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I DON'T BELIEVE IT!
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Impressive indeed. Once it is finished, it could be worthwhile to post this collection of recommendations as a blog entry or a separate post (stickied and closed by a mod) so newbies can be referred to it without being distracted by the comments in this thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 · (Edited)
pianozach, This is a great project -- obviously a lot of thought has gone into it. Congratulations!
Thank you!

Impressive indeed. Once it is finished, it could be worthwhile to post this collection of recommendations as a blog entry or a separate post (stickied and closed by a mod) so newbies can be referred to it without being distracted by the comments in this thread.
I think the comments make it a bit more personal. I am far from being the last word on this, I simply have an opinion and am not afraid of posting it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Immersion Level: Norwegian Ninja

#11
Part 1 of 3

Peer Gynt: Suite No. 1, Op. 46, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55
Edvard Grieg
1876


A complicated history for a "work".

Peer Gynt, Op. 23 is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Grieg in 1875. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo).

Later, in 1888 and 1891, Grieg extracted eight movements from the original 26 to make two four-movement suites: Suite No. 1, Op. 46 in 1888, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55 in 1891. The score for the original work wasn't even published until 1908.

Suite 1 has two very popular and accessible movements, the 1st and 4th:

1. Morning Mood (Morgenstemning)
2. The Death of Åse (Åses død)
3. Anitra's Dance (Anitras dans)
4. In the Hall of the Mountain King (I Dovregubbens hall)

In the Hall of the Mountain King is astonishingly popular, with Pop and Rock covers being recorded as early as 1941, when Alvino Rey and His Orchestra recorded a jazz version.

Nero & the Gladiators reached No. 48 on the British charts in 1961

Big Brother and the Holding Company played it live in 1967, as did The Who, also in 1967.

Electric Light Orchestra recorded their cover in 1973.

So . . . here's Suite No. 1. Otto Tausk is conducting the Limburgs Symfonie Orkest

Grieg Peer Gynt Suite no.1 - Live - HD - Limburgs Symfonie Orkest olv. Otto Tausk

 

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Discussion Starter · #45 · (Edited)
#11
Part 2 of 3

Extra Credit


So . . if you liked THAT, then here's the less-well-known Suite No. 2. Here's four different videos, one for each of the four movements:

I. The Abduction of the Bride. Ingrid's Lament (Bruderovet. Ingrids klage)
II. Arabian Dance (Arabisk dans)
III. Peer Gynt's Homecoming (Stormy Evening on the Sea) (Peer Gynts hjemfart (Stormfull aften på havet))
IV. Solveig's Song (Solveigs sang)

The Abduction and Lament is an exciting and peppy version by a student orchestra.
The Arabian Dance is a live outdoor version by the Codarts Symphony Orchestra in The Netherlands
The Homecoming/Stormy Evening is performed by the Portland Youth Symphony Orchestra

Jugend-Sinfonieorchester Aargau Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): Peer Gynt, Suite 2 (1891)


:rolleyes:

Edvard Grieg - Arabian Dance (from "Peer Gynt") [Codarts Symphony Orchestra]


:devil:

PYSO - Peer Gynt's Homecoming - Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 Mvt. III - Edvard Grieg


:cool:

IV. Solveig's Song (Norwegian: Solveigs sang), is sung by Solveig, (Peer's mother) in the fourth act of Edvard Grieg's original Peer Gynt. The solo part is often played on a violin, but the vocal version is also popular.

The winter may pass and the spring disappear
The spring disappear
The summer too will vanish and then the year
And then the year

But this I know for certain: you'll come back again
You'll come back again
And even as I promised you'll find me waiting then
You'll find me waiting then

Oh-oh-oh ....

God help you when wand'ring your way all alone
Your way all alone
God grant to you his strength as you'll kneel at his throne
As you'll kneel at his throne

If you are in heaven now waiting for me
In heaven for me
And we shall meet again love and never parted be
And never parted be!_

Sarah Brightman (Phantom of the Opera) has performed this live, but as with many of her recordings I find her to be just a bit too "perfect", and often lacking in both soul AND heart. There's no depth, no pathos, no connection . . . just technique. And she sings it in English, of all things.

For my money, of the versions available online, I'll take Sissel Kyrkjebø's version from 1993. Is she perfect? Of course not. But I'd rather hear an extraordinary actress sell a song than an extraordinary singer phone one in.

This may be the best five minutes of your day

Sissel Kyrkjebø - Solveigs sang - 1993

 

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Discussion Starter · #46 · (Edited)
#11
Part 3 of 3

Honor Roll


Now . . . funny thing, but Grieg originally created a 5th movement for the 2nd suite, intended to open the suite: V. Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter. But he "withdrew" it, allegedly because of unreasonable time constraints put upon him by the Swedish theatre managers. He supposedly "trimmed" the remaining movements as well.

