughn Williams. He's one of my favorite composers, but I'm a huge lover of British music in general (Elgar, Walton, Arnold, etc.), so one might say I am biased. Hovhaness' music merely strikes me as a slightly more ethereal, avant-garde version of Vaughn Williams' music. I like Hovhaness' stuff, but I'd rather listen to the original (notice the use of "original" and "Vaughn Williams" in the same sentence?).

Regarding film composers, I should announce that my other musical bias is that about 60% of my music listening is film scores both past and present. A number of classical composers have written for film: Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Vaughn Williams, Arnold, Walton, Copland, Korngold, Rozsa, Herrmann, Moross, etc. Is Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky inferior to one of his symphonies simply because it was written for a film? Good music is good music, no matter what medium it is written for, and men like Goldsmith, Bernstein, Williams, Morricone, Barry, Jarre, etc. are among the best composers working today.
For all intents and purposes, classical music "died off" almost completely around the middle of the twentieth century. Film scores are the classical music of the modern age. I'll take Jerry Goldsmith the genius over Philip Glass the plumber any day.
 

Dennis Nicholls

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A lot of Vaughan Williams best work is choral music, such as the Mass in G minor and the wordless chorale Flos Campi, the latter being an orgasmic rendition of the Song of Solomon.
Hey Jack, no comment on my liederhosen pun?

Anyway, I'm always amazed that some of the finest composers are what would be called "crossover" composers nowadays. JS Bach combined the German contrapunctal style with the Italian concerted style to produce his style - and very fine it was. Brahms combined the German and Hungarian styles....
We may quibble about modern music, how about the converse? What's the oldest piece of music that really sounds like music to your ears? The oldest piece I listen to with gusto is Guillaume Dufay's Missa L'homme Arme (circa 1460). There's a really good CD on Naxos, 8.553087, with Jeremy Summerly conducting the Oxford Camerata.
 

Jeff Keene

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RE: Classical, Serious, Art, whatever music.

I say "well composed" music. With the exception of some improvised vocal and/or jazz music (Bobby McFerrin's Circlesongs comes to mind), the music I take seriously, memorize, try to learn more about, etc. is well composed. By that I mean that a structure is chosen or developed and then the music is worked in a deliberate direction. It is developed and has a payoff. A nice, creative melody or indeed a bunch of them is a big plus, too. I'm really not doing a good job of describing what I mean, so I'll stop.

Anyway, within the category of "well-composed" music falls music from every category. The major symphonies from great composers obviously fit here, but so do songs from Rock, Metal, Jazz, etc. If a piece of music stands on its own, and paints a detailed picture, it is serious music to me.

Examples? Rhapsody in Blue, maybe Yes - Awaken, some Dream Theater stuff, etc.
 

Swami

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Another alternative to the misnomer of "Classical Music", as suggested by a music appreciation course I listened to (from the teaching company), is Western Concert Music.

Swami
 

rob kilbride

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Here's some offbeat (or at least less known than Beethoven and Bach recommendations for you guys):
I love the Florida Suite by Frederick Delius. I have the Naxos recoding and am very happy with it. It is so tuneful, and its American sound predates Dvorak 9 and may even be better, IMHO.
Slatkin's cd of Leroy Anderson's pieces is super.
Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe is a must, wonderful.
Michael Tilson Thomas's cd New World Jazz is an excellent cd of jazz influenced pieces and includes the original orchestration of Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin for jazz band (orchestrated by Grofe as was the later full orchestral version).
On RCA there is a cd of Kurt Weill's authorized dance band arrangements of tunes from his plays, opera's, operetta's etc. called Life, Love, and Laughter performed by the Palast Orchester. Very charming 1930's style light music/ jazz arrangements.
The Dutch label Basta has a cd of Ferde Grofe's "symphonic jazz pieces" which hadn't been performed since the Paul Whiteman band performed them in the 30's. It features the original jazz band version of Mississippi Suite but unfortunately has only one movement of the original band version of The Grand Canyon Suite. However the other pieces on the disc make it very worth while.
Basta also has excellent cd's of ragtime piano music by the other two great ragtime composers James Scott and Joseph Lamb.
Fans of music used in Bugs Bunny cartoons would surely love Basta's cd's of music by Raymond Scott who Carl Stalling frequently quoted. They are performed by the group the Beau Hunks. I especially love the big band arrangements on the cd The Chesterfield Arrangements which is a cd of arrangements of Raymond Scott tunes performed by the Paul Whiteman Band.
And fans of the The Little Rascals and Laurel and Hardy would love the Beau Hunks cd's of music by Leroy Shield. So many familiar tunes!
Fans of the NFL will surely know the music of Sam Spence on Tommy Boy Records compilation of NFL Films music. A great cd.( I know a lot of this stuff is light music or jazz but I'm guessing it will appeal to many of you.)
Probably my favorite piece of classical music is The Pines of Rome by Ottorini Respighi. I also love Fountains of Rome and Roman Festivals. All 3 can be found on a great recording by Loren Maazel and the Pittsburgh.
Ernesto Lecuona's music is well worth getting into. I have piano cd's and an orchestra cd by Morton Gould.
The Symphony #3 of Camille Saint-Saens (Organ Symphony) is a must as is his Carnival of the Animals.
Leonard Rosenman's score to Bakshi's Lord of the Rings is excellent, as are Goldsmith's The Secret of Nimh, and Malcom Williamson/Angela Morley's score to Watership Down.
Bambi's score by Larry Morey, Frank Churchill, and Ed Plumb is another fine example of film scoring, Just listen to the thuderstorm in the middle of the song Little April Shower. There are no or almost no sound effects! The wind is done by the chorus, the lightning by cymbals.
I stumbled into a cd on Collins Classics called Witness Volume II William Grant Still in a bargain bin and it is super. A great cd by an excellent AfroAmerican composer.
Anyone else wanna add some non-basic repertoire or fringes of classical music stuff to add?

