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Discussion Starter · #241 · (Edited)
#108
Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Robert Schumann
1838

Kenderszenen, or Scenes from Childhood, is a set of thirteen pieces of music for piano.

Movement No. 7 of the work, Traumerei, is one of Schumann's best known pieces; it is the opening and closing musical theme of the 1947 Hollywood film Song of Love, starring Katharine Hepburn as Clara Wieck Schumann. The "Träumerei" in F major has been performed in myriad forms and transcriptions. It has been the favorite encore of several great pianists.

Here's Träumerei, performed by Martha Argerich.


:)

This is Robert Schumann's first appearance on this list. Schumann (1810 - 1856) was a German pianist, and composer mostly noted for his piano works and song, although he did write symphonic works as well.

No. 1. Von fremden Landern und Menschen (Of Foreign Lands and People)
No. 2. Curiose Geschichte (A Strange Story)
No. 3. Hasche-Mann (Catch-as-catch-can)
No. 4. Bittendes Kind (Pleading Child)
No. 5. Glückes genug (Happy Enough)
No. 6. Wichtige Begebenheit (An Important Event)
No. 7. Träumerei (Dreaming) 06:09
No. 8. Am Camin (By the Fire-side)
No. 9. Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby-horse)
No. 10. Fast zu ernst (Almost Too Serious)
No. 11. Furchtenmachen (Frightening)
No. 12. Kind im Einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep)
No. 13. Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks)


Overall, the pieces are not technically demanding, but it is the quality of expression and the sensitivity of the performer to that expression that is key. It is important to remember that the titles are not the story, but only an indication meant to guide the performer.

Here's one of the most famous concert pianists ever, Vladimir Horowitz, performing Kinderszenen in Vienna, 1987.

Schumann - Kinderszenen Op.15, "Scenes from Childhood" | Vladimir Horowitz

 

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Discussion Starter · #242 · (Edited)
#109
Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, Op. 28
Richard Strauss
1895


Translated in English as Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, it's a tone poem by Bavarian composer Richard Strauss (best known these days for another of his tone poems, Also sprach Zarathustra, which years later became known as the theme from 2001: A Space Space Odyssey).

Till Eulenspiegel (full title: Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, nach alter Schelmenweise-in Rondeauform-für grosses Orchester gesetzt or, in English, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, After the Old Rogue's Tale, Set in Rondo Form for Large Orchestra) chronicles the misadventures and pranks of the German peasant folk hero Till Eulenspiegel, and, in spite of being overshadowed by the 2001 theme, this remains quite popular and well-known.

Till Eulenspiegel contains some of Strauss' most brilliant orchestration and makes use of various instruments, including the clarinet in D, which is rarely used anymore. And he uses a rather large orchestra for this: 3 flutes and piccolo, 3 oboes and English horn, clarinet in D, 2 clarinets in B-flat, bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 4 horns in D, 3 trumpets in F, 3 trumpets in D, 3 trombones, bass tuba, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, snare drum, large rattle, timpani, AND strings.

His orchestrated score with its virtuosic instrumentation and colorful dissonances is brilliant.

And while it's a fully accessible work that a first-time casual listener can enjoy, the score also offers subtleties to delight a professional musician.

With Till Eulenspiegel, Strauss broke new musical ground. Never before had a composer created with such a vast instrumental palette or used it with an insouciance as breathtaking as it was appropriate to its subject. Strauss's glee at realizing his audacity and skill runs through every measure. But that, too, is part of the character of Till Eulenspiegel.

I. Introducing the Rogue
II. Till's Pranks
III. Till's Trial
IV. Sentence and Execution
V. Epilogue


So, I would have preferred to have linked to Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1992, but alas, it's been yanked from Youtube because someone has a buck to make.

Here's the next best thing, though: Lorin Maazel conducting the Waseda Symphony Orchestra at the Herkulessaal in Munich, Germany. The downbeat is at 0:36.

Richard Strauss - Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Op. 28)

 

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Discussion Starter · #243 ·
#110
Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64
Felix Mendelssohn
1845


OK, Mendelssohn's violin concerto is regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time.

Hillary Hahn with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Jarvi, 2012.

Hilary Hahn & FRSO - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto E Minor OP.64 (Full Length)



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I. Allegro molto appassionato
II. Andante
III. Allegretto non troppo -- Allegro molto vivace


One note . . . Mendelssohn deliberately dispensed with the space between movements because he felt that the applause between the movements was "distracting".