I like this movement quite a bit. It starts out in an unassuming way, and creeps up on you in some sort of pagan way. I can't fathom why such a short little movement would need to be cut, but, hey, that's show biz I guess.

Here's Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Peer Gynt, Op. 23: Act II, 8, Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter


:angel:

Of course, the original score from 1875 contains 26 movements in 5 acts, and includes several songs and choral pieces. Here's a link to the original complete work - this fairly new recording runs 1 hour 46 minutes, even though, by all accounts, Grieg originally composed only 90 minutes of orchestral music for the play. This is because he added more music for revivals in 1885 and 1902.

"Peer Gynt" Complete Incidental Music - Edvard Grieg
The London Symphony Orchestra and the Oslo Philharmonic Chorus conducted by Per Dreier

 

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Discussion Starter · #47 ·
#12
Polonaise In A Flat Major, Op.53 "Heroic"
Frederic Chopin
1842


OK, well, Chopin was ALL about the piano, and wrote many noteworthy ballades, etudes, impromptus, mazurkas, nocturnes, preludes, rhondos, scherzos, sonatas, variations, waltzes, and yes, polonaises.

But the Heroic Polonaise (Polonaise héroïque) is one of Chopin's most admired compositions and has long been a favorite of the classical piano repertoire. It requires exceptional skills and virtuosity.

Just a short note on it's title of "Heroic": George Sand, Chopin's longtime lover and companion, had a few words to say about this piece in one of her letters to him,

"The inspiration!
The strength!
The vigour!
There is no doubt that such a spirit must be present in the French Revolution.
From now on this polonaise should be a symbol, a symbol of heroicness!"

And, unfortunately for us, Chopin died in 1849, long before recorded music was introduced, so here's the 83 year old piano legend Vladimir Horowitz playing it.

Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin Polonaise in A flat Major, Op.53 "Heroic" Polonaise

 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
#13
Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel orchestration).
Modest Mussorgsky
1922


So Pictures at an Exhibition started off as a solo piano suite of 10 pieces (plus a recurring, varied "Promenade"), which Mussorgsky wrote in 1874. The piano suite is probably his most famous composition.

It was written as a tribute to Russian artist Viktor Hartmann, who died in 1873, and the movements are each based on a particular painting by him that hung in a memorial exhibition of his artwork.

The Maurice Ravel version, the most popular version of the suite is an example of brilliant orchestration.

However, many here might actually be more familiar with the Emerson, Lake & Palmer 1971 version, or even the 1975 electronic version by Isao Tomita (although he'd scored a version for real instruments in 1966 as well).

So here's the Ravel version. For those who read music to some degree or another, the score is provided so you can follow the orchestration. Some of us find this sort of thing really neat to see.

0:56 Promenade I
2:37 Gnomo
5:35 Promenade II
6:31 The Old Castle
11:04 Promenade III
11:35 Tuileries
12:37 Bydlo
15:35 Promenade IV
16:19 Bellt of the chicks in their shells
17:39 Samuel Goldberg and Sachmuyle
20:08 The market place in Limoges
21:36 Catacombs
23:40 Con mortuis in lingua mortua
25:39 The hut on fowl's legs (The Hut of Baba Yaga)
29:07 The great gate of Kiev

I think this is the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons.

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition Orchestra with Full Score


:)

By contrast, here's the ELP version, live.

Obviously, they took some gratuitous liberties with it, leaving out some sections, and interpolating their own stuff in it. While it introduced Classical music to many, many classical music elitists regarded it as an assault on the piece. But it's noteworthy that this was the gateway through which many rock 'n' rollers "discovered" Classical Music.

It wasn't the first time that Emerson, Lake, & Palmer had brought Classical Music to a Progressive Rock audience. This was their third album (they also did a 'rocked up' version of some of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker on this album, which they titled "Nutrocker".)

ELP's self titled first album opened with an arrangement for rock band of Béla Bartók's 1911 piano piece Allegro Barbaro, which they retitled "The Barbarian". The track "Knife-Edge" is based on the first movement of Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta (1926) AND includes an extended quotation from the Allemande of Johann Sebastian Bach's first French Suite in D minor, BWV 812.

ELP's second album, Tarkus, contains themes from "Toccata and Fugue" and "Prelude and Fugue VI, BWV851", again by Johann Sebastian Bach.

But this was already typical of keyboardist Emerson, whose previous group, The Nice, delved heavily into the Classic Music bin for inspiration. Over several albums that band used music from Leonard Bernstein's America, Sibelius's Karelia, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Nos. 3 and 6, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, 3rd Movement.

As for Pictures at an Exhibition, though, you can make up your own mind.

