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04.11.20 Fiddy's Top Classical Pieces, Vol. 202.26.20 Fiddy's Curated Salsa Compendium (Playl
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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.
1Takacs Quartet
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)
2Lili Boulanger
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.
3Frederic Chopin
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)
4Kronos Quartet
Black Angels

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
5Morton Feldman
Rothko Chapel

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
6Joep Franssens
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.
7Gustav Mahler
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
8Maurice Ravel
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
9Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

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.
10The 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
11Alexander Scriabin
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
12Dmitri Shostakovich
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
13Igor Stravinsky
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
14Pierre Boulez
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)
15Iannis Xenakis
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)
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