Ever since then, it's been concert etiquette to wait until the end of the last movement to clap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #244 ·
The Top 100

Holst - The Planets, Op. 32 [1918]
Dvorak - "New World" Symphony No.9 in E minor "From the New World", Op 95 [1893]
Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major, Op. 55 "Eroica" [1804]
Stravinsky - The Firebird [1910]
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49 [1882]
Vivaldi - Summer, The Four Seasons [1723]
JS Bach - Brandenburg Concerto #6, In B Flat, BWV 1051 [1721]
WA Mozart - Symphony 41 in C "Jupiter", K. 551. [1788]
Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia. 1880.
WA Mozart - Overture from The Marriage of Figaro, K492 [1786]

Grieg - Peer Gynt: Suite No. 1, Op. 46, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55. (Original score, Op. 23) [1876]
Frederic Chopin - Polonaise in Ab Major, Op. 53 [1842]
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel orchestration). [1874/1922]
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue [1924]
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring [1913]
Beethoven - Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op. 67. [1808]
JS Bach - Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007 [1720]
Carl Orff - O Fortuna from Carmina Burana [1937]
Mussorgsky - Night On Bald Mountain (Rimsky-Korsokov arrangement). [1867/1886]
Johann Sebastian Bach - Well-Tempered Clavier 2, Prelude F Sharp minor [1742]

Claude Debussy - The Sunken Cathedral, from Préludes [1910]
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Prelude Op. 23 No. 5 [1901]
Franz Liszt - Consolation No. 3 [1850]
Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra [1896]
Ravel - Bolero [1928]
George Martin - Pepperland [1968]
Chopin - Prelude in Db "Raindrop" [1838]
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor ("Moonlight Sonata") [1801]
Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons [1720]
Rossini - Overture to "The Barber of Seville" [1816]

Wagner - Ride of the Valkyries, Die Walküre, Der Ring des Nibelungen [1856]
Mozart - Symphony No.40 in G minor [1788]
Vivaldi - The Four Seasons "Spring" [1720]
Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 [1808]
Mozart - Requiem in D minor [1792]
Johann Strauss II - The Blue Danube, Op.314 [1866]
Tchaikovsky - Capriccio Italien [1880]
Paul Dukas - The Sorcerer's Apprentice [1897]
Beethoven - "Choral" Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 [1824]
Schubert - Ave Maria from Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See, Op. 52 [1825]

Ottorino Respighi - The Pines of Rome [1924]
Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92 [1812]
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op.58 [1806]
Tallis - Spem in Alium (40-voice motet) [1570]
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.21 in C Major Op.53 (The Waldstein) [1804]
Dvorak - Slavonic Dance No. 7, Op. 46 [1878]
Josquin des Prez - Missa L'Homme armé super voces musicales [1495]
Palestrina - Missa Aeterna Christi munera [1590]
Allegri - Miserere [1638]
Beethoven's String Quartet in F Major Op.59, no.1 [1806]

Beethoven - "Razumovsky" String Quartets, Op. 59 [1806]
Monteverdi - The Vespers [1610]
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K466 [1785]
Tchaikovsky - Sixth Symphony in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique" [1893]
Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathetique" [1798]
William Byrd - Mass for 4 & 5 voices [1593 / 1595]
Bach - Brandenburg Concertos [1721]
Brahms - Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 "Eroica" [1854]
Schubert -String Quartet No. 14 in D minor "Death and the Maiden" [1824]
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, Andante ("Elvira Madigan") [1785]

Haydn - Mass No. 11 in D minor "Lord Nelson Mass" [1798]
Bizet - Carmen [1875]
Schubert - Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished" [1822]
Monteverdi - Madrigals, book 5 [1605]
Bach - Goldberg Variations [1741]
Dvorak's Carnival Overture, Op. 92 [1891]
Handel - Messiah [1741]
Mozart - Symphony 35 [1782]
Strauss - Salomé - "Dance of the Seven Veils" [1905]
Shostokovich - Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor [1944]

Debussy - String Quartet in G , Op. 10 [1893]
Aaron Copland - Appalachian Spring, [1944]
Ravel - Miroirs, No. 5 "La vallee des cloches" [1905]
Ravel - String Quartet in F [1903]
JS Bach - Well-Tempered Clavier [1722]
Beethoven - Sonata no. 28 in A major, Op. 101 [1816]
Schubert - String Quartet in C major [1828]
Smetana - Vltava from Ma Vlast [1874]
Verdi - Requiem [1874]
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians [1976]