Pictures at an Exhibition, Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures at an Exhibition (Full) Live 1970 - Remastered


:devil:

And, as long as I'm here, Isao Tomita made his own version with synthesizers in 1975. I tend to think of this as being a novelty, a musician capitalizing on the newly invented synthesizer to orchestrate the work, just as Wendy Carlos did with Bach back in 1968 (The Grammy-winning "Switched-On Bach"), with less sophisticated equipment.

Re-orchestrating the Pictures isn't really as weird as one make imagine, as the Ravel version is actually not the original version either. Mussorgsky's work was originally scored for solo piano.


:angel:

Original version, performed by Khatia Buniatishvili.

 

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Discussion Starter · #50 ·
Personally I prefer the rock version by Mekong Delta over ELP. And it uses the original tracks throughout.

Well I like it because it's pretty much a note-for-note version played on rock instruments.

On the other hand, I'm not really all that impressed because it's just a note-for-note version played on rock instruments.

I did the same with a movement of a Bach suite a while back: https://soundcloud.com/pianozach%2Ftocatta-in-d-minor-ii-thema
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 · (Edited)
Time for another Intermission.

Chopin, as famous as he is for piano compositions, wrote only two Piano Concertos.

Piano Concerto No. 2 is great, but the 2nd movement is very accessible and sublime. It's under nine minutes in length. Here's Ingrid Filter with Kazimierz Kord conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic.

It's quite magical.


Looking over the list for my Chopin entries . . . . in the top 100 I've got

#12 Polonaise Op. 53,
#27 Prelude in Db "Raindrop",
#98 Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9 No. 2,
#99 Revolutionary Etude,

and even further down the list

Ballade #4,
Grand Valse Brillante in Eb, Op. 18, and
Piano Concerto No. 2
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 · (Edited)
#14
Rhapsody in Blue
George Gershwin
1924


One of the most popular works by an American "Art" composer.

I'll wager that almost everyone is familiar with it, but in case you aren't . . . . it's a one movement piano concerto . . . hence the "Rhapsody" title indicating it's one extended movement instead of separate movements.

And as the "in Blue" part of the title indicates, there are several jazz influences on the piece, including ragtime, blues, and big band.

And there are actually a few different versions of it: There's the original 1924 version developed for piano and expanded jazz band, and an updated 1926 version for an even larger jazz band (called the "theater orchestra" or "pit orchestra" setting), and a 1942 symphony orchestra setting. There's also a two piano version as well.

The influence of the piece cannot be overstated.

Here's a live version from 1976, with Leonard Bernstein conducting.

I suppose that because conducting the work wasn't enough of a challenge, he also plays the very difficult piano part as well.

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue - Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic (1976)


:rolleyes:

There are many, many versions available to watch, and a multitude of audio only versions.

But just to show how difficult this piece is, here's a "score" version (using the easier-to-read 2 piano version).

I've actually attempted the main piano part . . . . for me it's about 50% easy, 30% advanced, and 20% are-you-freaking-kidding-me?

This one features György Cziffra at the piano, with György Léhel conducting the Budapest Symphony Orchestra.

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
NB: This link CAN be watched, but because of "settings" chosen by the poster, it is possible you may have to view it by clicking through to Youtube. You can watch on Youtube.



;)

Surprisingly, there IS a 1924 recording of the original 1924 version, with George Gershwin himself at the piano, with the Paul Whiteman Jazz Band that premiered the piece with him, and was originally released on two sides of a 12" 78 rpm record.

It's roughly half the time length of later versions, but that's partly due to the tempos being leaned on to get the work to fit on the 78 rpm format.

Oh, by the way, while Gershwin composed the entire thing, the orchestration was handed off to Ferde Grofé, Whiteman's arranger. Of note in this arrangement is that the banjo is used to cover for the lack of strings.

Paul Whiteman And His Orchestra 'Rhapsody In Blue' Original 1924 Acoustic 78 rpm


:eek:

The Rhapsody, with its composer as soloist, was premiered in front of a packed house in February 1924 that included such musical luminaries as the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, the violinist Fritz Kreisler and the conductor Leopold Stokowski.

Legend has it that Gershwin completely forgot that Whiteman had commissioned a work from him for a concert in New York. According to the tale, George's brother Ira, on January 3 or 4, read in a newspaper that Whiteman would soon lead his musicians in a concert of works by Victor Herbert, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin, the Gershwin piece to be a jazz concerto.

When Ira asked his brother about the new piece, George expressed astonishment. He remembered talking with Whiteman about a concerto, but he had not understood that it was expected by Whiteman for performance at that concert. Gershwin had only five weeks left before the premiere.

