Classical Music for N00bs

gekko513

macrumors 603
Original poster
Oct 16, 2003
6,302
1
I like many genres of music, and I've come to like some classical music more over the years, and I'd like to learn more and hear more, but I don't know much about what is out there.

So far I have bought Vivaldi's Concerto Op. 6 & "The Cuckoo" Concerto, parts of "The Four Seasons" and "Air" by Johan Sebastian Bach. I'm also going to buy some of Edvard Grieg's music when iTMS stops modifying the album I'm trying to buy.

Does anyone have some tips of other classical music I should sample?
 

lord patton

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
1,050
4
Chicago
wow, that's a big (and ultimately unanswerable) question.

First, try getting stuff for free. Stream some radio stations. A good place to start might be

http://theclassicalstation.org/

They're pretty much the greatest hits of classical music. You know, standard repertoire. I'm sure there are thousands of other stations on the net. Listen to that for a while. Then buy the composers you like.

Also, try getting stuff from the library. If your ethics allow, rip 'em into iTunes. If not, just listen to 'em for a few weeks. Again, you'll find what you like.

That being said, check out these composers and their works:

Bach—orchestal suites, masses, varied keyboard works
Hadyn—string quartets
Mozart—Piano concertos, operas
Beethoven—Symphonies, string quartets, piano sonatas, missa solemnis
Schubert and Schumann—songs, symphonies
Brahms—all of it, especially German Requiem
late romantic composers (post 1870)—Wagner, Sibelius, Grieg, some Liszt, some Verdi
atonal pioneers—Schoenberg, Weber, Berg
20th century—completely all over the map

That would be a good (and necessarily simplicistic) start. Also, consider picking up a textbook, something a college might use for 100 level music appreciation course. Some come with cd samplers, and if you get an old edition, it'd probably be cheap. Just remember to listen way more than you read.

Also, the record label Naxos has inexpensive, good recordings.
 

clayj

macrumors 604
Jan 14, 2005
7,475
190
visiting from downstream
Beethoven's 5th, 7th, and (especially) 9th Symphonies are classics. You must listen to them.

Wendy Carlos' Switched-On Bach and Switched-On Bach 2000 are great ways to ease into Bach... both CDs are done on Moog synthesizers and they're classics (especially the first one, which was released way back in the 1960s). Carlos' soundtrack for A Clockwork Orange is also a good way to get exposed to some synthesized classical music.
 

muffinman

macrumors 6502
Jun 1, 2005
394
0
San Diego, California
Although this is not classical music, Muse, a British Alternative rock band, incorportates classical music into it's rock.

They do it flawlessly and the classical music really blends quite nicely with the rock. One that incorporates it well is their song "Butterflies and Hurricanes."

Some other good real, famous classical music are Romanze and Pacabel's "Canon."
 

katie ta achoo

macrumors G3
May 2, 2005
9,168
2
You know I'd pop in here sooner or later. :D

Anywhoo-- MENDELSSOHN'S THIRD SYMPHONY!! WOW! Just.. WOW! It's my favorite one, by far.
Barber's Adagio for strings is intensely moving, although IMO the prevalent use of it in crappy movies has cheapened it a little.. if you can forget about its use there, it's an incredible piece.

Bartok's Romanian Folk dances are the friggin' coolest thing evar. Find it with violin and piano. It's neato. :D
Ooo, and Prokofiev's Love for three oranges. So cool! (this and the bartok can be found on Brian Lewis's CD "The Hot Canary" I'm listening to it now.. hehe)

And the Andante and Hungarian Rondo for Viola and Orchestra by Carl Maria von Weber.. I LOVE IT! I was going to do it on my recital, but it hurt too much to play. :(

ANY Shostakovich is very YES!! The 8th string quartet is so amazing. It's driving music for me. I just stick it on, roll down the windows, and go. the 2nd movement is my favorite.

Rachmaninoff's symphonic dances are quite possibly the coolest Rachmaninoff piece ever.

opus 44(US iTunes link) by Dvorak is the neatest wind serenade ever. I could listen to it all day. It's also on my "driving music" playlist.

