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Thread: Building a Library?

  1. #16
    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zxxyxxz View Post
    I think this is a great idea.

    What is bread and butter to one person is new to another. With a wealth of recordings and works to choose from a bit of guidance is good.

    When I first started exploring opera the first thing I did was put opera for beginners or best operas into google and stumbled upon a few lists with recommended recordings. I then went and sampled them and began forming opinions but I needed guiding.

    I would now search TC if I wanted to get to k ow a genre or composer better but I agree with your point. Its daunting to know where to start.
    Thank you! That's exactly the idea -and, indeed, you pick up a really good point which is that I came to TC (as I imagine many did) because they typed in things like 'best Mahler 5th' or 'best Beethoven 9th' and so on. TC's always been excellent for advice (with a great diversity of opinions!) about music that someone already knows they want to know. But it seemed to me a curious gap in the provision for 'how to get started with...' information.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Its a difficult concept, AB, because there are so many differing opinions not only on performances but also what constitutes core repertoire. I know what you're saying but I rarely (with some exceptions) enjoy vocal works for example and complete operas. To others these works are essential. So apart from disagreement on core repertoire you have problems with performance interpretations. I can think of quite a few recordings that polarise opinions (a certain performance of Beethoven's 9th, for example that is lauded by some here but described as "terrible" by myself and a certain well-known music critic ). Its so difficult recommending anything to anyone. Even the old Penguin Rosettes were contentious for some. I used the old Penguin guides to start to build a collection but found that there were much more interesting recordings around and think that some of those rosettes were very undeserved. I actually felt that over those early years I wasted a fair amount of money listening to other people's recommendations. With the advent of streaming theres no need to take a shot in the dark any longer as you can listen to many of these on Spotify, etc. You can sample on YouTube, etc for free and try out repertoire and find what you like. Then theres the problem of tastes changing over time. Years ago I rarely enjoyed many string quartets apart from a few warhorses but now they are core to my listening. If id made a list of core repertoire in 2002 it would look very different today. Dont get me wrong, im not being critical, its just that its so difficult to make recommendations to anyone. When I do my Beethoven reviews I know there are some people sat at home thinking "this guy is talking utter shite, conductor X's Beethoven is fantastic." It doesnt stop me but even I change my mind over time. The TC recommended symphonies, SQ, etc threads are good for newbs.
    Last edited by Merl; Nov-10-2020 at 19:38.

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    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    I have the BIS set of Sibelius. It was interesting to hear the earlier versions of some of the works, but I do not see myself selecting the early version of symphony 5 over the last one very often.

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    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Its a difficult concept, AB, because there are so many differing opinions not only on performances but also what constitutes core repertoire. I know what you're saying but I rarely (with some exceptions) enjoy vocal works for example and complete operas. To others thee works are essential.
    I take that point. My thought was that you -for example- wouldn't have mentioned Peter Grimes for Britten, but someone else might. Clearly, everyone's "Building a Library" contribution will be derived from their own experiences and/or preferences. But I think if you were somehow to review that Tchaikovsky thread I mentioned, that worked quite well. Lots of different opinions expressed, which is fine, and someone mentioned Orchestral Suites as being a 'must' that others had not. It all seemed to work out fine in the end though!

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    So apart from disagreement on core repertoire you have problems with performance interpretations. I can think of quite a few recordings that polarise opinions (a certain performance of Beethoven's 9th, for example that is lauded by some here but described as "terrible" by myself and a certain well-known music critic ). Its so difficult recommending anything to anyone.
    Obviously so, I think. But if people had in mind, "What would I recommend to a novice, in such a way that it wouldn't befuddle him or her", I think that would help. The advanced nuances of performance practice can be left for a more skilled audience, probably. I quite like Hurwitz on Bach, for example, a month or so ago: yes, there are HIP performances; yes, there are "modern instrument" performances; both are fine, but today I'm going to do the modern performances, because they're valid too.

    Sure. If people get precious about things, and protecting their turf, as it were, then I can see it wouldn't work. But, to take one example, if in a discussion of Bach we kind of agreed that the Goldbergs were essential listening, I wouldn't have a problem with someone recommending Gould. Despise it though I do, I quite understand that a well-rounded listener at least needs to have heard the Gould in order to form an opinion about it!

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Even the old Penguin Rosettes were contentious for some. I used the old Penguin guides to start to build a collection but found that there were much more interesting recordings around. I actually felt that over those early years I wasted a fair amount of money listening to other people's recommendations.
    Well, I think that's where things have improved a lot since then -because now you can listen to someone's recommendations on Spotify, for example, for nothing at all (at least, as I understand Spotify's free tier service). There's no drawback in having recommendations when it doesn't cost someone actual cash to follow up on them.

