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Getting Into Classical and Contemporary Music

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Ziggy, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    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?
  2. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member


    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.
  4. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. falling_dance

    falling_dance Coaching Patrick

    You might enjoy this weblog.
  6. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    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.
  7. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. A.H.Black

    A.H.Black Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  9. eusebius

    eusebius Active Member

    Many great suggestions here.

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

    NPR Classical and BBC 3 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.
  10. altai_rose

    altai_rose Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  11. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    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

    WFMT in Chicago

    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 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

    medici tv has a combination of paid and free stuff.
    SaSherka and (deleted member) like this.
  12. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    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 have).

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

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

    Brahms and Rachmaninoff came to mind as I was reading your post, Ziggy. They did dark, brooding, and opulent very well.

    Try this 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.
  14. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. cygnus

    cygnus Well-Known Member

    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.

  16. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Stravinsky has some other pieces you might like:

    Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major
    Symphony in C
    Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra
    Apollon Musagete
    Concerto in D for String Orchestra

    For drama, few deliver better than Shostakovich in his symphonies. Also his Piano Trio No. 2. I've never heard any of his chamber music that I didn't like.

    The Bartok string quartets are edgy, maybe the edgiest of all. His "Concerto for Orchestra" is less so, but it's beautiful.

    For electronic music, there's George Crumb's "Black Angels", and no one plays it better than Kronos Quartet: the music inspired them to form. They do interesting stuff, regardless of the genre. I love their "Nuevo" album.

    Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" is a great piece of work.

    I'm a big fan of Prokofiev's "Classical Symphony", and Leos Janacek's "Sinfonietta".
  17. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    "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 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."

    I'm going to the Met performance on January 12; I'll let you know what I think. It is either going to work or it isn't; I don't think there will be any middle ground.

    Kwanfan, it's OK, I am a countertenor groupie and my love makes up for any dislike on your part.
  18. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

    If you want to take a listen to classical vocal music, this internet radio stream is heaven: http://www.weta.org/fm/vivalavoce

    I've learned an incredible amount just from listening to this.

    WETA also streams live instrumental classical on the web: http://www.weta.org/fm
  19. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Since you're a skating fan, you might also try finding the rest of the piece used in one of your favorite skating routines.
  20. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Watch documentaries too. I really like ones that talk about music and analysis of pieces. That way you can get a real understanding of what a piece of music is about.
  21. LilJen

    LilJen Reaching out with my hand sensitively

    I'm STILL waiting for someone to skate to this. Was rooting for Johnny Weir to skate to it back in the day when he was still skating to good music.
  22. DustPuppyOI

    DustPuppyOI Well-Known Member

    Many people would shudder at the prospect but I think that Disney's Fantasia (especially the first one) are great for introducing people to classical music - just ignore the blocky centaurs. I'm not as fond of Fantasia 2000 because they shortened a number of the pieces of music. The Pines of Rome and Firebird were done nicely though.

    If your library has some Balanchine DVD's, I've found his neoclassical ballets to music not intended to be for ballet rather illuminating. Paris Opera's recent Jewels production, should be pretty widely available. Arvo Pärt is a fairly popular contemporary composer in the ballet world right now especially since Christopher Wheeldon has been using his works a lot like this central pas de deux from his "After the Rain" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VibqEWACdRo (music is Spiegel Im Spiegel). For me, sometimes dance distracts from the music (I'm not particularly fond of Jerome Robbins' treatment of Ravel's Concerto in G major - loved the music on its own, dance didn't help) but often enhances the music (love Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements by Stravinsky - wouldn't listen to it on its own). I'm still surprised that not many skaters (if any?) use Bruch's Violin Concerto with the last movement featured here in this ABT performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvl7v9VwjOM.

    The one thing you do have to find time for is to just sit, concentrate and listen. Not having visual action to go with it makes the brain work in a different fashion.
  23. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Excellent -- I can't wait to hear about it!


    Ziggy, my favorite Ravel is "Le Tombeau de Couperin". There are orchestra and chamber music versions, and the piano version.

