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|Fiddy's Top Classical Pieces, Vol. 1|
As the title suggests, I’m writing about some of my favorite classical pieces. I’m limiting myself to one per artists and fifteen pieces total just because this list would be just a tad repetitive and overlong otherwise. This is NOT an “intro to classical” list, but you can still feel free to use it as a “to-check” list. It is ordered in strictly alphabetical order (per composer’s last name). You will notice that most of the list leans towards the experimental, modern era of classical music; it is my favorite epoch of the genre, so most of my picks will naturally be from the said time period.
Bartok: The 6 String Quartets
Bela Bartok - String Quartet No. 4
Somewhat of an obvious pick, but I’d still call it valid; Bartok was the man. He frequently showcased traditional Hungarian music in his innovative, dense brand of modern classical and it is hardly done as well as in his six string quartets. They are all perfect, but No. 4 just has an unspoken majesty that draws me into it every time due to its sheer intensity.
Honorable Mentions: All string quartets, Concerto for Orchestra, Pieces for Strings Percussion & Celesta, Hungarian Sketches, The Wooden Prince, The Miraculous Mandarin (bestballeteverdontevenarguewitme), Violin Concerto No. 2 (total insanity)
Works of Lili Boulanger
Lili Boulanger - Du fond de'l abime (Psaume CXXX)
Huh, a female composer for a change. Who would’ve thought? Anyway, this piece is a sprawling, highly-engrossing entity that channels vaguely hopeful despair perfectly; from the bottom of the abyss. It is undoubtedly, unmistakably admirable in terms of sheer creativity and compositional prowess; I dare call it one of the most notable symphonic works of the 20th century. I cannot stress enough that you check some Lili Boulanger out, at least this piece. Unfortunately, her body of work is really limited, as she died in her early 20s.
Preludes, Op. 28
Frédéric Chopin - Preludes
Twenty four petite pieces that perfectly encapsulate the subject they’re named after. Sure, a bit cheesy at times, but still fantastic in terms of composition. They also flow very well as a cohesive unit and keep me thoroughly hooked unlike many of the Nocturnes; my personal favorite prelude is probably Hades because those chromatic runs just slay hard. Oh, and this is a great intro to Chopin.
Honorable Mention: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor (dat second movement)
George Crumb - Black Angels
While many other pieces make me feel out of my own element, give me a taste of the unknown, most don’t really manage to be downright terrifying. Black Angels is. It makes me feel as if I’m being constantly hunted down, caught in purgatory, as a paranoid shiver penetrates my innards making them feel cold to the touch.
Honorable Mention: Makrokosmos, Vol. 1
Morton Feldman - Rothko Chapel
An intimate, gorgeous atonal piece that feels endlessly evocative yet haunting. Rothko Chapel is prooooobably the best place to start with Morton Feldman, too. The man was up there with Cage in terms of challenging how music sounded and, to an extent, what it meant as a medium.
Honorable Mentions: For John Cage, For Samuel Beckett, The Viola in My Life, String Quartets, Piano Trio, Crippled Symmetry, Atlantis
Harmony of the Spheres
Joep Franssens - Harmony of the Spheres
What you need to know: Franssens’ “Spheres” is solidly cemented in the choral tradition, but still manages to feel gigantic and incredibly forward-thinking; a homage to the divinity human has constructed ideologically is ever-present. When listening to it, I feel like I’m in my mother’s womb again.
Symphony No. 9
Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 9
Mahler is, pretty much, *the* symphony composer (excluding Beethoven ffs). His symphonies are just so… massive, moving, virtuosic. There’s little as fulfilling as discovering them all in order, just to capitalize with perhaps one of the greatest works known to man yet, his ninth. As for the symphony itself… I have no words. I wish I did. Please check his symphonies in order.
Honorable Mentions: All symphonies, The Song of the Earth
Daphnis et Chloé
Maurice Ravel - Daphnis et Chloé
Well, duh. This one is a sheer compositional masterpiece. What’s more, Ravel is pretty much THE best orchestrator of all time. His skill level is almost too off the chart, too perfect, too inhuman. I could describe the fascinating ballet’s themes in-depth to the point of dullness, but I commend you to look them up yourself. It is a fantastic experience.
Honorable Mention: Pavane pour une infante difunte, La Valse
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade
Again, duh. How much more iconic can you get? This is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable pieces I’ve ever heard. It always manages to be enthralling, even as a casual listen. What most fascinates me about it is motivic development; with a few brilliant motifs, Korsakov managed to make a worthy statement that feels cohesive yet ever-evolving. Romantic in execution, yet classically aware all the same. Gotta love it.
|10||The Tale Quartet|
Schnittke: String Quartets Nos. 1-3
Alfred Schnittke - String Quartet No. 2
Serialism is a modern classical technique depending on note series, ignoring tonality as a whole and rather focusing on shapes. Schnittke’s string quartets are a great introduction to it, as well as atonal music as a whole. I love them all, but No. 2 just moves me like hardly any other piece. The way it builds up into the cathartic, desperate cry in the second movement is something so gorgeous I can’t really even put it into words.
