View Full Version : Getting Into Classical and Contemporary Music

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12-16-2011, 04:30 PM
To my ex's disgust, the only classical music that I was familiar with was that, which has been used in skating. :P :saint:

I finally need to tackle this. I've been avoiding it for a very long time, because it seems quite overwhelming and I have no idea where to start.

Any good resources, websites, music labels, etc. which you could recommend?

Another big problem is organising it in iTunes. Given you have the composer and the performer. How do you usually deal with that?

12-16-2011, 09:14 PM
Well, since "classical music" is a pretty huge pool to jump into, you could maybe narrow things down a bit by saying which pieces from skating have particularly appealed to you. That might give us some ideas of your tastes, and we can suggest some additional pieces from there.

Another way to start would be to go to your library and get out some "best of" CD collections. Those usually contain the "classical hits," sort of a core literacy for classical music. And again, it will help you discover what you like.

In terms of iTunes, I don't find it a problem -- there is a slot in the Properties for identifying composer, and then you can choose whether you want to sort all your tracks by composer of performer. I tend to break my playlists down further, too -- one playlist for large orchestral works, another for solo & small ensembles, another for choral. Or you can organize by musical period -- Medieval + Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern. Etc. Depends on you you like to play them.

12-16-2011, 09:35 PM
Well, since "classical music" is a pretty huge pool to jump into, you could maybe narrow things down a bit by saying which pieces from skating have particularly appealed to you. That might give us some ideas of your tastes, and we can suggest some additional pieces from there.This!

I guess for me, the way it started was I bought the cheapie CD's (which are actually pretty good quality) from stores and went from there. I didn't know what I would like, so my collection ranges a pretty wide gamut. But I soon figured out that I'm partial to the Romantic era, so I have a lot more of Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Rimsky-Korsakov & Chopin, than I do of Bach, Mozart or Handel.

12-16-2011, 09:50 PM
Good advice from everyone. My mom's favorite composer is Chopin, and the way we found this out was that every time she heard me play something on the piano and said, "I LOVE that!" it happened to be Chopin. :) Listening to lots of different composers from the different eras (identified by Artemis above) will help you discover what appeals to you.

12-16-2011, 10:01 PM
You might enjoy this (http://www.therestisnoise.com/) weblog.

Aussie Willy
12-16-2011, 10:21 PM
Years ago friends of the family lent us a 12 album (yes vinyl records) set of classical music which were a fantastic musical introduction. Had things like Bolero (way before T&D used it) and lots of other popular classics.

Personally I don't care how people get a classical music education, whether it be from Bugs Bunny cartoons, Disney's Fantastia or skating, it is still exposure to music.

But I would recommend listening (although these have a personal bias) to Beethoven symphonies (my favourite is the Pastoral), Bach solo suites for cello, Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Peter and the Wolf (because of the great use of instruments), Carnival of the Animals (again because of the way instruments are used), Bach Brandenberg Concertos and then if you want something more modern classic Shostokovich Jazz Suite No 2.

And go to concerts, whether they be small groups or a full orchestra.

12-17-2011, 02:09 AM
And go to concerts, whether they be small groups or a full orchestra.I agree. I have a recording of "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and I'd listened to it a few times but didn't really take too much notice of it. But one year, I was able to go to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and that was one of the pieces they played. I thought I'd died from the sheer beauty of it, and it is now my favorite piece of classical music. That would not have happened had I not gotten to hear it live.

12-17-2011, 02:34 AM
If you still listen to the radio, and if you have a classical station in your area, tune your radio in. Drive to it. Wake up to it. Let it be natural. As you find the composers you like you will then know what to buy.

My experience was such a natural one. My father was a music critic. We didn't have the first TV in the neighborhood, but we did have the first stereo. I went to sleep every night with dad reviewing records in the living room.

Here's a list of some of my suggested composers.

Tchaikovsky. I always come back to him - ballets, symphonies and especially concertos.