Stockhausen - Gesang der Jünglinge [1956]
Mahler - Symphony No 2 "Resurrection" [1894]
Mozart - Symphony 36 in C major, K425 "Linz" [1783]
Legeti - Requiem [1965]
Elgar - Enigma Variations [1899]
Krzysztof Penderecki - Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima [1960]
Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame [1365]
Perotin - Viderunt omnes [1198]
Palestrina - Missa Papae Marcelli [1562]
Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D Minor [1708]

Handel - Water Music [1717]
Vivaldi - Gloria [1715]
Haydn - Symphony No. 104 "London" [1795]
Haydn - String Quartet Op.76, No.3 "Emperor" [1797]
Mozart - Overture from The Magic Flute [1791]
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73 [1811]
Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14 [1830]
Chopin - Nocturne in Eb, Op.9 No.2 [1832]
Chopin - Revolutionary Etude, Op. 10, No. 12 [1831]
Aaron Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man [1943]
#101 - #110

How does this happen?

These ten were all composed between 1783 and 1895; not a single one from the 20th or 21st Century. Throw out the two on the end, and the majority were written between 1816 and 1885. Same with the previous 10 (#s 91-99); all but one were composed before 1832.

People that enjoy post-Romantic era Classical music tend to dismiss the "Golden Age" of Classical Music. They enjoy more 'modern' works, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. I've certainly highlighted more modern works further up the list. Actually, compared to most Greatest lists, I've got a whopping 16% of my first 100 that were written in the 20th Century, and as the broad umbrella of Classical music can be thought of as stretching back to around 1700 or so (only 9% of my list are entries from before that).

So, roughly 300-350 years of Classical music; percentagewise that's actually pretty reasonable.

At the same time, one cannon logically dismiss any of these ten (with the exception of Mozart's 37th Symphony, which, aside from a short introduction, he did not write), or the last 20. They are all great in their own right.

Another interesting point worth making is that eight of these ten are orchestral works; only one is a chamber piece, while one other is for solo piano.

But this is where Classical music really shines.

Realistically, the jury is still out on most "classical" music written in the last 50 years . . . how does one even attempt to assess them?

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#101 - #110

Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 (1885)
Felix Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scottish" (1842)
Gioachino Rossini - Thieving Magpie Overture (1817)
Gioachino Rossini - William Tell Overture (1829)
Franz Schubert - Trout Quintet (1819)

WA Mozart - Symphony 37 in G Major (1783)
Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 5 in Bb major (1816)
Robert Schumann - Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (1838)
Richard Strauss - Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche, Op. 28 (1895)
Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1845)
 

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Discussion Starter · #245 ·
#111
Don Juan, Op. 20
Richard Strauss
1888


Don Juan is a tone poem Richard Strauss composed when his was a mere 24 years old, and was an international success. Technically, the full title is Don Juan; Tondichtung für großes Orchester

So, there's been a few "tone poems" on the list already, but what, exactly, IS a tone poem?

Well, it's sometimes also referred to as a symphonic poem (probably a better phrase to describe it), and it's usually a single-movement piece of orchestral music which either illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or practically any other non-musical source.

So, this tone poem is notable for being a "musical symbol of fin-de-siecle [end of century] modernism", with "modernism" being a philosophical and aesthetic stance underlying the period of change and development in musical language that occurred around the turn of the 20th century, a period of diverse reactions in challenging and reinterpreting older categories of music, innovations that led to new ways of organizing and approaching harmonic, melodic, sonic, and rhythmic aspects of music, and changes in aesthetic worldviews in close relation to the larger identifiable period of modernism in the arts of the time.

And the opening bars of Don Juan are usually held up as exemplifying that mood in the 1890s, with the works of Mahler, Strauss, and Debussy implying a profound historical transformation generally pigeonholed to the the years 1890-1930 (after 1930 we get "post-modernism"). Some experts think that Don Juan was the piece that actually created the the tone poem, where the structure of the work follows the dramatic arc of the tale, where the music unfolds organically as the plot reveals itself.

Anyway, the Don Juan legend originated in Renaissance-era Spain. Strauss's tone poem is based on Don Juans Ende, a play derived from an unfinished 1844 retelling of the tale by poet Nikolaus Lenau. Strauss reprinted three excerpts from the play in his score. In Lenau's rendering, Don Juan's promiscuity springs from his determination to find the ideal woman. Despairing of ever finding her, he ultimately surrenders to melancholy and wills his own death.

And it wasn't just the structure that made the piece revolutionary - Strauss also made demands on the orchestra that exceeded anything previously composed.