Honorable Mentions: String quartets, Concerto Grossi No. 1 & 2, All symphonies, Requiem, Concerto for Mixed Chorus
Le poème de l'extase; Piano Concerto; Prométhée
Alexander Scriabin - Prometheus, the Poem of Fire
Much like the myth that it is inspired by, Prometheus rummages in beautiful human queries until the gorgeous conclusion that capitalizes it, setting ablaze fiery passion. Scriabin was certainly one of the best out there, and the stunning build-up and resolution of Prometheus is the proof.
Honorable Mentions: Piano Sonatas (all of them, really), Piano Concerto in F# Minor, The Poem of Ecstasy, Poéme
The String Quartets
Dmitri Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 8
Shostakovich’s most iconic quartet. The composer suffered much under the Communist regime, which limited his freedom of expression as a composer and killed many of his contemporaries for stepping out of line. He was threatened with death multiple times as some of his orchestral works were too dense for the regime. However, as chamber works weren’t scrutinized as much, Shostakovich was able to explore his continued anguish and despair through them, creating some of the most fascinating music out there yet. His subtle critique of authoritarianism permeated by an undeniable sense of autobiographical dread (read up on it) is characteristic of his 8th, but all his quartets have beautiful secrets hidden throughout which are enlightening experiences. Check them in order, please. The 15th is probably the best, but you won’t appreciate it as much unless you listen to each in order and in detail.
Honorable Mentions: Symphonies 5/7/10, String Quartets
Le Sacre du Printemps
Igor Stravinsky - Rite of Spring
Although I’m a sucker for most early Stravinsky, Rite takes the cake for me. The piece organically, beautifully evolves into a maddened craze that is steeped in Russian musical tradition whilst still looking forward tremendously. Additionally, the concept of the piece (which I encourage you to look up yourself) is nothing less than a moving homage to mankind. The piece has been talked about to exhaustion for a reason.
Honorable Mentions: Petrushka, The Firebird Suite, Rake's Progress, Symphony of Psalms
Anton Webern: Complete Works Opp 1-31
Anton Webern - Symphony, Op. 21
Webern’s music is almost… tender in ways. It’s sublime in more ways I can express; the sound of an ear exploring. I will never stop being in awe of Webern’s almost child-like voice as a composer. Taken that from the op. 17 onwards he was strictly serialist, this is made all the more impressive. His symphony is probably his most well-known piece, and it’s not hard to see why; it truly feels like a fleeting moment in heaven.
Honorable Mentions: Opp. 1 - 31 (all works)
1: Chamber Music 1955-1990
Iannis Xenakis - Kottos
Most likely my favorite composer of all time, the father of stochasticism really was one of a kind. Stochastic music, for those who don’t know, is basically serialism based on mathematical probability and architecture, yielding fascinating results with jaw-dropping soundscapes. Xenakis basically created the movement, applying his notable, statistically-based mathematical and engineering theories to his unique, deeply personal compositions (literally constructed the pieces architecturally). The man was a genius, and I do not say that lightly. I could’ve included any of his works on here, but I went with Kottos just because of how memorable it is from the first listen. The haunting piece is one of the most lyrical I’ve ever heard and manages to make the solo cello sound absolutely massive and thoroughly provoking.
Honorable Mentions: all of his chamber works, all of his orchestral works, all of his percussive works, Kraanerg (alsobestballetevernoarguing)
|I apologize in advance for the lack of space on 12 and 15; character limits suck. If you need more recommended pieces, let me know. Oh, and I'm no classical expert. This is just some of the most notable work I've heard in my short journey through the genre.|
|Major props for including George Crumb. His Apparition song cycle is really good too if you like vocal stuff. Fantastic list that balances some really obvious pieces/composers with some lesser known ones. |
|Thank you! I tried to do that. Also, I'll check that for sure. Crumb is great overall.|
|oh my commenting to check later. Thanks my man for putting all the work into this! And to think I still haven't finished Mahler's symphonies lol|
|Great choices. You should include your favourite recordings for each. |
|Also expect Alex to get triggered by 4,5 etc |
|Yeah, uh, Alex is kind of unpredictable at times haha. Anyway, thanks to everyone; I'll be putting on my favorite recordings for each later today.|
|1. Takacs Quartet|
2. Orchestre des concerts Lamoureux / Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur / Igor Markevitch
3. Martha Argerich
4. Kronos Quartet
5. UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus / The California EAR Unit / Philip Brett / David Abel / Karen Rosenak / William Winant / Dorothy Stone / Arthur Jarvinen / Gaylord Mowrey
6. Netherlands Chamber Choir
7. Basically, any Abbado take
8. Choeur et Orchestre symphonique de Montréal / Charles Dutoit
9. Chicago Symphony / Fritz Reiner
10. Tale Quartet
11. Chicago Symphony / Pierre Boulez
12. Fitzwilliam Quartet
13. Chicago Symphony / Seiji Ozawa (yes, I've heard the Boulez, Stravinsky, and Bernstein takes)
14. Pierre Boulez (duh)
15. Arditti String Quartet
|Oh, and thanks on the feature!|
|Bump cuz Sput farded big time|
|No gymnopedies no list|
|I love my boi Satie, I just chose the first 15 I came across. Don't worry ;)|
|A lovely list you have here, to be sure.|
|"No gymnopedies no list"|
also arabesques or bergamasque