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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, just joined the forum! I have just started getting into classical music over the past year, and could use some suggestions from the experienced folks out there. I've been researching the lives and most popular works of the more famous composers (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Liszt, Dvorak, Chopin, Haydn, Wagner, Schubert, etc.), but that has only opened my mind to how much is really out there. I feel like I've barely been able to scratch the surface and am just starting to understand what I like and why. I suppose my question is - What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!

For reference, I'm still focusing more on the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods at this time; I plan to do more exploration on the 19th and 20th century pieces after I develop more of a bass in the deeper history.

Thanks for your help!
 

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Welcome! For starters:

Alwyn - Lyra Angelica
Arnold - Symphony No. 9
Bach - Cello Suites
Bach - Ich Habe Genug
Bach - St John Passion
Bach - St Matthew Passion
Bach - The Well-Tempered Clavier
Bach - Toccata and Fugue
Barber - Knoxville: Summer of 1915
Bax - Cello Concerto
Bax - November Woods
Bax - Tintagel
Bax - Violin Concerto
Beethoven - String Quartet No. 14
Beethoven - Symphony No. 6 "Pastoral"
Beethoven - Violin Concerto
Berg - Violin Concerto
Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique
Brahms - A German Requiem
Brahms - Clarinet Quintet
Brahms - Piano Quartet No. 1
Brahms - Piano Quartet No. 3
Brahms - String Quintet No. 1
Brahms - String Sextet No. 2
Brahms - Symphony No. 3
Brahms - Symphony No. 4
Brahms - Violin Concerto
Britten - War Requiem
Bruch - Violin Concerto No. 1
Bruckner - Symphony No. 8
Bruckner - Symphony No. 9
Chopin - Three Nocturnes, Opus 9
Chopin - Two Nocturnes, Opus 27
Debussy - Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune
Dvořák - String Quartet No. 12 "American"
Dvořák - Symphony No. 9 "From the New World"
Fauré - Requiem
Finzi - Cello Concerto
Finzi - Clarinet Concerto
Franck - Violin Sonata
Górecki - Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
Grieg - Holberg Suite
Jongen - Symphonie Concertante
Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler - Kindertotenlieder
Mahler - Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen
Mahler - Rückert-Lieder
Mahler - Symphony No. 01
Mahler - Symphony No. 02 "Resurrection"
Mahler - Symphony No. 04
Mahler - Symphony No. 06
Mahler - Symphony No. 09
Mahler - Symphony No. 10
Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 3 "Scottish"
Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto
Moeran - Cello Concerto
Moeran - Violin Concerto
Mozart - Clarinet Concerto
Mozart - Clarinet Quintet
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 20
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21
Mozart - Requiem
Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition
Mussorgsky/Ravel - Pictures at an Exhibition
Nielsen - Clarinet Concerto
Pärt - Spiegel im Spiegel
Penderecki - Symphony No. 6 "Chinese Poems"
Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky
Ravel - Daphnis et Chloé
Ravel - Piano Concerto
Ravel - Shéhérazade
Reich - Different Trains
Respighi - Fountains of Rome
Respighi - Pines of Rome
Saint-Saëns - Symphony No. 3 "Organ symphony"
Schmidt - Symphony No. 4
Schubert - Die schöne Müllerin
Schubert - String Quartet No. 13 "Rosamunde"
Schubert - String Quartet No. 14 "Death and the Maiden"
Schubert - String Quintet
Schubert - Symphony No. 8 "Unfinished"
Schubert - Winterreise
Shostakovich - Piano quintet
Shostakovich - Piano Trio No. 2
Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 8
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 07 "Leningrad"
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 14
Shostakovich - Violin Concerto No. 1
Sibelius - Symphony No. 4
Sibelius - Tapiola
Sibelius - Violin Concerto
Strauss - Don Juan
Strauss - Four Last Songs
Strauss - Metamorphosen
Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
Suk - Symphony No. 2 "Asrael"
Takemitsu - From Me Flows What You Call Time
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 6 'Pathetique'
Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto
Vasks - Cor Anglais Concerto
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 5
Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 7 "Sinfonia Antartica"
Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen
Warlock - The Curlew
 

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I plan to do more exploration on the 19th and 20th century pieces after I develop more of a bass in the deeper history.
Just as it's not necessary to have to first hear Blind Willie Johnson in order to understand Drake or Chris Brown, you don't have to first hear Bach and Mozart to enjoy Stravinsky and Webern. An understanding of musical history can perhaps add to one's appreciation for classical music, but is not essential; listening with an open mind is. Approaching classical music chronologically, however well-intentioned this may be, is a needless impediment to your enjoyment. Dive in and have fun!
 

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Welcome! For starters:

Britten - War Requiem
Górecki - Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
Mahler - Symphony No. 06
Mahler - Symphony No. 09
Mahler - Symphony No. 10
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10
Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen
For starters? Really? Thats interessting. I would not suggest that. I struggled super hard with Mahlers 9th as a starter.