But technically, the piece is actually in a modified Rondo form . . . a work with a recurring primary theme that alternates with various differing verses or episodes, in this case a "hero" theme alternating with episodes (or "verses") describing his romantic exploits does lend itself to this explanation, with each of the "verses" illustrating a different relationship with different women, each with a distinct character portrayed through the music.

The works' final phrases taper away, ending in quiet tones evocative of the dying breaths of Don Juan, willingly killed in a duel with an avenging father.

Here's Andrés Orozco-Estrada conducting the Tondichtung für großes Orchester. While there is a better performance available of the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by the great and controversial James Levine (and I do enjoy his conducting visually far more than Sawallisch's), the sound quality of this performance has a sparkling clarity that surpasses the video of Levine's performance. And the Levine performance fades out several minutes before the end of the piece, a remarkably aggravating experience.

Strauss: Don Juan ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Andrés Orozco-Estrada

 

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Discussion Starter · #246 ·
As you've probably guessed, this list is endless.

#112
The Lark Ascending
Ralph Vaughan Williams
1914/1921


Bird Beak Adaptation Wing Feather
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This is a symphonic poem based on the 122-line poem of the same name by the English poet George Meredith about the song of the skylark.

It was originally scored for violin and piano in 1914, and premiered in 1920, but the composer re-scored it for solo violin and orchestra in 1920 (which premiered the following year), and this is the more popular version of the two.

The composer termed the piece a "pastoral romance for orchestra". It is full of the folk melodies that the composer loved to collect, with those singing violin lines, mingling with the sounds of the earth before breaking free, rising to ever loftier heights. The mood is deeply nostalgic, and his writing evokes the glorious image of the rolling British countryside.

But this piece also has a darker subtext, that of the Great World War, which occupied British attention at the time. Unsubstantiated legend has it that Vaughan Williams composed this watching soldiers leaving for war, but he was even arrested while making notes for it, after being observed by a small boy who reported him as being a possible spy writing down troop movements in secret code.

Even so, on 4 August 1914, the day that Britain entered the War, Vaughan Williams visited Margate for a week's holiday. It was not an embarkation point, so he would not have seen departing soldiers. The ships that he did see were engaged in preparatory fleet exercises.

Yet Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending is a gentle, introspective work. The solo violin flutters and soars, evoking the lark of Meredith's poem. The winds and supporting strings float peacefully beneath the solo part in long and languid lines.

A critic from The Times wrote after the debut, "It showed serene disregard of the fashions of today or yesterday. It dreamed itself along."

The use of pentatonic scale patterns, sometimes criticized as "a steady trickle of pentatonic wish-wash", free the violin from a strong tonal centre, and expresses impressionistic elements. This liberty also extends to the meter. The cadenzas for solo violin are written without bar lines, lending them a sense of meditational release.

Rectangle Font Parallel Slope Screenshot


Classic FM asked violinist Jennifer Pike (shortly before a performance of the piece) what makes Ralph Vaughan Williams' work for solo violin and orchestra so special. Well, I'll just post the short video of her explanation, but prior to that I'll point out that the work extraordinarily popular in Great Britain, where it just seems to stir up nationalistic pride. English poet. English composer. World War I.

But it's not universally loved, or even liked, by all. For those not swayed by it's programmatic soothing tones seem to view it as plinkity plonkity ethereal nothingness, and don't see why it's "special". But, as Pike explains, it's the folk elements and beautiful melodies, and it evocation of the nostalgic nationalism from the early 20th century.

Why Does Everyone Love The Lark Ascending? Jennifer Pike Explains | Explained | Classic FM Meets


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Strangely enough, the Lark is NOT the national bird of England (or Great Britain for that matter) - that would be the Robin, chosen only a few years ago. It beat out competition from the barn owl, which came in second, and the blackbird, in third.

Nor is the lark the national bird of Wales; that would be the Red Kite, chosen in 2007. Scotland doesn't have one yet, but it's likely they'll choose the golden eagle.

Northern Ireland also does not have an official national bird, but the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) was unofficially selected in 1961.

The northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) was declared the Republic of Ireland's national bird by a committee of the Irish Wildlife Conservancy in 1990.

There are around 98 species of Lark. In cuisine, Larks, commonly consumed with bones intact, have historically been considered wholesome, delicate, and light game. They can be used in a number of dishes; for example, they can be stewed, broiled, or used as filling in a meat pie. Lark's tongues were particularly highly valued. You don't see it much on menus anymore, but it's still popular in southern Europe, especially Italy.