Rossini - A favorite is "Pines of Rome"

Ralph Vaughn Williams - (Ralph is pronounced Rafe) - So many of Vaughn Williams pieces are based on English folk tunes. There isn't much I don't like

Ravel - Daphnis and Chloe (not the whole ballet), La Mer, and lots of everything else.

Beethoven - has become more appealing to me in my later life. Symphony #5 - especially the last movement. No. 3, and No. 9

Brahms - Any of the 4 symphonies and so much else.

Rimsky Korsakov - Sheherazade

Dvorak - New World Symphony

Smetana - Die Moldau

Most of the impressionist composers. A lot of Mozart and Bach but I pick and choose there.

Gershwin - almost everything

Grofe - Grand Canyon Suite

Grieg - lots - especially the piano concerto

Rachmaninoff - lots - especially the piano concertos #2 and #3 - and rhapsody on a theme of paganini.

Saint Seans - lots - Rondo Capriccioso, Carnival of the Animals

Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition

Copeland - Lots, Lincoln Portrait, Billy the Kid, Rodeo,


Here's a link to a good Top 40 list - http://www.classical89.org/community/top40/ Do it little by little and just let it happen.

12-17-2011, 02:47 AM
Many great suggestions here.

I am a big fan of classicalarchives.com (http://www.classicalarchives.com). Besides streaming loads of recordings, they also provide educational presentations on various composers, artists, and genres.

NPR Classical (http://www.npr.org/music/genres/classical/) and BBC 3 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/) are also worth checking out. BBC 3's "Composer of the Week" series is fun and educational.

As far as iTunes, I find composer, title & performer is usually enough. My version of iTunes also organizes by album so that's helpful.

12-17-2011, 04:41 AM
How about starting chronologically?

There's so much to explore in classical music, and as you get more into it, you'll naturally find out what composers and types of music you like. Personally, I'd start off with some smaller, shorter works rather than complete symphonies (like most of what's on the top40 list above).

My favorite site for listening to classic music is youtube. :)

Here's my personal recommendation of classical music to start with. Of course, the list has my biases--I played piano so I'm most familiar with piano music and I love music that has a beautiful, song-like quality.

Start with some Bach pieces (Italian Concerto... especially the 2nd movement) or Scarlatti piano sonatas (try the Horowitz recording of L23 first), then move on to Rossini (one of my favorite pieces is the overture to Cenerentola... so sparkling and charming!) and Mozart--some of his piano sonatas (K.330, K.570) or popular vocal arias and the 2nd movement of his clarinet concerto. Haydn's 2 cello concertos are incredible (try the Rostropovich recordings).

Then, foray into Beethoven (not my personal favorite...) and Schubert. I love Schubert's vocal music and his piano impromptus. And the Arpeggione sonata and Drei Klavierstucke (piano). Also Brahms: Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118 No. 2

Take a side tour of Chopin. His nocturnes are always popular, but maybe also try the Andante Spianato and Grande polonaise. Li Yundi plays my favorite version. The 2nd movement of his 2nd piano concerto is also incredibly beautiful.

Then if you love cello music, I'd highly recommend the Elgar cello concerto played by Jacqueline du Pre. It's legendary.

Russian music: Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, of course. All of their piano concertos are staples of the piano repertoire (try the recordings by Martha Argerich). Ballets. Some incredibly beautiful shorter works (Rachmaninov piano prelude Op. 32 No. 5 and Op. 32 No. 10, art songs; Tchaikovsky's piano Dumka and Seasons). I love Tchaikovsky's Piano trio in a minor--the first movement and its haunting melancholy. Other works: Shostakovich String quartet No. 8, Glinka-Balakirev The Lark, Prokofiev Toccata.

French music: Ravel (Pavane, Gaspard de la nuit). Ravel's piano concerto in G major is a lot of fun in the 1st and 3rd movements and has an incredibly beautiful 2nd movement.

12-17-2011, 05:17 AM
I second the BBC site, which archives live performances for at least seven days. There are a lot of radio stations you can access through the internet. Some of my favorites from North America are:

WQXR in NYC (http://www.wqxr.org/?utm_source=ad&utm_medium=splash&utm_campaign=q1216c)

WFMT in Chicago (http://www.wfmt.com/)

There may be a pledge drive page for these at least part of the year, because they are publicly supported stations, but that usually means an extra click.