I would rather suggest pieces like this:
Vivaldi - The four seasons
Bach - Brandenburgische Konzerte
Händel - Messiah
Mozart - Requiem
Beethoven - Moonlight sonata
Beethoven - Symphony No. 5
Beethoven - Symphony No. 6
Schubert - Symphony No. 9
Wagner - Der fliegende Holländer
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich - The song of the forests
 

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What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!
Actually Mahlers 9th comes to mind regading this question. But it is not for starters.

Bruckner - Symphony No. 8
Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen
Mahler - Symphony No. 9
Shostakovich - Symphony No. 7
Schubert - Symphony No. 9
Beethoven - Symphony No. 9
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5

I also would recommend Schuberts 9th and Tchaikovskys 5th for starters.
 

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I think you misunderstood the phrase "for starters". This is not a list for beginners, the OP asked "What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?."

These definitely, but I could add more, that's why I said "for starters".
 

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Hi all, just joined the forum! I have just started getting into classical music over the past year, and could use some suggestions from the experienced folks out there.

Thanks for your help!
Just go to Anton Bruckner's symphony number 4 and take it from there 🤩
 

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Actually Mahlers 9th comes to mind regading this question. But it is not for starters.
What would be good for "starters"? Is there such a thing? I only ask because my own first experiences with classical music were not with works necessarily considered for "starters". When I was 12, I discovered Ravel's Boléro. The experience was so powerful that I resolved to look thorough my junior high library to find anything about Ravel on the shelves. The next morning I went to look; the only book on classical music we had was an overview of 20th-century music written by Eric Salzman. Thanks to him I had by the end of that day listened to, among other things, Webern's Das Augenlicht and Babbitt's Philomel, both of which made me a lifelong convert to classical music right there and then. It was precisely because they were unlike any music I could even imagine that I fell in love with them. Only as I got older did I manage to work my way backwards.

My point is that recommendations are always good, but suggesting that some music is entry-level and some isn't is misleading. It can also inhibit enjoyment of music. Popular music never requires anyone to listen in chronological order or to regard some songs/albums as more accessible than others. So I'm not sure why classical music listeners feel the need to impose fetters on their ears or tend to regard the listening experience as a kind of JRPG wherein certain corners of the repertoire are only unlocked when one has raised their levels sufficiently.
 

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It seems like a totally different question sandwiched between another sort of implied, but unstated question! Does it matter what pieces I or anyone else couldn't live without (actually there is no work really which I couldn't live without)?

Other people's lists might be a bit helpful, for getting some recommendations which could take you somewhere, but really you need to follow your own path. And it doesn't really matter if you end up listening to a handful of composers, from even just one era, for quite some years. There's no rush. Well, unless the clock is ticking for you or something.

Depends what kind of listener a person is. Some might like to keep looking for more and more, or more and more examples of the same/similar. Some might like to limit themselves to a certain type or one genre or a few genres (then change again). I'm not really into superficial listening, where a person just likes e.g. the classical period and tries to find every 'unknown...underrated' person who ever put quill to manuscript paper. So that you listen maybe once to hundreds and hundreds of soundalike symphonies.

It's probably a good thing to find out what you really like (even if it shifts over time) and to dig down into it. To listen and then listen again with an informed ear. It doesn't have to be the big names, or it could be those names. Whatever it takes.
 

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I think you misunderstood the phrase "for starters". This is not a list for beginners, the OP asked "What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?."

These definitely, but I could add more, that's why I said "for starters".
Ok, yeah I completely misunderstood that.

What would be good for "starters"? Is there such a thing? I only ask because my own first experiences with classical music were not with works necessarily considered for "starters". When I was 12, I discovered Ravel's Boléro.
Bolero is good for beginners or starters I think. It is good if the person heard something of the work before, than it is easier to discover more starting from the already known parts. It is also good, if the work is not too complicated or expressionwise specific. So Bolero is really good imo for starters.
 

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Start the way many of us did: with the lighter classics.

Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody 2
Rossini - Wiiliam Tell Overture
Grieg - Peer Gynt suites
Bizet - Carmen suites
Saint-Saens - Danse Macabre
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture, Capriccio Italien, Marche Slave, Nutcracker suite
Dvorak - Carnival Overture
Mussorgsky - Night on Bald Mountain
Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
Johann Strauss Jr - Waltzes
Bach - orchestral transcriptions by Stokowski

and so on. There's so much. Then try out some of the larger scale works. There are many books ideal for beginners, kind of Classical Music 101. Personally, I'd stay from Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Bruckner, until you really get a feel for it all. The classical arena is vast and can be overwhelming.

There is one guide that I highly recommend: 101 Masterpieces of Music and Their Composers by the late Martin Bookspan. A long-time critic, radio personality and TV commentator it has all the major works that anyone should know. Even though many of his recommended recordings quite old, they are still top-recommendations today.
 