He began composing the new concerto immediately. Because he needed to travel to Boston for the opening of his newest musical, the main theme of Rhapsody in Blue was actually written on the train from New York. The composer later claimed, "It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang that is often so stimulating to a composer (I frequently hear music in the very heart of noise) that I suddenly heard-and even saw on paper-the complete construction of the Rhapsody from beginning to end. …I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America-of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness. By the time I reached Boston I had the definite plot of the piece."

Gershwin worked quickly, sketching out the ensemble parts of the piece at the piano, then handing over the score to Ferde Grofé, Whiteman's arranger, who orchestrated it. Thanks to their team effort, the band's parts were ready in time, but the solo piano part was not yet on paper. It existed only in the composer's mind, and at the first performance Gershwin played it from memory. Regardless, the concert on February 12 was a triumph. An American classic was born.

:confused:

Now I'll bet you can't wait until I get to something with the Cleveland Symphony under George Szell: Yeah, the guy was a dictator, but he made them sound good.

He's a-comin'. #16.

Huge.
 

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Lots of good ideas here (though I would always nominate the original 'Pictures' over any arrangement). Two pieces for CM newbies: Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival, and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. If neither of those pieces stirs your being, CM's not for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
Lots of good ideas here (though I would always nominate the original 'Pictures' over any arrangement). Two pieces for CM newbies: Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival, and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G. If neither of those pieces stirs your being, CM's not for you.
Excellent suggestions. Ravel's Piano Concerto in G is already on the list, but Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival, Op. 36 was not.

But now it is.

But I did have Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Fantasia, Op. 33. Not twin pieces, but related.
 

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I was asked a few pages back for, "Which versions", I'd recommend to a beginner. For the most part, whilst I have versions that I enjoy, I'll refrain from making specific recommendations. Let me explain.

As a 'long-time beginner last year - I'd been listening to popular classics and attending opera for corporate hospitality and a few special occasions for 30-years - I went in search of a more informed understanding and deeper appreciation of classical music. Talk classical was one of the sites I regularly found myself coming to from Google searches. I created lists of music that I felt I needed to know and started to acquire versions and listen. Of course, our excellent list curated by Science featured prominently.

In researching Bach's Mass in B Minor, I came across some advice on Quora. In response to someone asking which is the best version, one contributor wrote:

"A wonderful question which, I'd argue, admits of no single answer. To oversimplify matters, let's begin by pointing out that performance styles have changed in the past century. There is a now-old saw that holds that when the recording era began Bach was performed slowly and Wagner fast, and that now it's the other way around.
For some listeners, Bach's mass should be a grand massif of terrible beauty. Others, generally the advocates of Historically Informed Performance (Gardiner, Hogwood, Herreweghe, Pinnock, et al.) have called our attention to how much Bach's music dances, how full of light and energy it is. I think, for this reason, one might wish to sample a handful of recordings. I'll call attention to such a handful here.

Karl Richter, 1962
Anyone who knows Richter's style will know its hallmarks: it's slow, thick, self-consciously grand. But the thing is, that tends to work for him, especially on massed choral pieces. Curtis Lindsay wrote a terrific answer recently about Richter's handling of the early cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV4). The grand effects of the B Minor Mass are similarly amenable to precisely the kind of treatment Curtis describes in his answer. This is a glorious recording after its own fashion, presenting a towering, majestic, decidedly non-HIP Bach. And you see that name, Fischer-Dieskau? That's Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the most recorded artist of the twentieth century, easily one of the very greatest baritones ever to live, whom no less a singer than Elizabeth Schwarzkopf called a "born god," and who is the greatest male singer of German Lieder I've ever heard. He is devastating here, as on so many recordings of this period. His name alone would be enough to make this recording a must - and that despite the fact that, unlike, e.g., the St. Matthew Passion, the Mass in B Minor makes massive use of the chorus, and limits the role of the soloists (this is one of many salient differences between Bach's strategy in setting the mass and setting the passions). Anyway, this is a heavy, dripping, poignant account.

Otto Klemperer, 1967
Dame Janet Baker, Nicolai Gedda, Franz Crass - these are divinities, and Klemperer was a master. This recording is the Mass as celestial funeral procession, though - somehow more ethereal than Richter's version, angelic as that is, and quicker, too, but still overpowering in its slowness.

Eugene Jochum, 1980
This is Jochum's third recording of the Mass, and the first I ever owned. This is the last "slow" version I would recommend. I find it remarkable for the depth of the choral singing. When the lower male voices reenter in the Kyrie, I get goosebumps every time, as though the good Lord had just entered the building. This is longer than Klemperer's overall, but feels shorter; and where Klemperer feels like an inescapable cloud, this feels like a spiritual bulldozer. Again, the singers are divine.