    That said, obviously the idea is to 'channel' exploration to some extent, so I wouldn't want to see 58 recommendations for a work. That's just the same as having none at all! But a smattering of different suggestions seems a reasonable thing to do. On the Tchaikovksy, we got three symphony cycles recommended before someone piped up for Petrov (I think it was): I was committed by that point, so the extra recommendation fell on stony soil!

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    With the advent of streaming theres no need to take a shot in the dark any longer as you can listen to many of these on Spotify, etc. You csn sample on youtibe, etc for free and try out repertoire and find what you like.
    I should probably read your whole reply before answering to bits of it! I see we are of the same opinon... but seem to be coming to different conclusions! The fact that one can experiment for free is a huge improvement on the days of having to either borrow a crappy, scratched copy from a library or spend up big and keep your fingers crossed. But I see that as not only a great opportunity, but a monstrous wall of choice, in the face of which people... simply refuse to choose. Without any information about what or why they should listen to something, they simply won't. It doesn't mean that if you recommend Smirnov's Beethoven 9th, then no-one will ever listen to Blenkinsop's. Spotify means that they will listen to Smirnov's because you told them to... and then they'll be able to listen to lots of other versions and then make up their own mind. But a pointer in a vaguely right direction is an indispensible first step, I think.

    Confession time: I had a lot of Beethoven Symphonies. None of them made particularly coherent sense and I generally didn't listen to any of them. Then I read your multi-multi-part guide to a bazillion cycles, made my choice from that and now have 4 I listen to quite a bit. Lose the wall of choice; focus down to a few recommendattions... then people can learn to find their own way forward. It's worked for me with you and Beethoven; it\s working for me with Tchaikovsky... I figure it can work for other people, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Then theres the problem of tastes changing over time. Years ago I rarely enjoyed many string quartets apart from a few warhorses but now they are core to my listening. If id made a list of core repertoire in 2002 it would look very different today. Dont get me wrong, im not being critical, its just that its so difficult to make recommendations to anyone. When I do my Beethoven reviews I know there are some people sat at home thinking "this guy is talking utter shite, conductor X's Beethoven is fantastic." It doesnt stop me but even I change my mind over time.
    That's fine too. Plastic information is a plus. The trouble with those Penguin Rosettes is they couldn't be updated in real time. We're not constrained in that way today.

    And I don't think changing tastes is an issue. Again, look at the Tchaikovsky thread I keep banging on about. 6 people mentioned symphonies, ballets and a couple of opera. Only then did one lone voice pipe up and mention 'Orchestral suites, anyone?", and then lots of people piled in and said 'Oh, of course, forgot about them". If you are not a String Quartet person today, then someone else will be. That's the whole point of a collaborative effort in a public forum, I think.

    Short version: I wouldn't over-think this. Come up with (for example) a 'core Beethoven' corpus, throw it out there and see what happens. The worst that can happen, surely, is that 43 pages later, no-one agrees on anything. But chances are, if it was phrased as 'this is how I would start with Beethoven', I think people would constructively add to it, but wouldn't -I'd hope- try to argue subtle nuance at interminable length.
    Last edited by AbsolutelyBaching; Nov-10-2020 at 19:58.

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    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JAS View Post
    I have the BIS set of Sibelius. It was interesting to hear the earlier versions of some of the works, but I do not see myself selecting the early version of symphony 5 over the last one very often.
    Yup. I just got done ripping that. 5 different versions of some obscure vocal work I'm never going to listen to again... no thanks! And one track of 31 seconds consisting of a hitherto unknown version of Bars 5 to 16 of Symphony whatever... Yeah. I'll pass!

    I took from that a very good set of Vanska-conducted symphonies, some chamber works, some choral works, Snöfrid, and that was about it. The rest goes into the musicological trivia folder!

    PS. I make an exception for the violin concerto, only because last year, pre-plague, I enjoyed a Proms concert and the violin concerto I heard was almost but not quite what I was expecting to hear! I think they'd dug out the original 4-movement (?) version and were playing that... and I have to say, I really enjoyed the unexpectedness of it all. The tune you thought you knew, but then it did something weird and unexpected etc. So I will always want two versions of that concerto... but I don't need the 5 bars of scribble he used to put his coffee cup on one day so that it wouldn't put a ring on his table!
    Last edited by AbsolutelyBaching; Nov-10-2020 at 20:07.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    I fundamentally asked you a question as to how you decided what things to borrow from the library and what things to purchase. You still haven't really answered that one.
    I borrowed everything I could get my hands one; same with purchases. Assuming my answer is sufficient, I'll stop posting here.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    I visited every Manchester public library (they all had different stock) and came out armed with as many CDs as possible. Thankfully they sold off many of their old ones too so I have quite a few CDs with 'Manchester City Library Service' stamped on them. Lol. Then the Tories stopped funding the libraries. Grrrr.

