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Thread: Favorite "Cycles"

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    Default Favorite "Cycles"

    I'm using the term rather loosely here, but typical examples would be a composer's work within a genre, or any group of works that are often packaged or considered together can count. Use your own judgment.

    1. Mahler symphonies -- This one's easy, because Mahler's a top 5 composer who almost entirely wrote in a single genre. I've said it before, but these works feel like an entire universe unto themselves, each symphony a galaxy, each movement a planet. Vast in their scope, profound in their power, and immense in their diversity.

    2. Mozart's Da Ponte Operas -- I never tire of these, and were it not for Wagner's Tristan, they'd likely occupy the 1-3 spots on my Top 10 operas. Much harder is picking an order. Right now I'm tempted to go: Don G., Cosi, Figaro.

    3. Beethoven's Piano Sonatas -- Listening to Arrau's cycle with headphones was one of the first profound experiences I had in classical music, where I truly learned what pure alone could do, and how much range of emotion and tones they could encompass.

    4. Wagner's Ring -- Pretty self-explanatory. Classical music doesn't get any more epic, and much like Mahler it feels like its own universe, except here a world with its own coherent language and story.

    5. Brahms's Chamber Music -- I came to Brahms through his orchestral music, but it was really the chamber music that pulled me in most. His Piano Quintet may be my single favorite chamber work, but no less ingenious are the piano quartets, clarinet quintet, or any of the trios in whatever instrumental arrangement he conceived of.

    6. Handel's Oratorios -- His operas may eventually overtake these on my list, but this was my intro to Handel and what made me a fan. What little they lose to the operas in dramatic impact, they make up in pure musical terms, especially in the multitude of memorable choruses.

    7. Mozart's piano concertos -- Much like Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, these were among my first great experiences with classical music and they're still works that I return to like old friends that never fail to move, delight, thrill, and enthrall.

    8. Haydn's String Quartets -- I feel like I could just as easily award my top spot to Haydn's symphonies, piano trios, or even choral music; he composed brilliantly in all of them. But I perhaps think the String Quartets are best overall representation of his genius, with greatness throughout his entire output, but especially highly concentrated in the latter works.

    9. Bach's Organ Music -- I feel this is the most underrated "cycle" in all classical music. No composer so dominates an instrument like Bach dominates the organ, and I personally find his output on the instrument more consistently compelling than his orchestral, keyboard, or choral music (though I realize I'm in the minority).

    10. Beethoven's Symphonies -- Over-familiarity has tired me on them a bit over the years, but they were another of my formative CM experiences.

    (11-20 given sans-commentary)

    11. Schumann's Piano Music
    12. Stravinsky's Ballets
    13. Schubert's Songs
    14. Mozart's Chamber Music
    15. Schubert's Chamber Music
    16. Scriabin's Piano Sonatas
    17. Bruckner's Symphonies
    18. R. Strauss's Tone Poems
    19. Couperin's Keyboard Works
    20. Schumann's Songs

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    Entirely sans-commentary and in alphabetical order:

    Bach's solo keyboard works
    Bach's organ works
    Bach's sacred choral works
    Chopin's solo piano works
    de Cabezon's solo organ works
    Dvorak's chamber works
    Handel's opera/oratorio works
    Mahler's symphonies
    Mahler's lieder/orchestral songs
    Mozart's concertos
    Myaskovsky's symphonies
    Prokofiev's symphonies
    Schubert's string chamber works
    Schubert's piano sonatas
    Schumann's solo piano works
    Shostakovich's symphonies
    Shostakovich's string quartets
    Weinberg's string quartets
    Weinberg's concertos
    Weinberg's symphonies

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I see Wagner's operas- not only the obvious Ring cycle - as a body of work exploring successive stages in the composer's thinking, with each work revealing the one that preceded it in a new light. Die Meistersinger is a sequel and corrective to Tristan, not just a comic contrast to it, and Parsifal is a retelling of the Ring, with the stories of Wotan and Siegfried transformed by a new ethical perspective foreshadowed in the character of Brunnhilde.

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    I'm not sure what a cycle is in this context or quite what we are being asked to do. But Beethoven's quartets seem to belong as do Bartok's and Elliott Carter's. But couln't I just as well say Beethoven's, Bartok's and Carter's chamber music?

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    Bernhard Lang's DW
    DW stands for Differenz/Wiederholung meaning Difference/Repetition, it is a cycle born transcribing for orchestra loop sequences created by turntable artists, but it has evolved in a much varied project that is better to hear than to read about.
    Curious guys among you here could try DW8 (the best example of the initial project) and DW17 (my favorite of the lot, until now).
    it is an ongoing "cycle" - it should include 28 works (Lang is alive and composing, DW28 is the last one I am aware of, but there could be more, more coming for sure).

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    I have a lot of cycles, but of these, the pieces I'm always up for hearing, where each piece in the cycle is interesting:

    The masses of Ockegehem.
    Beethoven's string quartets.
    Bartok's string quartets.
    Beethoven's symphonies.
    Beethoven's piano concertos.
    Mozart's piano concertos.
    Glazunov's symphonies.
    Brahms' symphonies.
    Brahms' sacred vocal works.
    Nielsen's symphonies.
    As of two weeks ago: Richard Strauss' tone poems.
    Charles Ives' symphonies.
    Bruckner's symphonies.
    Bruckner's vocal works: masses and motets.
    Haydn's string quartets.
    Bach's cantatas.
    Bach's keyboard suites: English, French, Well-Tempered Clavier.

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    I don't believe in cycles. I have never heard a cycle where all of the performances (or even a majority of them) were among my favorites of a particular work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I'm not sure what a cycle is in this context or quite what we are being asked to do. But Beethoven's quartets seem to belong as do Bartok's and Elliott Carter's. But couln't I just as well say Beethoven's, Bartok's and Carter's chamber music?
    The term is ambiguous which is why I said in my OP for people to use their best judgment. I tried to base mine on what works I see packaged together, or whether I feel the works constitute the same genre. I think either Beethoven's String Quartets or Beethoven's Chamber Music could be considered cycles; I guess which you chose would depend on whether you wanted to just focus on the quartets or all of his chamber music.

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    If the house were burning down and I could save only one box set of music from my collection, I'd probably grab one of my Bach Cantata cycles -- probably the Gardiner set. (The sleeve images in that one is a sure plus, for sure.)

    Then again ... there is my Beatles Mono vinyl collection box set.

    Shucks! I sure hope this house doesn't burn down anytime soon.

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    Favorite Beethoven cycles:
    - Symphonies: Gardiner
    - Concertos: Kovacevich (except the Emperor)
    - Piano Sonatas: Schiff
    - Violin Sonatas: Requires some thought
    - Cello Sonatas: Fournier/Gulda
    - Piano Trios: Beaux Arts

    No great surprises here, I suppose.


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