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Thread: What is the Ideal Introduction for Each Composer?

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    Default What is the Ideal Introduction for Each Composer?

    Assuming the listener is NOT new to classical music, yet somehow is relatively unfamiliar with music by <insert composer's name>, which work (or two) is an ideal introduction for THAT composer?

    Remember that many people begin to explore classical music through childhood piano lessons, or by participating in a school band, choir, or orchestra program. Their knowledge of the repertoire is minimal, but they are interested in exploring. With a few words of introduction and a suggested piece of music or two (recommended recordings too, if you like), how would you guide and entice them?


    I think this thread could be a useful tool for exploration.
    Last edited by 20centrfuge; Mar-14-2020 at 23:06.

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    Introducing Erik Satie. At the end of the 19th century, he and the young composer Claude Debussy were trying to make French music sound like it didn't come from Germany. Satie figured out that he could play chords strung together not so much for harmony's sake but mostly for the way they sounded.

    Listen to Gymnopedie No. 1. It's a simple line that doesn't push you anywhere; it just moves in one direction like the lines on a Greek vase. And the background harmonies don't push you anywhere, either; they are like the black background on a vase, there to highlight the line. Here is music that exists just for pleasure, to be enjoyed in the moment.

    Claude Debussy later orchestrated this piece, but to experience it as it was intended, it sounds best on the piano.

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    John Adams is a living composer who resides in Northern California. His breakout work was the opera: Nixon in China. His music reflects the feel of our time with pulsating rhythms, a slight sense of uneasiness, yet with optimism and beauty. A good introduction is the piece: The Chairman Dances. Then if you like that, check out Harmonielehre.


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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    30 years ago I suddenly heard Schnittke and it was Concerto Grosso no. 1 and the Piano Concerto that made me really like him.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Great thread idea! Based solely off my experiences as a classical music convert, I would enthusiastically recommend the following. Note that these are just my favorite composers with large outputs or ones I've had extensive exposure to:

    Bach: Violin Concerto No. 2, French Suite No. 5
    Mozart: Clarinet Quintet, Sinfonia Concertante
    Beethoven: Symphony No. 5, Emperor Concerto
    Schubert: Trout Quintet
    Chopin: Barcarolle
    Schumann: Piano Quintet
    Brahms: String Sextet No. 1, Piano Trio No. 1
    Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
    Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6
    Debussy: Images for Piano
    Ravel: String Quartet
    Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
    Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
    Sibelius: Symphony No. 5, Violin Concerto
    Shostakovich: Piano Quintet
    Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5
    Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta

    Edit: Well, I don't think my list was exactly what the OP was looking for. Sorry! To satisfy that criterion, I'll offer my suggestions for Bach:

    Violin Concerto No. 2: This marvelously uplifting work is Bach at his most effervescent and life-enhancing, with two gloriously tuneful movements nestling a dark pearl of a slow movement. For those who think Bach is too dry and academic, this will change all your conceptions.

    French Suite No. 5: This keyboard suite (I would recommend hearing it on piano for a newbie, but that's just my preference) contains a seemingly infinite series of gorgeous melodies and irresistable dances. If you love it, I would highly recommend moving onto the other French and English Suites and the Partitas. An impossibly bountiful wealth of delicious music.
    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Mar-15-2020 at 00:03.

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    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    In general I am in favour of the deep end - the greatest pieces even if they are a bit more difficult - because the rewards are more powerful. But I also think a lot depends on what the person likes already and whether they have a particular affinity for, say, chamber music or opera or solo piano or symphonies ....

    I have found that Brahms piano quartets are good first Brahms pieces for people who have difficulty with, say, the symphonies. And piano concertos are often a good route for modernist like Bartok and Prokofiev. One of Debussy's chamber masterpieces can be a good way into his music.

    Bach - maybe the Brandenburgs (for the variety as well as the level of inspiration) but the Goldberg Variations seem to be quite well known so maybe they are a good route.

    Beethoven - the Kreutzer for chamber music fans or the 7th symphony for orchestra nuts.

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    In general I am in favour of the deep end - the greatest pieces even if they are a bit more difficult - because the rewards are more powerful. But I also think a lot depends on what the person likes already and whether they have a particular affinity for, say, chamber music or opera or solo piano or symphonies ....

    I have found that Brahms piano quartets are good first Brahms pieces for people who have difficulty with, say, the symphonies. And piano concertos are often a good route for modernist like Bartok and Prokofiev. One of Debussy's chamber masterpieces can be a good way into his music.

    Bach - maybe the Brandenburgs (for the variety as well as the level of inspiration) but the Goldberg Variations seem to be quite well known so maybe they are a good route.

    Beethoven - the Kreutzer for chamber music fans or the 7th symphony for orchestra nuts.
    All great choices. Just wanted to comment on the Brahms, that though I am a fan now, it took me a long time to come to terms with his symphonies and concertos, which I now love. His chamber music has been more of a challenge for me. Somehow, I've still avoided hearing the piano quartets. I guess I was not all that impressed with the piano trios so I never decided to move onto the 4tets. What's a good recording for them?

    Edit: Managed to find the Angelich/Capuçon/Capuçon/Causse recording for $2.50 from an Australian vendor. So I will be exploring these works in about a month and a half or however long it takes to get to me...
    Last edited by flamencosketches; Mar-15-2020 at 13:55.

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    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    ^ I may be with you on the Brahms piano quartets - I find them a bit over the top in some performances (often the ones I grew up with) and can only take so much of them before needing a palate cleanser! But they worked for the two people I have introduced a lot of music to. I guess everyone is made differently.
    Last edited by Enthusiast; Mar-15-2020 at 14:12.