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    This core repertoire exercise is daunting when it comes to extremely popular and prolific composers like Tchaikovsky. I'll take a stab at a less tremendous composer who's one of my favorites: Charles Ives (1874-1954). It could well be that my contribution here will not be apt; I know that many people don't "get" or simply don't like Ives. But my idea is that a non-specialist in this composer could have a good and enjoyable representation of his works with the following (favorite recordings from my CD collection indicated):

    Symphonies - One Numbered and One Programmatic:
    Symphony No. 3 "The Camp Meeting": Slatkin/St. Louis, 1991, RCA Red Seal
    New England Holidays - A Symphony: Ormandy/Philadelphia, 1974, RCA Red Seal

    Orchestral Set:
    Orchestral Set No. 1 - "Three Places in New England": von Dohnanyi/Cleveland, 1994, Decca

    String Quartet:
    String Quartet No. 2: Emerson SQ, 1994, DGG

    Chamber Orchestra Pieces:
    Central Park in the Dark: Ozawa/Boston, 1974, DGG
    The Unanswered Question: Morton Gould/Chicago SO, 1965, RCA Red Seal (killer trumpet work by Herseth)

    Solo Piano:
    Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord": Gilbert Kalish, 1992, Nonesuch

    Hope this helps someone get into the music of Charles Ives!

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    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    I borrowed everything I could get my hands one; same with purchases. Assuming my answer is sufficient, I'll stop posting here.
    You may post or not post as you please. I'm not the local policeman.

    I get what you're saying to an extent. Let loose on the Cambridge City library with its relatively extensive selection of classical music cassettes, I borrowed whatever they had "in". Messiaen's Turangalila was a discovery by that route, entirely of my own making and guided by no-one.. oh, except that I'd heard of Messiaen because the Organ Scholar liked him and played him at every Sunday High Mass he could. So, no. Not even then could I say I was entirely and completely self-exploring.

    Perhaps Albuquerque is more isolated than I remember it being. I don't know. I'm happy to take your word for it that you taught yourself everything you know about music and music appreciation without any input from anyone else at all, ever. It's an impressive achievement that I know of no-one else ever managing. I can only doff my cap to you in utter astonishment.

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    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    This core repertoire exercise is daunting when it comes to extremely popular and prolific composers like Tchaikovsky. I'll take a stab at a less tremendous composer who's one of my favorites: Charles Ives (1874-1954). It could well be that my contribution here will not be apt; I know that many people don't "get" or simply don't like Ives. But my idea is that a non-specialist in this composer could have a good and enjoyable representation of his works with the following (favorite recordings from my CD collection indicated):

    Symphonies - One Numbered and One Programmatic:
    Symphony No. 3 "The Camp Meeting": Slatkin/St. Louis, 1991, RCA Red Seal
    New England Holidays - A Symphony: Ormandy/Philadelphia, 1974, RCA Red Seal

    Orchestral Set:
    Orchestral Set No. 1 - "Three Places in New England": von Dohnanyi/Cleveland, 1994, Decca

    String Quartet:
    String Quartet No. 2: Emerson SQ, 1994, DGG

    Chamber Orchestra Pieces:
    Central Park in the Dark: Ozawa/Boston, 1974, DGG
    The Unanswered Question: Morton Gould/Chicago SO, 1965, RCA Red Seal (killer trumpet work by Herseth)

    Solo Piano:
    Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord": Gilbert Kalish, 1992, Nonesuch

    Hope this helps someone get into the music of Charles Ives!
    Nice. It's late and I need to take a break from Mahler, but I shall have a check of this tomorrow against my own paltry collection of Ives. Thanks.

    Edited to add:I have nearly all of your recommendations except (1) the Symphony No. 3 and (2) the Piano Sonata. I'll skip the sonata, since I'm not overly keen on solo piano, but I'll try and hunt down a Slatkin Symphony No. 3.

    I have Ives' Symphony No. 2 (Bernstein conducting). Was there a reason you didn't recommend that symphony rather than No.3?
    Last edited by AbsolutelyBaching; Nov-10-2020 at 21:09.