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Bird Beak Feather Wing Songbird

So . . . Here's Hilary Hahn performing The Lark Ascending at the George Enescu Festival. While it's really a beautiful rendering of the work, she pretty much shows no engagement or connection as she plays, allowing the piece to speak for itself. Her movements are part of her technique, while her face shows no emotion.

And I do prefer to see some connection to a piece by a soloist. But she's pretty flawless. So this is the version I've chosen.

Hilary Hahn - V. Williams "The Lark Ascending"


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Then again, most of the live online versions are performed in this manner, with a British stiff upper lip, a calm and understated demeanor.

It's really a beautiful piece of music. Listen. Let it sweep you away . . .
 

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Discussion Starter · #247 ·
Intermission

The transformative power of classical music with Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it; and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.

20 minutes

The transformative power of classical music | Benjamin Zander

 

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Discussion Starter · #248 · (Edited)
#113
The Well Tempered Klavier, Book 2
JS Bach
1742


Part 1 of 3

OK, this is ALMOST cheating, but it's not.

All right, again we have a work that is pretty lengthy, 24 Preludes and Fugues. Not a dud amongst them.

As a keyboardist, I have a special fondness for his works for klavier.

As a teen I competed in Bach Festivals, and usually did quite well. I succeed not so much with superior technique, but with speed and flash. Interpretively, I may very well have sucked, but the judges seemed to be more impressed with bravura and neglected to notice the lack of true nuance and subtlety.

But here's what I consider to be some of the best excerpts from WTC2:

No. 9: E major fugue This is a hymn tune. Very clever imitations. It is like a 16th century motet and full of suspensions (50 in all). Very moving.

Here's Glenn Gould live, performing this Prelude and Fugue quite differently than his studio recording of the two.

Glenn Gould - Fugue in E Major from The Well Tempered Clavier Book 2 - BWV 878


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No. 10: Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 879

Music starts at 0:41

Bach - WTC II (Nikolai Demidenko) - Prelude & Fugue No. 10 in E Minor BWV 879


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No. 6: Prelude and Fugue in D minor The Prelude is unstoppably quick.

The Fugue's subject and counter-subject are extremely expressive and so very contrasted. This is what really good counterpoint is all about.

Here's Jacqueline Leung, recorded in St. John's Cathedral, Hong Kong.

Bach Prelude and Fugue in D minor BWV 875 (Book II)


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No. 7: Prelude and Fugue in E♭ major, BWV 876
The prelude is a seriously massive three-section piece with lots of combining of themes. The Eb fugue is light hearted with wonderful episodes and interesting modulations, and one very extended phrase half-way through.

Here's Nikolai Demidenko again.

Bach - WTC II (Nikolai Demidenko) - Prelude & Fugue No. 7 in E-Flat Major BWV 876

 

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Discussion Starter · #249 · (Edited)
#113
The Well Tempered Klavier, Book 2
JS Bach
1742


Part 2 of 3


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No. 14: Prelude and Fugue in F♯ minor, BWV 883

Angela Hewitt

Bach - WTC II (Angela Hewitt) - Prelude & Fugue No. 14 in F-Sharp Minor BWV 883


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No. 15: Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 884

Christiane Jaccottet playing the Harpsichord.

Prelude and Fugue No. 15 in G Major, BWV 884


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No. 20: Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 889

Angela Hewitt

Prelude and Fugue No. 20 in A minor, BWV 889


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But . . . here's Friedrich Gulda playing an actual Clavichord, giving the fugue (which starts at 6:09) a rather unusual tone, especially when he gets to the fugue. You'll have to click through to Youtube to listen, but it is certainly worth it.

Friedrich Gulda: J.S. Bach - Prelude & Fugue No. 20 in A minor, BWV 889, Well-Tempered Clavier II

 

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Discussion Starter · #250 · (Edited)
#113
The Well Tempered Klavier, Book 2
JS Bach
1742


Part 3 of 3

And one more for the road: No. 18: Prelude and Fugue in G♯ minor, BWV 887

Perky rhythm, interesting harmonies

Andras Schiff

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J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G sharp minor (WTK, Book II, No.18) , BWV 887


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But, if you've got 2 hours and 23 minutes to spare, here's the entire The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, played by a much older Andras Schiff in 2018 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

[The original uninterrupted version video is gone, but here's the entire work in 24 videos, although I'm guessing you'll have to actually go to Youtube for the playlist to work correctly. Simple click on the Youtube or Watch on Youtube link at the bottom of THIS link, and you're there.]