Frans Brüggen, 2010
Skip ahead a generation. John Eliot Gardiner and others have begun to rethink Baroque performance in general, reintroducing period instruments and, in general, speeding things up. This version of the Mass is a quarter-hour shorter, or more, than any of those above. Its instrumentation is light; its chorus remains ethereal, but now it swims in colour and light, not the smoky darkness of a church. Here the empyrean is a dynamic, kinetic place. I listen to Richter, Klemperer, and Jochum when I want the sense of the sacred to pummel me and fill me, atheist or not, with some kind of holy dread. I listen to this when I want to feel buoyed up, when I want to feel the Mass as a joyous triumph rather than the ineluctable movement of sacred history expressed in marmoreal massed chorus and lead-footed gravity.

Philippe Herreweghe, 2012
One of the towering figures in HIP delivers his third and greatest rendition of the Mass with the Collegium Vocale Gent. He's a wee bit more formal than Brüggen to my ears, but no less swift, and utterly beautiful. This is the Mass as thing of light, a Lutheran Paradiso. Beautifully sung and played.

My suggestion is to pick one of the first three and one of the last two. The Mass is worth hearing in older and newer presentations, which highlight different aspects of it, different ways of hearing it. I have all five and several others - including Gardiner's 1985 rather transitional Archiv recording of it - and regret spending money on none of them. But then, I think this is one of the summits of all art, in any medium or form, and have listened to it with awe for half my life now."


Whether you agree with these suggestions or not, I've found this to have been, unquestionably, the best advice I received as a, "Beginner". Don't simply look for the 'classic standard', the Szell with the Cleveland or Karajan with his Berliners, Richter playing Rachmaninov, listen to different versions and decide for yourself which one ticks the box for you. I listened to all six suggestions and one jumped up and slapped me around the ears. It was the Herreweghe. In time, I'll maybe want to listen to more and perhaps different versions but for now, I don't have the time for more than one version of all but a very select group of works. There's too much else I want to get to first.

I have found that my ear generally prefers Herreweghe, Harnoncourt, Chailly, Hogwood, and Pinnock, to Szell, Solti, Karajan, Bernstein, and Wand. That's a broad generalisation, as I love Karajan's Mahler 9 for example. Whether it's because I'm a beginner, I don't know and who's to say? It may, of course, change over time.

I keep an iTunes folder named, "Classical Bin 101" where I put versions that I purchased on recommendations, mostly from this site, then discovered versions I prefer more. Just one example to illustrate, there's a thread here that makes recommendations for Bruckner's 8th. Of the latest list of eleven recommended and thirty-one further listening, only one conductor is alive today, and he's 92! This despite suggestions being made within the thread for the likes of Thielemann, Nelsons, and my personal favourite for Bruckner's 8th, Simone Young.

Now I am not saying that Young is better than Furtwangler, or Wand. But recommend a bunch of guys without a heartbeat to beginners, excluding more modern interpretations, and you risk taking the freshness out of the journey they're starting. Give them options and let them decide.
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 · (Edited)
I was asked a few pages back for, "Which versions", I'd recommend to a beginner. For the most part, whilst I have versions that I enjoy, I'll refrain from making specific recommendations. Let me explain.

As a 'long-time beginner last year - I'd been listening to popular classics and attending opera for corporate hospitality and a few special occasions for 30-years - I went in search of a more informed understanding and deeper appreciation of classical music. Talk classical was one of the sites I regularly found myself coming to from Google searches. I created lists of music that I felt I needed to know and started to acquire versions and listen. Of course, our excellent list curated by Science featured prominently.

In researching Bach's Mass in B Minor, I came across some advice on Quora. In response to someone asking which is the best version, one contributor wrote:

"A wonderful question which, I'd argue, admits of no single answer. To oversimplify matters, let's begin by pointing out that performance styles have changed in the past century. There is a now-old saw that holds that when the recording era began Bach was performed slowly and Wagner fast, and that now it's the other way around.
For some listeners, Bach's mass should be a grand massif of terrible beauty. Others, generally the advocates of Historically Informed Performance (Gardiner, Hogwood, Herreweghe, Pinnock, et al.) have called our attention to how much Bach's music dances, how full of light and energy it is. I think, for this reason, one might wish to sample a handful of recordings. I'll call attention to such a handful here.

Karl Richter, 1962
Anyone who knows Richter's style will know its hallmarks: it's slow, thick, self-consciously grand. But the thing is, that tends to work for him, especially on massed choral pieces. Curtis Lindsay wrote a terrific answer recently about Richter's handling of the early cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV4). The grand effects of the B Minor Mass are similarly amenable to precisely the kind of treatment Curtis describes in his answer. This is a glorious recording after its own fashion, presenting a towering, majestic, decidedly non-HIP Bach. And you see that name, Fischer-Dieskau? That's Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the most recorded artist of the twentieth century, easily one of the very greatest baritones ever to live, whom no less a singer than Elizabeth Schwarzkopf called a "born god," and who is the greatest male singer of German Lieder I've ever heard. He is devastating here, as on so many recordings of this period. His name alone would be enough to make this recording a must - and that despite the fact that, unlike, e.g., the St. Matthew Passion, the Mass in B Minor makes massive use of the chorus, and limits the role of the soloists (this is one of many salient differences between Bach's strategy in setting the mass and setting the passions). Anyway, this is a heavy, dripping, poignant account.