Another alternative to the misnomer of "Classical Music", as suggested by a music appreciation course I listened to (from the teaching company), is Western Concert Music.
I vastly prefer this term.
 

rob kilbride

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By the way Hovhaness's Mysterious Mountain is Symphony #2. Perhaps you confused it with its Opus #, 132.
A Hovhanness website
I have a recording of it conducted by John Williams which also features William's Bassoon Concerto.
 

Stefan A

Second Unit
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May 27, 2001
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One comment , I think John Williams is the greatest current composer of orchestral music which I know is not popular in "serious" classical circles. Quite frankly I don't see why his massive music is not considered serious
Speaking for myself, I don't like the way his music sounds like every other famous composer (strauss, holst, mahler...) Only, it is not as good. He is just not very original. I will never forget listening to the "attack of the sand people" from the original Star Wars album composed by John Williams. Then. listening to the beginning of the 2nd half of Stavinsky's Rite of Spring. It's the exact same thing. More than just a quote or style influence. It's the same thing. I didn't see Stavinsky's name anywhere on the album. He has come up with a formula that makes him money - and a lot of it. He just keeps doing the same old thing.
 

Rob Roth

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What a great thread. I would certainly appreciate a separate forum since the many themes (no pun) introduced on this thread indicate the vast range of topics available. Note also the length of many contributions; it seems many members have long pent up comments they wish to make.

I am not a musician but grew up in a home where classical music was played. My father is a big Bach guy and my mother, a pianist, favored the Romantics; esp. piano concerti. My personal interest is large scale choral works. I have not, however, been able to appreciate opera on any sustained basis.

The decline in musical literacy is certainly one reason for the parlous state of serious music in America. Appreciation of serious music is obviously enhanced if one has some idea of what it is about. The length of most serious compositions also is discouraging to people with the shortened attention spans of modern life.

There are many topics I would like to introduce and discuss: 'Crossover' artists, education programs, the sterility of modern serious music, best performances, system requirements and recommendations for serious music, etc. But perhaps I can suggest a topic more immediately german to this site; the use of Home Theater and the new technologies to facilitate enjoyment of serious music.

I know the 5.1 mixes of concert DVDs leave much to be desired sonically. But the brain integrates son et lumiere to create memories, and the brain's storage of optical imagery is greater than its catalog of sound. For that reason even bit-starved concert performances have value. My girlfriend, a product of mass America, will watch a classical performance on DVD much more willingly than she will simply listen- regardless of whether the CD is a 'definitive' performance. Similarly, my son was introduced to serious music via Fantasia. It's a visual world out here, friends.

There is also the whole related issue of how SACD and DVD-Audio can improve the serious music experience.
 

rob kilbride

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Then. listening to the beginning of the 2nd half of Stavinsky's Rite of Spring. It's the exact same thing. More than just a quote or style influence. It's the same thing.
Funny that I've listened to both many times and never gotten that impression. Anyway its a small cue and not a very significant one. I've heard similar arguments before and am not impressed as usual. If he is so bad a composer why is he so in demand? It seems to me its just en vogue to bash Williams. I don't care what anyone says, there is nothing better in the orchestral world than the score to the first Star Wars movie. And I love classical music.
 

rob kilbride

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Then. listening to the beginning of the 2nd half of Stavinsky's Rite of Spring. It's the exact same thing. More than just a quote or style influence. It's the same thing. I didn't see Stavinsky's name anywhere on the album. He has come up with a formula that makes him money - and a lot of it. He just keeps doing the same old thing.
What are you talking about? Attack of the Sand People is a percussive raucous piece whereas the opening to part 2 of Rite of Spring is extremely mellow? Its the part in Fantasia where the prehistoric animals evolve up to the swooping Pteranadons. You must be referring to something different. Like it or not the average Joe knows and loves much more of Williams work than even the greatest classical composers like Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. Ok, I'm not gonna defend John too vehemently since neither one of us is gonna change the others mind.
 

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