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    Last edited by Enthusiast; Mar-15-2020 at 14:13.

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    This is my list from 2013. I may have found better choices since then, but these are still good ones to know.

    1. Gregorio Allegri: Miserere
    2. Domenico Scarlatti: Keyboard Sonata in E Major K 380 "Cortege"
    3. JS Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BVW 565)
    4. Antonio Vivaldi: Flute Concerto Op. 10 No. 1 "La tempesta di mare"
    5. George Frideric Handel: Water Music: Alla Hornpipe
    6. Johann Pachelbel: Canon and GIgue in D
    7. Tomaso Albinoni: Concerto for 2 Oboes in C major, Op. 9 No. 9
    8. Georg Philipp Telemann: Trumpet Concerto in D
    9. CPE Bach: Keyboard Sonata in B minor
    10. Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No 95
    11. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No 23
    12. Antonio Salieri: Organ Concerto
    13. Leopold Kozeluch: Clarinet Concerto No 1
    14. Luigi Cherubini: Eliza Overture
    15. Ludwig Van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No 8 "Pathetique"
    16. Franz Schubert: Wanderer Fantasy
    17. Gioachino Rossini: William Tell Overture
    18. Carl Maria von Weber: Clarinet Concerto No 1
    19. Gaetano Donizetti: Concertino for English Horn
    20. Johann Hummel: Piano Concerto No 3
    21. Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique
    22. Felix Mendelssohn: Octet in E-flat
    23. Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No 2
    24. Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto No 1
    25. Richard Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
    26. Robert Schumann: Symphony No 1
    27. J Strauss I: Radetzky March
    28. Charles-Francois Gounod: Funeral March of a Marionette
    29. Henry Litolff: Concerto symphonique No 4
    30. Max Bruch: Violin Concerto No 1
    31. Johannes Brahms: Symphony No 1
    32. Modest Mussorgsky: Night on Bald Mountain
    33. Camille Saint-Saens: Piano Concerto No 4
    34. Amilcare Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours
    35. Bedrich Smetana: Ma vlast
    36. Cesar Franck: Symphonic Variations
    37. Georges Bizet: Carmen Overture
    38. J Strauss II: Tales from the Vienna Woods
    39. Alexander Borodin: Symphony No 2
    40. Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev: Symphony No 4
    41. Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No 9
    42. Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Sleeping Beauty
    43. Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No 1
    44. Giacomo Puccini: Turandot: Nessun Dorma
    45. Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee
    46. Gabriel Faure: Nocturne 6
    47. Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto
    48. Jules Massenet: Thais: Meditation
    49. Xaver Scharwenka: Piano Concerto No 4
    50. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No 2
    51. Gustav Mahler: Symphony No 1
    52. Richard Strauss: Horn Concerto No 1
    53. Gustav Holst: The Planets
    54. Claude Debussy: Deux Arabesques
    55. Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 3
    56. Alexander Scriabin: Piano Concerto
    57. Nikolai Medtner: Piano Concerto No 2
    58. Amy Beach: Gaelic Symphony
    59. Paul Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice
    60. Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
    61. George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
    62. Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No 5
    63. Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet
    64. John Corigliano: Piano Concerto
    65. Ernest Bloch: Schelomo
    66. Maurice Ravel: Pavane pour une infante defunte
    67. Michael Tippett: Concerto for Double String Orchestra
    68. Carl Orff: Carmina Burana
    69. Carl Nielsen: Symphony No 5
    70. Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto
    71. Alexander Glazunov: Saxophone Concerto in E flat
    72. Kurt Atterberg: Symphony No 1
    73. Geirr Tveitt: 50 Folk Tunes from Hardanger
    74. Isaac Albeniz: Suite espanola, Op. 47
    75. Aaron Copland: Rodeo
    76. Reinhold Gliere: Horn Concerto
    77. Erich Korngold: Violin Concerto
    78. Igor Stravinsky: Firebird Suite or excerpt
    79. Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 2 "Romantic"

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    Senior Member 20centrfuge's Avatar
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    THAT is an amazing list!

    Sibelius 3 seems to be a slightly odd choice. I'd pick Sibelius 2, instead. But it's all good.

    I agree with you on Prokofiev, Barber, Grieg, Hanson, Bizet, Holst, Bach and many others. It's a brilliant list. I'm going to use it to explore the few composers on the list that I don't really know (Taneyev, Korngold, Donizetti, Bruch)

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bharbeke View Post
    This is my list from 2013. I may have found better choices since then, but these are still good ones to know.

    69. Carl Nielsen: Symphony No 5
    Nielsen's 5th, eh? I've been struggling to get into Nielsen, I suffer from an acute case of what Enthusiast has termed Nielsen deafness. I will have to listen to give the 5th a listen, hopefully later on today.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    I would try Nielsen's violin concerto and Taneyev's piano trio, then piano quintet.

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    I haven't really got too much into Nielsen either, but the wind quintet is one of my favorite chamber works from the 20th century. That's what I would recommend first over the rather thorny symphonies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Nielsen's 5th, eh? I've been struggling to get into Nielsen, I suffer from an acute case of what Enthusiast has termed Nielsen deafness. I will have to listen to give the 5th a listen, hopefully later on today.
    If I remember he took me also a couple of listenings to get into him, especially his later symphonies. I think the Symphony 1 is both the most accesible and at the same time one of his best. Also the Helios overture is short and easy.

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