According to the Metropolitan Opera website, WQXR broadcasts the Metropolitan Opera Saturday broadcasts, which run from December-April, and which probably start around 8-9pm CST.

If you like baroque music, on 21 January will be an HD live transmissions in movie theaters worldwide of "The Enchanted Island", a pastiche made from a bunch of different composers, including Vivaldi, Rameau, and Handel; it was a practice that was not uncommon back in the day. (Here's the list (http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/poland.aspx) of theaters for Poland.) Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch direct and design it. I'm not a fan of countertenors, but those who are rave about David Daniels (Prospero), and Placido Domingo is singing Neptune. I can rave about the mezzo, Joyce diDonato (Sycorax), and the guy who plays Caliban, Luca Pisaroni, is as :grope: as he sounds.

CBC 2 -- Variety of Music (http://www.cbc.ca/radio2/)

medici tv (http://www.medici.tv/) has a combination of paid and free stuff.

12-17-2011, 10:02 AM
Thanks, that's all very helpful! :)

I'll start checking all the links out.

I am really interested in music and listen to pretty much everything that gets released (in the UK anyway). My music taste ranges from System of a Down to Kylie Minogue so with classical music I also want to listen to as much stuff as possible. And there's the educational aspect, as in I want to find out about as many historical periods, styles and composers as possible.

But to narrow things down, the stuff that I particularly like:

- crazy, avantgarde, disjointed stuff (like Stravinski's "The Rite of Spring" - though I have to say that most of contemporary music is too much even for me, but I'm very open minded ;))

- opulent, baroque (I mean character and not time period) stuff (like Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah")

- dark, brooding stuff that makes you want to cut all your veins sideways (can't think of any examples but think of the kind mood that the non-remixed version of Requiem for a Dream score and this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTwfPFQMo0g) have).

As for iTunes, I guess I could put the composer as Artist and the performer as Album Artist maybe.

12-17-2011, 02:44 PM
Brahms and Rachmaninoff came to mind as I was reading your post, Ziggy. They did dark, brooding, and opulent very well.

Try this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36wboEfyQxM) on for size. (My favorite recording of this one is by Murray Perahia, but I can't find his performance of it on YouTube.)

You might also enjoy Beethoven's later string quartets and piano sonatas.

12-17-2011, 03:30 PM
One way my Music Literature Professor had us start going through each classical period was to go to Pandora.com and make radio stations using a time period or style - Baroque, gregorian chant, etc., - or a composer from a time period we wished to become acquainted with, and then letting the station just play as we did other things. If I heard something I really liked, I'd see what it was and keep a document with all the pieces I enjoyed from that period and start buying them on iTunes.

Have you tried Wagner? He's definitely dark, brooding, and opulent. If you listen to him (or Brahms, or Rachmainoff), and decide you like him, then you could throw his name into Pandora and it will give you composers like him. It's a really great tool, I just wish it had fewer ads now :-/

And I would suggest to anyone wishing to learn more about classical music to listen to all of Beethoven and Brahms' symphonies (nine from Beethoven, four from Brahms). I'd suggest the von Karajan recordings of the former, with the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Simon Rattle recordings of the latter, also with Berlin Phil.

Oh - and I would suggest the Simon Rattle/Berlin Phil recording of 'A German Requiem' by Brahms as well. It's just amazing. I have a hard time believing anyone who is human wouldn't like it.

12-17-2011, 03:49 PM
There was a fascinating series that ran on CBC a couple of years ago. It included popular music as well as classical, but each episode was interesting. There's lots of humour as well as info.

Each discussion is about 25 minutes long and includes clips of related music as well as the main piece. I particularly like the discussions on "Eroica", "The Rite of Spring" and "Tristan and Isolde". Not what you are looking for, but "Brother Can you Spare a Dime" and "We shall Overcome" are also really interesting.