    DustPuppyOI's suggestion about finding dance videos with choreography set to classical music is a great one. Balanchine used to say that if you hate the dancing, close your eyes, and you'll get a really good concert.
  24. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

    Oh but I love dance, especially contemporary.
  25. Scintillation

    Scintillation New Member

    I played this piece with a chamber orchestra for a graduate student's recital and it is SUBLIME.
    My favorite Ravel piece is probably "Alborada del gracioso", a really cool piece with a definite Spanish flair. I have an obsession with Spanish music though, so I'm biased.
    Ravel was an absolute master of orchestration--he and Debussy both knew how to write for every instrument, how to make each one shine, and how to have them work together in the most harmonious manner possible.
  26. DustPuppyOI

    DustPuppyOI Well-Known Member

    I like kwanfan1818's suggestion, i.e. to take the skating music and listen to it uncut. The good thing about dance is that they tend to take the music as is or at least orchestrate it. (It's also the reductions, like Gottschalk's Grand Tarantelle that's used by NYCB that drives me nuts. I love the original work - having it shortened makes me shudder.)

    If you liked Lu Chen's 1995 SP, finish listening to the entire Mendelssohn's First Piano Concerto and if you like it, you may as well listen to his popular violin concerto in E minor.

    If you like Carolina Kostner's Shostakovich SP to his Trio No. 2 this season, finish listening to his entire thing and then go find videos of Concerto DSCH (http://www.nycballet.com/company/rep.html?rep=579) to his Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102 and have a listen.

    Also, you can't go wrong with listening to the whole Naqoyqatsi by Philip Glass courtesy of Jeff Buttle, then branch out to other works by Philip Glass and see In the Upper Room to ... or Glass Pieces.

    I'm not the most versed in the contemporary world but there are some borderline ballet works with some interesting modern (in the classical vein) music in addition to Arvo Pärt's Spiegel Im Spiegel that I linked to earlier.
    * In the Upper Room (music by Philip Glass): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbLW0Jzh05w
    * Glass Pieces (Rubric and Façades from Glassworks, excerpts from the opera Akhnaten by Philip Glass): http://www.nycballet.com/company/rep.html?rep=82, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUNQLkzIjyU
    * Red Doves (Maxwell's Demon by Richard Einhorn) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7W8jwsYz6A
    * In the Middle Somewhat Elevated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVWf-JDw8CQ&feature=related, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLWDtbHNzxw, http://www.last.fm/music/Thom+Willems/_/In+The+Middle,+Somewhat+Elevated
    To more classical music
    * Here's the segment of Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove set to Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 82 in C "The Bear": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAomju3d4xs. Of course trust Tharp to pair it with Joseph Lamb's Bohemia Rag.
    * Here's a segment of William Forsythe's Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude to the last movement of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DY328Aeu5A
    * I'm a sucker for Gottschalk so here's recent choreography to his Souvenir de Porto Rico, The Dying Poet, Tournament Galop, La Savane / Oh Ma Charmante, Le Bananier, La Manchiega. These are all orchestrations of the solo piano works.

    If you think about it, as a skating fan, you're already exposed to a lot more classical music than the average person. The problem though is that you're overexposed to Bizet's Carmen, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Nutcracker, Rodrigo's Aranjuez, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto Nos. 2 and 3. You just have to branch off into other works by these composers or their contemporaries.
  27. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

    I am partial to the baroque era in music. I love Vivaldi and Bach. We studied Gregorian chants and Renaissance music in grade 9, Grade 10 we studied Baroque, then grade 11 Classical and grade 12 Romantic era music.

    I would start at the very beginning with gregorian, wikipedia is a great resource to get you started and then work your way up. It was really cool listening to the development of music from texture, tone, and polyphony etc.
  28. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

  29. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

    Me too! It's in my top 3 of I-wish-someone-would-skate-to-this pieces. One of the others is another Vaughn Williams, "The Lark Ascending." I know Angela Nikodinov did it back in her time, but I don't think she really did justice to the lightness and airyness and sublime beauty of the music. I'd like to see someone like Mao do it. Or a pairs team, that could be awesome.

    The other is Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain." Not sure who I'd vote for to skate that one -- maybe Patrick Chan, or Daisuke Takahashi. Or hey, how about Javier Fernández, that would be fitting!
  30. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

    Didn't Yuna Kim use Lark Ascending? Or am I thinking of something else?