There's more, but it currently hurts to type (I was playing viola a little too hard before this.. :eek:)
so in short: Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Shostakovich, and KT is a nerd.
 

gekko513

macrumors 603
Original poster
Oct 16, 2003
6,302
1
Thanks for all the suggestions.

I'm currently listening to the Nutcracker, and I'm liking it. I've definitely heard a lot of it before ("Valse des fleurs" for instance). I just didn't know the names.

Edit: katie, yes, I assumed you could give me some advice here. :D
 

katie ta achoo

macrumors G3
May 2, 2005
9,168
2
clayj said:
Truer words were never spoken. :p
:eek: (click on the dang face!)
It's so true.

If anyone opens up a de-nerdding center, I'll be your #1 patient.

gekko- Also check out Tchaikovsky's fourth and fifth symphonies. And Dvorak's Violin Sonatina. Cutest piece you will hear in your whole life.

Ooo.. and this is probably been already mentioned, but Ravel's Bolero. So hot the piece! *fans self*
 

gekko513

macrumors 603
Original poster
Oct 16, 2003
6,302
1
katie ta achoo said:
ANY Shostakovich is very YES!! The 8th string quartet is so amazing. It's driving music for me. I just stick it on, roll down the windows, and go. the 2nd movement is my favorite.
I thought you always made sure to keep your car windows closed for fear of car theft. :confused: :p


Ooh, even more suggestions. I recognise a lot of the composers, but I wouldn't have known where to start if I didn't get some specific suggestions, so thanks again, all.
 

wrc fan

macrumors 65816
I really like Baroque music (which gets lumped in with Classical music for the most part). I only have a few pieces from Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi though. One of my favorite pieces is one I downloaded off the web by Vivaldi called "Flute Concerto." Anyway, if anyone has some Baroque recommendations I'd appreciate it.
 

Stampyhead

macrumors 68020
Sep 3, 2004
2,294
30
London, UK
I'm not a huge fan of Baroque music, but if you must listen to it try some vocal or choral music, like Bach's B Minor mass. Any of Bach's choral music is worth listening to. Gluck's opera "Orpheus and Eurydice" is also very nice, for Baroque music.
Now, for the real classical music I tend to agree with a lot of what KT recommended, although Shostakovitch may be a little intense for a beginner. You could try his first symphony. It's a joyful little piece that he wrote when he was only 17 (gives Mozart a run for his money in the child prodigy department). Speaking of child prodigies, check out some music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He wrote some of his most beautiful music before the age of 15. He later emigrated to the US from Germany and made a name for himself writing film music in the early days of Hollywood.
Be sure to check out some of works of the earlier Russian composers, like Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherezade" and Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (by the way, in Moussorgsky's name the accent is on the first syllable, not the second one as is commonly heard).
There's so much good music I could go on all night. Check out the music of Richard Strauss, Bela Bartok, Samuel Barber (look for "Knoxville, Summer 1915"), opera music by Puccini, Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Verdi, and opera and choral music by Francis Poulenc. His Sabat Mater and his opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites" have some of the most hauntingly beautiful music I've ever heard.
And KT, Mendelssohn's 3rd symphony is wonderful, but his 4th is probably the most user friendly!
 

faintember

macrumors 65816
Jun 6, 2005
1,363
0
the ruins of the Cherokee nation
As a contemporary composer i will suggest composers within the past 150 years, and leave the older music to those most knowledgable/suited to it.

John Adams-"Harmonium"
Phillip Glass-"Mishima"
Steve Reich-"City Life, New York Counterpoint" and for old school kicks "It's gonna rain" and "Come out"
Samuel Barber-"Adagio for Strings"
Henryk Górecki- "Symphony No.3, Op. 36"
Gyorgy Ligeti- "Lux Aeterna, String Quartet No. 2"
John Tavener-"Hymns to the Mother of God"
Iannis Xenakis-"Xas"
Alfred Schnittke-"Collected Songs Where Every Verse is Filled With Grief"
Elliot Carter-"String Quartet No. 2"
Giacinto Scelsi-"Ko-Tha: trois danses de Shiva: pour percussioniste jouant une guitare amplifée"
Pauline Oliveros-"Nike"
Mark Applebaum-"Mouseketier Praxis"
Morton Feldman-"Why Patterns"
Karlheinz Stockhausen-"Gesang der Junglinge"
Brian Ferneyhough-"Unity Capsule"