Otto Klemperer, 1967
Dame Janet Baker, Nicolai Gedda, Franz Crass - these are divinities, and Klemperer was a master. This recording is the Mass as celestial funeral procession, though - somehow more ethereal than Richter's version, angelic as that is, and quicker, too, but still overpowering in its slowness.

Eugene Jochum, 1980
This is Jochum's third recording of the Mass, and the first I ever owned. This is the last "slow" version I would recommend. I find it remarkable for the depth of the choral singing. When the lower male voices reenter in the Kyrie, I get goosebumps every time, as though the good Lord had just entered the building. This is longer than Klemperer's overall, but feels shorter; and where Klemperer feels like an inescapable cloud, this feels like a spiritual bulldozer. Again, the singers are divine.

Frans Brüggen, 2010
Skip ahead a generation. John Eliot Gardiner and others have begun to rethink Baroque performance in general, reintroducing period instruments and, in general, speeding things up. This version of the Mass is a quarter-hour shorter, or more, than any of those above. Its instrumentation is light; its chorus remains ethereal, but now it swims in colour and light, not the smoky darkness of a church. Here the empyrean is a dynamic, kinetic place. I listen to Richter, Klemperer, and Jochum when I want the sense of the sacred to pummel me and fill me, atheist or not, with some kind of holy dread. I listen to this when I want to feel buoyed up, when I want to feel the Mass as a joyous triumph rather than the ineluctable movement of sacred history expressed in marmoreal massed chorus and lead-footed gravity.

Philippe Herreweghe, 2012
One of the towering figures in HIP delivers his third and greatest rendition of the Mass with the Collegium Vocale Gent. He's a wee bit more formal than Brüggen to my ears, but no less swift, and utterly beautiful. This is the Mass as thing of light, a Lutheran Paradiso. Beautifully sung and played.

My suggestion is to pick one of the first three and one of the last two. The Mass is worth hearing in older and newer presentations, which highlight different aspects of it, different ways of hearing it. I have all five and several others - including Gardiner's 1985 rather transitional Archiv recording of it - and regret spending money on none of them. But then, I think this is one of the summits of all art, in any medium or form, and have listened to it with awe for half my life now."


Whether you agree with these suggestions or not, I've found this to have been, unquestionably, the best advice I received as a, "Beginner". Don't simply look for the 'classic standard', the Szell with the Cleveland or Karajan with his Berliners, Richter playing Rachmaninov, listen to different versions and decide for yourself which one ticks the box for you. I listened to all six suggestions and one jumped up and slapped me around the ears. It was the Herreweghe. In time, I'll maybe want to listen to more and perhaps different versions but for now, I don't have the time for more than one version of all but a very select group of works. There's too much else I want to get to first.

I have found that my ear generally prefers Herreweghe, Harnoncourt, Chailly, Hogwood, and Pinnock, to Szell, Solti, Karajan, Bernstein, and Wand. That's a broad generalisation, as I love Karajan's Mahler 9 for example. Whether it's because I'm a beginner, I don't know and who's to say? It may, of course, change over time.

I keep an iTunes folder named, "Classical Bin 101" where I put versions that I purchased on recommendations, mostly from this site, then discovered versions I prefer more. Just one example to illustrate, there's a thread here that makes recommendations for Bruckner's 8th. Of the latest list of eleven recommended and thirty-one further listening, only one conductor is alive today, and he's 92! This despite suggestions being made within the thread for the likes of Thielemann, Nelsons, and my personal favourite for Bruckner's 8th, Simone Young.

Now I am not saying that Young is better than Furtwangler, or Wand. But recommend a bunch of guys without a heartbeat to beginners, excluding more modern interpretations, and you risk taking the freshness out of the journey they're starting. Give them options and let them decide.
Perfect.

I've got the Bach Mass in B minor at #182 on my list. While it is a monster of an epic, and a monument to the art of Baroque, it's probably not as immediately accessible as some shorter and simpler works.

Choosing a piece, and then choosing a version is a more advanced way to explore Classical Music, and my examples are chosen for "bait" value. First, I'll look for a "Live" version, as I think that being able to see the players and/or conductor, as well as the audience reaction (if there is one) is a "selling point", although there are plenty of instances where I WILL present more than one version of a piece (although it's more likely it's because there are different arrangements). Second, I'll weed out videos whose sound quality is poor (although there are exceptions here as well, as witnessed, for instance, by my inclusion of a rather ancient audio-only version of Rhapsody in Blue). Third, I may be biased towards a video with higher visual standards - it may be a version that's a multi-camera shoot, or simply because it's video is high definition. But, all in all, I'll try to choose a version that does the music justice.