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Bach Nr 1 BWV 870 C-Dur II Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Teil II Sinfonia Tanzfuge András Schiff

 

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Discussion Starter · #251 ·
#114
Cello Symphony
(Symphony for Cello and Orchestra or Cello Symphony, Op. 68)
Benjamin Britten
1963 (premiered 1964)


Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten OM CH (22 November 1913 - 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces.

Given that the rich wealth of Classical music reaches back centuries, it does seem a bit odd that there isn't a corresponding wealth of recent Classical music. This work is from 1963, comparatively brand new in the larger picture of Classical music.

The piece is in the four-movement structure typical of a symphony, but the final two movements are linked by a cello cadenza:

I. Allegro maestoso
II. Presto inquieto
III. Adagio - cadenza ad lib
IV. Passacaglia: Andante allegro


. . . . and the balance between soloist and orchestra is more equal than in a traditional concerto format.

The first movement begins with a rhetorical introduction from the cello, the style recalling the composer's debt to Purcell, and this leads to a straightforward sonata form in which the roles of soloist and orchestra are reversed in the recapitulation. The shadowy scherzo (Presto inquieto) is a technical tour de force, every melodic and harmonic fragment derived from the same group of motivic cells; in spite of its careful intellectual construction the movement has an remarkable eeriness and intensity. Baroque influences return in the double-dotted rhythms of the Adagio, and a version of the finale's main theme is heard before the soloist's cadenza. The Passacaglia is more harmonic in conception than melodic, the chord sequence on which it is based being announced by the soloist beneath the opening trumpet solo.

Here is that premiere performance featuring cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (for whom the work was written) and the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer Benjamin Britten.

Britten - Cello Symphony - Rostropovich / Britten live

 

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Discussion Starter · #252 ·
#115
Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune
(Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun)

Claude Debussy
1894


Yeah, I've been featuring a great many symphonic poems lately. But it's purely coincidental.

This is one of Debussy's most famous works and is considered a turning point in the history of music, sometimes considered to be the beginning of modern music. It's also Debussy's first major orchestral work, and one for which he received the prestigious Grand Prix du Rome.

About his composition Debussy wrote:

The music of this prelude is a very free illustration of [Stephane] Mallarme's beautiful poem.
By no means does it claim to be a synthesis of it. Rather there is a succession of scenes
through which pass the desires and dreams of the faun in the heat of the afternoon.
Then, tired of pursuing the timorous flight of nymphs and naiads,
he succumbs to intoxicating sleep,
in which he can finally realize
his dreams of possession
in universal Nature.

There are three versions of this piece: In 1912 it was made into a short ballet, and in 1958 Jerome Robbins made another ballet version, which is still frequently performed.

Additionally Debussy also rewrote the piece for performance on two pianos in 1895.

Oh, and there's a jazz version rearranged and recorded by jazz musician Eumir Deodato for his album 1973 Prelude.

And, not surprisingly, Isao Tomita performed a synth version on his 1975 album Firebird.

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is the first animated segment in Italian director/animator Bruno Bozzetto's 1977 film Allegro Non Troppo . While retaining Debussy's music, the on-screen story instead depicts an aging faun's vain attempts to recapture his youth.

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune starts at 9:11. This link is actually the entire 85 minute film. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's as much a parody of Fantasia as it is a tribute, and in some ways, it's better. It's certainly quirkier.

Indeed you discover that it's a far more interesting, and considerably less safe playlist.

Caude Debussy: Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Antonín Leopold Dvořák: Slavonic Dance No. 7, Op. 46
Maurice Ravel: Boléro
Jean Sibelius: Valse triste
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in C major, RV 559
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite
Medley: Brahms - Hungarian Dance No. 5; Bach Toccata and Fugue, Dvorak - Savonic Dance No. 7 (again), and Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody.

Allegro non troppo shares some tracks with both Fantasia (1940) and Fantasia 2000:

Bach's Toccata and Fugue was in the original Fantasia, while Stravinsky's Firebird also closed out Fantasia 2000.

Allegro non troppo Bruno Bozzetto 1977

 

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Discussion Starter · #253 ·
#116
Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Tragic Overture, Op. 81

Johannes Brahms
1880


Brahms has been infrequently on this list, not because he isn't a great composer, but because he is too great of a composer. His music is generally considered to be difficult for "newbies" to grasp. In spite of that, here's where he's appeared on this list so far:

#58 Piano Trio No. 1 "Eroica"
#101 Symphony No. 4

. . . and his Hungarian Dance No. 5 is hidden in #115, as part of the soundtrack of Allegro non troppo.

After 100+ works, we're all ready for some of Brahms' sophistication.

Well, #116 is a "Two-fer".