For somewhat older music:
Wolfgang Mozart-"Requiem Mass"
Edward Elgar-"Enigma Variations"
Igor Stravinsky-"The Rite of Spring"
Richard Wagner-"Prelude to 'Tristan and Isolde'"
 

macgeek2005

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2006
1,098
0
gekko513 said:
I like many genres of music, and I've come to like some classical music more over the years, and I'd like to learn more and hear more, but I don't know much about what is out there.

So far I have bought Vivaldi's Concerto Op. 6 & "The Cuckoo" Concerto, parts of "The Four Seasons" and "Air" by Johan Sebastian Bach. I'm also going to buy some of Edvard Grieg's music when iTMS stops modifying the album I'm trying to buy.

Does anyone have some tips of other classical music I should sample?
Start with Bach. Anything Bach. Bach is the core of our humanity. He is the core of music. He is the core of everything. His music is written in the patters that our planets rotate the sun, the way the water falls down a waterfall, and the way a tree blows in the wind. His music IS the sound incarnate of those natural occurences.

After that, Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Dvorak.. and then whatever you want.
 

xsedrinam

macrumors 601
Oct 21, 2004
4,347
1
This may sound lame, but try googling cartoons and TV Series and Classical Music. It would probably surprise you how many well recognized melodies used are actually classical pieces. Though the Lone Ranger may not be very well recognized in Scandinavian countries, I can think of four composers whose works were used in that TV Series, alone. ROSSINI, MENDELSSOHN, LISZT and BERLIOZ
 

DZ/015

macrumors 6502a
Mar 23, 2003
875
21
New England
Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D. Whenever I hear it, I must stop everything and listen. I have a version on vinyl by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It is, in a word, beautiful.
 

Chundles

macrumors G4
Jul 4, 2005
11,966
379
EricNau said:
Oh hell yeah. Play it when a storm's rolling in - makes it seem waay more dramatic. I've also read that it's the most dangerous song to drive to, everyone drives like a maniac when it's playing, same with the theme from James Bond films.
 

cait-sith

macrumors regular
Apr 6, 2004
248
1
canada
Wow, lots of great suggestions here. I'm going to grab a few.

Debussy is a french composer from the late 19th-early 20th century, and wrote some amazing pieces. Check out "String Quartet in G", "La Mer", and "Prélude À L'après-midi d'un faune", "Arabesque", "Clair de Lune", and a great little collection he wrote called "Children's Corner".

Ravel was a lot like Debussy, came a bit after him, many say he copied him but I think he was a better aranger. Check out his "String Quartet in C", and "Bolero".

Dvorak's "New World Symphony" is a great piece and something you've likely heard many times but didn't know what it was. It's used in Ren and Stimpy a lot.

Villa-Lobos is a Brazilian composer that wrote a lot of great guitar pieces. I play classical guitar so he's one of my favourites. Check out "Prelude No. 2 in E" and "Suite Popolar Braileira". You might also want to look at another great composer for guitar, Antonio Lauro. "Valse Venezolano" is probably my favourite guitar piece, tied with his piece "Maria Lusia".

Chopin was a half-polish half-french composer from the 19th century that wrote some of the most amazing piano works. Of note are "Valse in D flat major" aka the Minute Waltz, something you've definitely heard. Another amazing piece by him is "Prelude op. 28 in F# minor". Pretty much anything by Chopin is wonderful.

Stravinsky was a somewhat radical composer, I believe he was russian exiled and living in France in the 20th century. He wrote some amazing pieces, including some ballets like "The Rite of Spring", and "The Firebird". He was pretty out there and I don't know how much you will enjoy his music at first, it's what some might call "advanced" listening. But keep him in mind.