So . . . there's likely a hundred different versions of The Planets available, and if you started a thread here asking for the BEST version, my bet is that you'd have a list of as many versions as there are answers. If you ask for rationales for everyone's suggestions, you'd find that people value different aspects of the presentations that are chosen. As you point out, some like it fast (perhaps for the excitement), and others like it slow (to savor the sonorities and solemnity or whatever).

I'm thinking that if someone really enjoys a piece they may reach, on their own, a more intermediate learning level, and seek out OTHER versions. So your point is certainly valid, just beyond the "beginner" stage though. But even THAT isn't necessarily true for everyone discovering Classical Music: While the Mass in B minor may have been a major step in YOUR discovery of Classical Music, it may chase someone else away. There are no absolutes.

And you certainly seem to know your Mass in B minor far more intimately than I. If I had to choose my favorite works by Bach, I'd likely be biased towards the keyboard works. Off the top of my head, though . . .

Brandenburg Concertos
WTC
Partitas
English Suites
Cello Suites

However, I'll share what one person commented about my list somewhere's around the time I got to a milestone on my list, a smaller work by Bach (one of the P&F from WTC2):

"Over the years of having various classical cds or box sets, Iv found liberties taken to sample segments of parts of pieces, whether, symphony, or concertos, etc. one example is the Sanctus, from Bach's mass in b minor. Extrodinary bit of music. From an introduction to the complete works of Bach. Millennium edition. Would never had otherwise sought out or discovered this otherwise. But it led me to discover the whole mass. I'm enjoying your list as well, and it's having that same effect. Thanks!"

This listener shares your joy of the mass, and by hearing only one movement, was inspired to seek out the rest of this monumental work (100-110 minutes long on average?).

As far as my choices for a version, I'd actually chosen two (well, three, kind of).

The first is an audio-only version: The 2015 recording by John Eliot Gardiner (2015) with English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir.


I do give a "shout-out" to the version from Phillippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent (2011) for an alternate audio-only version (I do believe he's recorded the Mass more than once). Herreweghe's approach has an absolute commitment to the quality of sound, above all the purity of sound. He doesn't do monumental nor dramatic, instead focusing on the gentle lyricism. It's almost a "romantic" interpretation.


But the sound quality on both of these is excellent.

The second is a live performance by the Choir of the English Concert and The English Concert conducted by Harry Bicket at PROMS 2012

 

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... I'm thinking that if someone really enjoys a piece they may reach, on their own, a more intermediate learning level, and seek out OTHER versions. So your point is certainly valid, just beyond the "beginner" stage though. But even THAT isn't necessarily true for everyone discovering Classical Music: While the Mass in B minor may have been a major step in YOUR discovery of Classical Music, it may chase someone else away. There are no absolutes....
I agree. I was ready having been a 'casual' listener for many years. I'm still inclined to let beginners trust their own ears.

... And you certainly seem to know your Mass in B minor far more intimately than I....
I spent most of February listening to JS Bach. I selected 34 pieces and listened in detail. Loved the Orchestral Suites, Cello Suites, and the Flute Concertos were a revelation. I even enjoyed the Cantatas.

You're doing a great job here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #58 · (Edited)
#15
The Rite of Spring
Igor Stravinsky
1913


The Rite of Spring is a ballet and orchestral concert work by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company; the original choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky with stage designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich. When first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May 1913, the avant-garde nature of the music and choreography caused a sensation. Many have called the first-night reaction "a riot".

Font Number Document Parallel

The score contains many unique features, especially for its time - it experiments with tonality, metre, rhythm, stress and dissonance.

Stravinsky himself described The Rite of Spring as "a musical-choreographic work, [representing] pagan Russia ... unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring".

There are a few different Youtube videos of this roughly 35 minute ballet. One, with the Cleveland Orchestra conducted by Pina Bausch is an "Age-restricted video", probably because it contains a bit of partial nudity, and a lot of simulated dance sex. It's pretty visceral . . .

. . . and probably more in tune with the theme of the piece.

This video is missing the last 7 minutes - it is what it is - Youtube, you know:


Here's one that's considerably more tame. This production was presented in 2013, in celebration of the work's centenary.

BTW - the link takes you to where the actual performance begins; however if you're fluent in French, you may want to take the cursor back to the beginning of the video for the introduction. Additionally, the credits at the beginning are given in both French AND German.