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    Senior Member Simplicissimus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AbsolutelyBaching View Post
    Nice. It's late and I need to take a break from Mahler, but I shall have a check of this tomorrow against my own paltry collection of Ives. Thanks.

    Edited to add:I have nearly all of your recommendations except (1) the Symphony No. 3 and (2) the Piano Sonata. I'll skip the sonata, since I'm not overly keen on solo piano, but I'll try and hunt down a Slatkin Symphony No. 3.

    I have Ives' Symphony No. 2 (Bernstein conducting). Was there a reason you didn't recommend that symphony rather than No.3?
    I believe that most people consider Symphony No. 4 to be his best, but it is notably complex and difficult to like. Symphony No. 3 seems to be the most frequently performed, and it is vey accessible. There are more recordings of it than of No. 2. I like them all, but No. 1 is not typical, and No. 4 is much more complex than the others. When I think about core repertoire, I always think it's convenient to be familiar with the most popular pieces even if they're not the "best" because it opens up more possibilities of discussing the composer with other listeners.

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    Senior Member AbsolutelyBaching's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Simplicissimus View Post
    I believe that most people consider Symphony No. 4 to be his best, but it is notably complex and difficult to like. Symphony No. 3 seems to be the most frequently performed, and it is vey accessible. There are more recordings of it than of No. 2. I like them all, but No. 1 is not typical, and No. 4 is much more complex than the others. When I think about core repertoire, I always think it's convenient to be familiar with the most popular pieces even if they're not the "best" because it opens up more possibilities of discussing the composer with other listeners.
    Definitely. I'm listening to New England Holidays as I type. Am I allowed to say it reminds me of Grainger? Tunes that start one place and then end up multiplied and ending up somewhere completely odd?! Enjoying it quite a lot, actually, and I didn't think I'd ever say that!

    Anyway, this sort of follow-up and response is why this isn't an exercise in "you must listen to vat I say, and no qvestions!", but an opening up of things, starting from a 'safe' framework. I appreciate it a lot... and may try and acquire Symphony No. 4 if I'm feeling brave.

    Am I the only person who is a bit scared of Ives?!

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    What's needed is a new topic thread. The moderators could add Classical Music 101 for Beginners!

    If knowing what composers to start with, this list of the most popular from Arkivmusic pretty much is spot on. There is no one on the list who doesn't deserve to be, and I can't think of one who isn't there who should be. Not even Boulez.

    Screenshot 2020-11-10 160633.jpg

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    I’m not sure how relevant this is.
    To those of us of a certain age our first exposure to classical music was probably out parent’s record collection on 78 rpm shellac. Given the size of the records and the space they took up and their fragility most collections were fairly small. My favourite composer was Mendelssohn because Mum had been given the violin concerto and I loved it. Then the overture to Barber of Seville. And Pirates of Penzance because we had an 11 record album. There was no systematic exploration of a composer.
    Then I acquired a four speed turntable for the radiogram and started buying the very occasional Bargain or second hand LP with saved up pocket money. Ace of clubs, saga and fidelity with their pseudonyms. And the lunchtime concerts by the BBC orchestras on the home service. And then Saturday night concerts at the Town Hall sitting behind the orchestra. Gradually I acquired composers whose music I knew I was likely to enjoy. And because concerts included more than one work I got to know other composers. The first concert I ever attended included Bruckner’s 7th which started a dislike of that composer which persists to this day. About the 3rd concert included Mozart’s 40th and Mendelssohn’s first piano concerto, neither of which I knew at the time. And I remember sitting by the gong in Francesca di Rimini. Happy days.
    I guess what I’m saying is that most of the music I got to know was met in a haphazard manner and without planning. Even the records I bought were probably as a result of the radio or what was played in music lessons at school. And the City Library Record Section which came along later was a godsend.
    Now I am retired I probably have far too many CDs in sets. And yes I’ve bought the Brilliant complete sets and tend to listen only to the works I know, there is often a good reason why some works are popular, and the large single composer compilations, thankfully not the complete works, by great artists of the last century.
    But the idea of listening to everything a composer wrote in an organised manner seems abhorrent. Music is enjoyed best on a haphazard basis although I’m not too old to make new discoveries which I enjoy. I recently heard a ciolin concerto by Nardini which has a beautiful first movement but the rest of which left me cold.
    Last edited by Geoff48; Nov-11-2020 at 00:28.

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    Senior Member vtpoet's Avatar
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    I have no useful advice. None. In fact, I don't belong in this thread. I'm an imposter. I am an invincible and unreconstructed completist. And then I listen to it all as I work.

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