Tchaikovsky has gotten a lot of mention and for good reason, he's awesome. Check out "Swan Lake", that's my favourite ballet of his. Also, try his "Valse Sentimentale". It's an awesome, if not spooky, little piece.

As for some one-off numbers that come to mind, Saint-Saens "Danse Macabre", Shostakovich's "Festive Overture, op. 96", Domeniconi's "Koyunbaba", Dukas' "L'Apprenti Sorcier" (it's from Fantasia, neat piece), Rossini's "Thieving Magpie", and Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf".

These are all great pieces and I recommend you get your hands on them.
 

cait-sith

macrumors regular
Apr 6, 2004
248
1
canada
katie ta achoo said:
Ooo.. and this is probably been already mentioned, but Ravel's Bolero. So hot the piece! *fans self*
It could easily be the soundtrack to making love.

I think Ravel developed parkinsons in his old age and that explains the repetitive nature of this piece.
 

EricNau

Moderator emeritus
Apr 27, 2005
10,648
31
San Francisco, CA
Chundles said:
Oh hell yeah. Play it when a storm's rolling in - makes it seem waay more dramatic. I've also read that it's the most dangerous song to drive to, everyone drives like a maniac when it's playing, same with the theme from James Bond films.
Funny you should mention that. iTunes Link :D
 

encephalon

macrumors member
Jul 18, 2002
71
0
Some of my favorites

Beethoven, Symphony No. 7 - The second movement is wonderfully brooding
Alexander Borodin, String Quartet No. 2 - Beautiful. Written for his wife if I remember correctly
Brahms, Symphony No. 3 - Great orchestral music and quite fun to perform!
Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 4 - Hugely epic piece of music.
Aaron Copland, Rodeo - Classic american west piece.
Antonin Dvorak, String Quartet No. 12 - Incredibly interesting and optimistic. Always makes me smile.
Edward Elgar, Cello Concerto in E minor - Great concerto piece. Staple of a cellist's literature.
Gustav Holst, The Planets - Can't believe it hasn't been mentioned yet! Great imagery. I love the themes in each movement.
Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 5 - I love the first few lines of the first movement. Great intro.
Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian Easter Festival Overture - Fun piece with a number of instrumental solos.
Saint-Saens, Symphony No. 3 "Organ" - It's got an organ in it!
Sibelius, Symphony No. 2 "Finlandia" - The brass fanfare makes my hair stand on end.
Richard Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra - The introduction is one of the most recognizable classical pieces thanks to a certain little film.
Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto - My favorite violin concerto, followed closely by Mendelssohn's.
Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Talis - Reminds me of LoTR-like fantasy books. Very noble sounding.

Have fun!
 

Toreador93

macrumors regular
Sep 14, 2003
190
0
Here are some of my favorites, that I have. You can borrow and expand it if you want, but I'm trying to go for more exciting pieces. For example, Bach's Air on G String just doesn't do it for me, unless I'm trying to fall asleep.

J.S. Bach:

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Prelude & Fugue in C minor (BWV 847)
Sarabande
Bouree
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (first movement)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (first movement is best)
Violin Concerto in D minor 'Double' Vivace (BWV 1043)

Beethoven

Für Elise
Moonlight Sonata
Symphony No. 5
"Ode to Joy" Symphony No. 9

Fryderyk Chopin (The only Romance composer I like. And he's phenomenal!):

Piano Nocturne in Eb Major, Op. 9 No. 2
"Revolutionary" Etude
Waltz in Db Major, Op. 64 No. 1
"Funeral March" Piano Sonata No. 2 in Bb Minor, Op. 35
Fanaisie Impromptu Op. 66

Grieg

In The Hall Of The Mountain King

Mozart

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
"Turkish March" Piano Sonata No. 11 (Third Movement)
Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major

Mussorgsky

A Night On Bald Mountain

PachelBel

Canon in D

Richard Strauss

Also Sprach Zaratustra

Schubert

Der Erlkönig (opera, but had to make the list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Erlkönig )

Vivaldi

Concerto in C Major - Allegro (RV 425)
Four Seasons

Wagner

Ride of the Valkyries