Additionally, it is noteworthy that this special presentation claims to be presenting Nijinsky's original choreography. If I'm not mistaken, they've used the original costumes as well (well, not THE original costumes; I mean the created NEW costumes using the original designs)


Première Partie:
1. L'adoration de la terre 4:35
2. Dances des adolescentes 7:42
3. Jeu du rapt 11:01
4. Rondes printanieres 12:17
5. Jeux des cités rivales 16:07
6. Cortège du sage 17:15
7. Danse de la terre 18:54

Deuxième Partie:
1. Le sacrifice 20:03
2. Cercles mystérieux des adolescentes 24:18
3. Glorification de l'élue 27:39
4. Evocation des ancêtres 29:08
5. Action rituelle des ancêtres 29:58
6. Danse sacrale 33:33
 

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Discussion Starter · #59 · (Edited)
#16
Symphony No.5 in C minor, Op. 67.
Ludwig van Beethoven
1808


This the 4th symphony in 16 entries. And the 2nd symphony from Beethoven. Of course, Beethoven stands like a demigod over classical music. Like the "Eroica" Symphony, this one, too, has a nickname, although certainly not as well known. It first became popular under the name "Schicksals-Sinfonie" (Symphony of Destiny), although since World War II, it's sometimes been referred to as the "Victory" Symphony . . . and here's where you get your "Fun Fact":

"V" is the Roman numeral character for the number five; the phrase "V for Victory" became well known as a campaign of the Allies of World War II. That Beethoven's Victory Symphony happened to be his Fifth (or vice versa) is coincidence. Some thirty years after this piece was written, the rhythm of the opening phrase - "dit-dit-dit-dah" - was used for the letter "V" in Morse code, though this is probably also coincidental.

And that phrase, one of the most recognizable in music history, is often interpreted as the musical manifestation of "fate knocking at the door", hence, it's sometimes referred to as the "Fate motif".

So here's George Szell conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1961:

Beethoven: Symphony No.5 / Szell Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1961 Movie Live)


:eek:

But I also highly recommend the version by the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique conducted by John Eliot Gardinerin 2016. It's quite an exciting and emotional performance, and there's a couple of other things that make it a wonderful experience . . . one is that the violinists and violists are all standing, as are the brass players . . . another is that the orchestra is tuned slightly lower . . . which would probably be closer to the pitch used in Beethoven's time. But the pitch is just the teaser . . . you simply HAVE to check out all the vintage instruments used - clarinets, oboes, horns, trombones - all of which give the work a deep organic quality.

Beethoven Symphony No 5 C minor John Eliot Gardiner Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique 2016


On a minor note, there's a random Easter Egg in A Clockwork Orange, which certainly features Beethoven heavily; the doorbell for "Home" where the rape and final scenes take place has that "dit-dit-dit-dah" ring from the opening notes of the Fifth Symphony.

There's also the #1 hit by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, A Fifth of Beethoven, a disco instrumental released in 1976 based on the first movement of the Fifth Symphony.

 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
#17
Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007
Johann Sebastian Bach

most likely composed between 1717-20

The first of six Cello Suites for unaccompanied cello are some of the most frequently performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello. They're remarkable in that they achieve the effect of implied three- to four-voice contrapuntal and polyphonic music in a single musical line. While they are a set of six suites of six movements each, to listen to them all in one sitting might take anywhere from 2h 20m to 2h 45 minutes.

The suites are in six movements each.

The Prelude of Suite No. 1 is probably the most recognizable movement from the set. It consists mainly of arpeggiated chords.

Of note is that the new-fangled violoncello (or "cello") [which is positioned between the knees of the performer] was probably NOT the cello Bach intended the suites for . . . It's just as likely it was for the violoncello da spalla, held more like a modern guitar, often played seated using a shoulder/neck strap.

Here's just the Prelude played by Sigiswald Kuijken on the now-obsolete violoncello da spalla.

Sigiswald Kuijken - Suite nr 1 BWV 1007 prelude


As you can probably hear, the "da spalla" has a completely different tone and timbre than today's commonly used cello.

:)

Here's the complete suite played live in 2015 by today's master of the cello, Yo-Yo Ma.

The movements:

0:13 Prelude
2:42 Allemande
7:02 Courante
9:47 Sarabande
12:33 Menuet I & II
16:04 Gigue


Yo-Yo Ma Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G Major


:D

If you love this particular suite, there are some audio-only YouTube versions that are well worth checking out by other cello virtuosos:

Mstislav Leopoldovich
,

Pablo Casals
,

Pierre Fournier
,

Jean-Guihen Queyras
, and

Janos Starker

:cool:

Andrés Segovia plays a transcription of this piece on guitar that is worth of the time you spend to listen.

Here's two versions of his transcription; one a studio recording from his younger days, and a live version in his senior years.


 
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