The Academic Festival Overture (Akademische Festouverture), Op. 80, by Johannes Brahms, was one of a pair of contrasting concert overtures - the other being the Tragic Overture, Op. 81. Brahms composed the work during the summer of 1880 as a tribute to the University of Breslau, which had notified him that it would award him an honorary doctorate in philosophy.

Initially, Brahms had contented himself with sending a simple handwritten note of acknowledgment to the University, since he loathed the public fanfare of celebrity. However, conductor Bernard Scholz, who had nominated him for the degree, convinced him that protocol required him to make a grander gesture of gratitude. The University expected nothing less than a musical offering from the composer. "Compose a fine symphony for us!" he wrote to Brahms. "But well orchestrated, old boy, not too uniformly thick!".

Cheeky, eh?

So Brahms, who was known to be a curmudgeonly joker, filled his quota by creating a "very boisterous potpourri of student drinking songs", four of them, to be precise.

The work sparkles with some of the finest virtues of Brahms's orchestral technique, sometimes applied for comic effect, such as the bassoons that inflate the light subject of "Fuchslied" (Was kommt dort von der Hoh?). The inventive treatment includes tunes appropriated from the student ditties "Fuchslied", "Wir hatten gebauet ein stattliches Haus", "Hort, ich sing das Lied der Lieder", and most memorably, the broad, triumphant finale on "Gaudeamus igitur", which succinctly engages Brahms's sophisticated mastery of counterpoint, further fulfilling the "academic" aspect of his program, cheekily applied to the well-worn melody. Brahms manages to evoke ravishing euphoria without sacrificing his commitment to classical balance.

It was the first melody, however, that was most notorious in the composer's day. "Wir hatten gebauet" was the theme song of a student organization that advocated the unification of the dozens of independent German principalities. This cause was so objectionable to authorities that the song had been banned for decades. Although the proscription had been lifted in most regions by 1871, it was still in effect in Vienna when Brahms completed his overture. Because of this ban, police delayed the Viennese premiere of the Academic Festival Overture for two weeks, fearing the incitement of the students.

The blend of orchestral colors is carefully planned and highlighted in the piece, which, in spite of Scholz's request, calls for one of the largest ensembles for any of his compositions: piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets (both doubling in B♭ and C clarinets), two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns (two in C and two in E), three C trumpets, three trombones, one tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings.

The Overture consists of four continuous sections:

I. Allegro
II. Maestoso
III. Animato
IV. Maestoso


Here's Paavo Järvi conducting the Orchestre de Paris

Brahms - Academic Festival Overture, Op 80 - Järvi


:)

Brahms seems to have had a penchant for composing works in pairs, so the second part of the "two-fer" is the 15-minute Tragic Overture, Op. 81.

Brahms chose the title "Tragic" to emphasize the turbulent, tormented character of the piece, in essence a free-standing symphonic movement, in contrast to the mirthful ebullience of a companion piece he wrote the same year, the Academic Festival Overture. Despite its name, the Tragic Overture does not follow any specific dramatic program. Brahms summed up the effective difference in character between the two overtures when he declared "one laughs while the other cries."

The Tragic Overture comprises three main sections.

I. Allegro ma non troppo
II. Molto pi? moderato
III. Tempo primo ma tranquillo


It remains one of the great musical expressions of tragedy from the Romantic age.

Here's the always brilliant Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Brahms - Tragic Overture (Bernstein)


:D

But wait, this entry has an under three minute bonus track.

Hungarian Dance No. 5. Claudio Abbado conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker

Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5 / Abbado · Berliner Philharmoniker

 

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Discussion Starter · #254 · (Edited)
#117
Cello Concerto in B minor
Antonin Dvorak
1895


The 40 minute Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191 is Antonin Dvorak's last solo concerto.

I. Allegro
II. Adagio, ma non troppo
III. Finale: Allegro moderato - Andante - Allegro vivo


Amusingly enough, Dvorak had repeatedly been asked for a cello concerto for quite some time, but he always refused, stating that the cello was a fine orchestral instrument but totally insufficient for a solo concerto. But hearing Victor Herbert playing cello for his own Cello Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic seems to have changed his mind.

Among all cello concertos, Dvorak's has been called "supreme," "the greatest", and the "king." It is admired for the richness of its orchestral music and for the lyrical writing for the solo instrument.

So . . . I had two astounding choices of performances of this piece . . . one with today's greatest cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing in 1981:

and a recently re-discovered video of Jacqueline du Pré, perhaps the greatest cellist at the time performing in 1968.

