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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm curious to know how the people on this forum approach music in general?

For me, there was a general learning period in my teen years when I consumed everything I could about classical music, even going so far as to read a small encyclopdeia on composers from Pre-Rennaissance to Contemperary. I eventually began to calm down and establish a distinct taste, I still love the whole of Western Theory, its just, like everyone, somethings more than others. Now I spend my time collecting what I consider to be key Compact Discs of my favorite works.

My Philosophy
"Treasure it, memorize it, to the point where all of its beauty sounds in your head at once."
 

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Sorry if this is a little long, but I have many philosophies on music, and I'll share two.

First:

The mind is weak and completely incapable of grasping music unless the music is absorbed, reflected upon, aurally memorized, and generally listened to over and over. When I get new CD's, I listen to one CD for a whole week until I'm familiar with it. This is the only way to "get" music in my opinion. People buy a Beethoven String Quartet CD and say they don't understand it. People buy a Bellini opera CD and say it's not melodious. People buy a Mendelssohn symphony CD and find it boring. This is probably because they stuck it in the CD player, listened to it once and trusted that one hearing alone would determine if they liked it or not.

I used to be in their shoes. I bought a CD of Beethoven's Septet Op. 20 and could not even like it. Listening to the Hammerklavier for the first time made me dizzy and uninterested. This lead me to dismiss it and go back to the stuff I liked. But with effort, I listened to these works again and again. After repeated listenings, the Hammerklavier was to me the greatest piano sonata ever written. And all it took was taking the effort to listen repeatedly, listen for the details in the development, distinguish modulations and memorize the melodies. I'm not saying I understand the "score" perfectly and can write essays on each bar, I'm just saying, through my experience, music takes effort to understand; it deserves a careful, open, and industrious mind.

So I reiterate: the brain is too weak to understand music on the first hearing. That's why if someone plays a Tchaikovsky symphony or a Chopin ballade to me for the first time, I can't say whether I like it or not. And so I treat music CD's almost like a job (but a fun job). I spend one week on each until I've ingrained and familiarized the music. Then I make my own judgement. A lot of music that I might have snubbed my nose at because I just couldn't "get" it has now been embraced and cherished because I gave them more than one chance; indeed, I gave them more than 20 chances ;)

Second:

There's so much underrated and unknown classical music out there, it's a crime. There are manuscripts collecting dust in archives, there are masterpieces unrecorded, there are composers who reside in the shadows. I realized this through CD-buying. After the usual Mozart and Beethoven, I see this guy Hummel and decide to try him out. I'm blown away at his neglect. After hearing much of Chopin and Liszt, I learn of the great Alkan. From Rachmaninoff and Balakirev I see a guy named Medtner and give him a try. All of these composers deserve a higher status. Radios do a disservice when they choose Ravel's Bolero over Hummel's Septet.

So I find myself looking to the lesser known composers. My personal niche is rare Romantic piano music. Right now I'm engrossed in the Brahms four hand series from Naxos, the rare music of Alkan, Henselt, Moscheles, Thalberg, Rubinstein, and Glazunov. I also like to listen to four hand arrangements of rarities from Schubert (like his Trout Quintet and Rosamunde) Bruckner, Mahler and Tchaikovsky symphonies, operatic fantasies and various symphonic poems. That's the joy of classical music: on the main course of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Wagner, Debussy, and Shostakovich, there are little alleys that lead into gigantic pools of music. From Bach, I discovered that there's Boccherini, Geminiani, and Scarlatti. From Beethoven I discovered Schubert, Hummel, Cramer, and Weber. From Chopin I discovered Liszt, Alkan, and Thalberg.

It's a neverending journey, but that's what makes classical music so great. Unfortunately, the mainstream of classical music doesn't acknowledge this off-course journey into neglected masterpieces. They play Beethoven's Fifth over and over when his Mass in C should be given a chance. They play Debussy and Prokofiev when Schumann and Mendelssohn deserve more chances. I just can't trust them anymore when they neglect a lot of great composers/compositions. So my philosophy is to do my own exploration. If they're telling me Wagner is the best opera composer, I turn my back and check out Meyerbeer or Donizetti. I don't mean to be purposefully pompous towards them, but I've just learned that what's popular in today's classical music world does not mean anything. Weber was considered the best piano composer after Beethoven (and before the Romantics) and who can hum any of his piano sonatas now? Meyerbeer was considered the greatest operatic composer, but who listens to him now? This neglect doesn't mean their music is not worthy, it just reflects the public taste (or lack of ;)).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
From what I have heard Glazunov's 5th is suppose to be a 'Mammoth' that is unfortunately under appreceated. But I couldn't agree more about the need to memorize a composition. Composers made a vast 'edifice' with each and every composition, in and of themselves and it takes patients and interest to absorb their full 'entity'; truth be told I typically never like a composition till I've memorized at least sections of it. I've memorized many of the individual poems of Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire' (Boulez, DG, 1998), and it actually has much beautiful artistic expression equal to 'Wozzeck'. Complete 'Serlialim' on the other hand isn't music what-so-ever, at least with the works I mentioned their is a supreme element of 'expression'.
 

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My philosophy is quite simple: Before I buy anything I must have a pretty good idea I will like it. I never buy anything merely hoping I might like it. I know broadly where my tastes are: 1800-1930, mainly Post Classical and Romantic period. I like most of the main Romantic composers. I know what I don't like and that's anything atonal. I've also gone off Baroque and most Classical era music.

I am happy to accept good reputable recommendations (eg those on Amazon). I have also found the classical lists on another music forum extremely useful. Before buying I normally listen to samples and choose the best. In cases of doubt between different versions, I will always go for the big names. I never buy cheap stuff.

If at first I don't much like a piece I will put it aside and try again later. I won't persist indefinitely. If I don't like it after about three separate attempts it gets binned, but only rarely does this happen. Such rarities often stay binned, but sometimes I might give a piece another chance if I have heard something favourable.

Mostly I don't bother trying to get too deeply into the music. The main exceptions are Beethoven String Quarterts, Schumann and Schubert piano solo, and some Brahms. This doesn't mean that my mind is switched off, far from it. It's just I don't seem to get much further with some music by over-concentrating.

I enjoy discussing classical music with other knowledgeable people. I am quite passionate about my music. I don't criticise other people's tastes (sometimes I might make the odd joke, but it's not meant to be offensive), and I don't like my tastes being criticised except perhaps in a light-hearted way. I don't mind positive suggestions for new avenues, but I've probably already tried it and not liked it much. I have such a large collection anyway that I don't really need any more!



Topaz
 

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Only within the last year or two have I become really interested in classical music (I'm only 20), though now I don't listen to anything else. So I haven't heard overly much. Usually I just hire CDs from the library, generally the main composers like Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, etc. Once I start study at the Conservatorium I figure there will be plety of time to look at the lesser known composers, and in much more detail.

Basically, I'm just trying to educate myself as broadly as possible at this stage, which includes reading about composers and the periods they wrote in, etc. Music is already my whole life, and I enjoy discussing it with anyone who shares this passion. :)
 
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