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Watch this: he’s still 18 years old and is one of classical music’s brightest stars.
For starters: this is Rachmaninov’s 3rd piano concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony being conducted by Marin Aslop in a legendary performance winning the Van Cliburn.
 

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I wouldn't start with the baroque composers. They are more difficult to enjoy and can even be arid. Some pieces by the impressionists, or call them romantics if you prefer, offer an easier access.

Polovtsian dances, an excerpt from Prince Igor, by Borodin
Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff
Lieutenant Kijé, by Prokofiev
Pictures at an Exhibition, by Mussorgsky, as orchestrated by Ravel
The Firebird, by Stravinsky
(but not everything from Stravinsky is easy!)

And I second Sheherazade and Danse macabre.

Are these accessible?
The Love for Three Oranges (the orchestral suite), by Prokofiev
Hary Janos, by Kodaly

I suggest to listen to the open-air annual concerts given by some symphonic orchestras: Hessischer Rundfunk, Wiener Philharmoniker... They have already selected a programme for listeners who wouldn't have come to the regular concerts.
 

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What are a few of your absolute favorite pieces that you could not live without?... because it's very possible I am currently living without them!
1. Le buisson ardent by Charles Koechlin
2. Giacinto Scelsi's Uaxuctum
3. André Jolivet's Cinq danses rituelles
4. Richard Rodney Bennett's Spells
5. Alex North's Symphony for a New Continent
6. Maurice Ohana's Livre des Prodiges
7. Arne Nordheim's Spur
8. Marius Constant's 103 regards dans l'eau
9. Meyer Kupferman's Wings of the Highest Tower
10. A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden by Tōru Takemitsu
11. The Epic of Gilgamesh by Bohuslav Martinů
12. The Plague by Roberto Gerhard
13. Henri Dutilleux's Timbres, Espace, Mouvement
14. Luis de Pablo's Danzas Secretas
15. Luigi Dallapiccola's Three Questions with Two Answers
... plus a flock of Symphony No. 3s by Jolivet, Szymanowski, Blomdahl, Enescu, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you all for the great recommendations and discussion. You’ve given me quite a nice liszt of works to get through ;)

I suppose for some additional background, and in response to some of the discussion, I should add that what first drew me in was the music from the baroque period. Bach and Vivaldi in particular both struck a chord with me early on and I have enjoyed exploring their works. From there I started listening to The Life and Works podcasts from the Naxos Group which I found super entertaining and interesting.

There have definitely been some pieces that I have listened to and just felt it go right over my head, but that was also the case with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. The first listen sounded like a confusing mess to me, but after I’d gained more of a base and understanding I went bach to it and gave it another listen- now it’s one of my favorites! So I’ve definitely noticed that as I explore more and just learn more about the music and composers, songs that seemed confusing can suddenly start make sense.

Anyway, thanks again for all the helpful suggestions!
 

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Forget about what I can't live without. Seek out that which you cannot live without. I won't tell you to embrace this or to stay away from that. You might just hear something I absolutely loathe and find it fascinating; you might abhor a piece I revere. Rather, follow your own path of discovery. Let way lead to way.

Above are a variety of posts with suggestions. A lot of great music is listed. I don't want to recommend anything specific, but I will suggest that the well-worn classics, the "canon" or "war horses", those familiar works by the names everybody knows -- I suggest that these works are worth investigating. There's a reason why they are the masterpieces; they've been acclaimed by society -- they rise above one individual's aesthetic. One example of such a work is certainly the Beethoven Fifth. You probably cannot ignore it if you are interested in hearing classical music. Chances are good that something about it will appeal to you, but there is a possibility that you won't like it. If you don't like it, move on to something else, maybe a different composer completely. If you do like it, perhaps you might investigate the other Beethoven symphonies, and then other Beethoven works. If you read about the music, you'll eventually run across notions such as that the composer Brahms loved Beethoven. So you might then investigate Brahms. You might run into the notion that Beethoven admired a certain work by Bach, and so you might wish to tune into that particular work and see where it takes you.

There's no rush to any of this. Feel free to explore. Take chances. Listen to something by someone you haven't heard of before. Assess what you hear. If you like it, look into more by that person, or of those in his or her immediate circle. It may be a Scandinavian composer you like. Look into other composers from the north countries. It might be the form of the concerto you like. Listen to other concertos. If might be a piece from a specific era you like. Pursue other works from that era. But way will lead to way, and the adventure of discovery will prove exhiliarating.

In closing I will reveal that my own journey into classical music began when I was in my early teens, upon hearing a work titled Capriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky. Today I can say that I have probably heard every work so far listed in this thread (with the possible exception of a few on Prodromides's list). And dozens of those works I know "by heart". And there is much on those lists that is a far cry from Tchaikovsky. Way leads to way. Just keep your ears open.

Welcome to Talk Classical.
 
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