Runners-up would be a performance by Mstislav Rostropovich from 1977 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra being conducted by the stunning Carlo Maria Giulini:
,

and one with the French bad-boy GQ pin-up Gautier Capucon with the Orchestre de Paris:
.

I swear, they are all fabulous - you cannot go wrong listening to ANY of these performances.

But MY money's on Jacqueline du Pré playing with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Du Pre is, by far, the most fascinating to watch perform . . . she and the cello and the score all become one marvelous entity that creates a journey, a dance, a transcendent experience that may leave you breathless.

.

Jacqueline du Pré - Dvořák Cello Concerto - London Symphony Orchestra cond. Daniel Barenboim

 

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Discussion Starter · #255 ·
#117-1/2
Cello Concerto in B minor
Antonin Dvořák
1895


Alternate choices of performances of this piece . . .

One with today's greatest cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing in 1981:
But alas, that particular performance is no longer available on Youtube.

Here's Yo-Yo Ma performing Dvořák's Cello Concerto in 2017 with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rune Bergmann.


:)

A performance by Mstislav Rostropovich from 1977 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra being conducted by the stunning Carlo Maria Giulini:


:devil:

. . . And one with the French bad-boy GQ pin-up Gautier Capucon with the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Paavo Järvi:
.

 

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Discussion Starter · #256 ·
#118
Piano Concerto
Edvard Grieg
1868


The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, composed when he was only 24, was the only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and is among the most popular of all piano concerti.

Oh, you'll recognize it right away. The famous flourishing introduction is so very well known, as well as the main theme of the 1st movement.

I. Allegro molto moderato
II. Adagio
III. Allegro moderato molto e marcato - Quasi presto - Andante maestoso


And it doesn't get much better than this:

Arthur Rubinstein and the London Symphony Orchestra with André Previn conducting.

Arthur Rubinstein - Grieg - Piano Concerto in A minor, Op 16

 

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Discussion Starter · #257 · (Edited)
#119
Symphony No 4 in A major, Op. 90 "Italian"
Felix Mendelssohn
1833/1834


This symphony has its origins in Mendelssohn's Scottish 3rd Symphony, but for this one its inspiration is the color and atmosphere of Italy, which he'd visited in 1831. He wrote to his sister, "The Italian symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement. I have not found anything for the slow movement yet, and I think that I will save that for Naples."

Oddly enough, his 1833 4th symphony is his third, while the Scottish 3rd Symphony, his fourth, was not finished until 1842.

The symphony's success after its 1833 London premiere, which he conducted himself, and Mendelssohn's popularity, influenced the course of British music for the rest of the century.

Mendelssohn himself, however, remained dissatisfied with the composition, which cost him, he said, some of the bitterest moments of his career; he revised it in 1834 and even planned to write alternative versions of the second, third, and fourth movements. He never published the symphony, and it appeared in print only in 1851.

On one level the Italian Symphony is not particularly Italian; it's much more an expression of how Italy made Mendelssohn feel. Indeed, it's not until the final movement - some twenty minutes into the symphony - that we first hear a genuinely Italian music motif, in this case the sound of a national peasant dance.

I. Allegro vivace
II. Andante con moto
III. Con moto moderato
IV. Presto and Finale: Saltarello


Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mendelssohn Italian Symphony (Herbert von Karajan)


 

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Discussion Starter · #260 ·
#120
String Quartet No.12 in F, Op. 96 - The "American Quartet"
Antonín Dvořák
1893


It's Dvořák's 12th quartet, and is one of the most popular in the chamber music repertoire.

He wrote it while vacationing in Iowa - he sketched the quartet in three days and completed it in thirteen more days.

As he'd familiarized himself with Native American music and African-American spirituals, the piece sometimes was known by some now non-pc nicknames until the 1950s.

I. Allegro ma non troppo
II. Lento
III. Molto vivace
IV. Finale: vivace ma non troppo


While the influence of American folk song is not explicit in the quartet, the impact of Dvořák's quartet on later American compositions is clear. Following Dvořák', a number of American composers turned their hands to the string quartet genre.

The extensive use of folk-songs in 20th century American music and the 'wide-open-spaces' atmosphere of 'Western' film scores may have at least some of their origins in Dvořák's new American style.

Originally your video was to be the Pavel Haas Quartet performing in 2011, but as is usual for Youtube, the account on which it was posted no longer exists, so the video is not available.

Instead, here is The New York Philharmonic String Quartet, performing in 2016 at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

The New York Philharmonic String Quartet performs Dvořák's American Quartet

 
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