Tag Archives: 1001 classical works

🎻♫♪ – Dances of Galánta by Zoltán Kodály

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
115/501Title: Dances of Galánta
Composer: Zoltán Kodály
Nationality: Hungarian
Year:
1933

As someone who has seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind a number of times as a kid, I should probably have had even the slightest glimmer of recognition at the name Zoltán Kodály. I was always a bit puzzled in the film when, in order to communicate the specific music tones, they adopted some peculiar hand signals as another way to convey it. Turns out they are derived from Kodály’s work and now a mini mystery from my film-watching childhood has been solved.

Back when Kodály was born, Slovakia was still part of Austria-Hungary, which helps further explain in my own head how this Hungarian composer ended up spending part of his childhood in the very Slovakian area of Galánta. His piece Dances of Galánta is a classical take on the folk music of this area. It’s a short piece of about 15 minutes with a heavy helping of clarinets and a fast dancing section at the end. Really cool piece and can imagine it being fun to hear a whole orchestra perform it live.

🎻♫♪ – Les Noces by Igor Stravinsky

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
114/501Title: Les Noces
Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Nationality: Russian
Year:
1923

When this piece first started I really felt the need to double check that I had clicked play on the right thing. The beginning vocals have the feel of something more East Asian than what I would have immediately assumed from a Russian ballet. Then again, this is Stravinsky and things were about to get a lot more bonkers as it went on.

Like with The Rite of Spring, Les Noces (meaning ‘The Wedding’) is a primal piece. He is infusing more traditional folk music into his classical composition – which is likely where the beginning sounding more Asian probably came into it. It feels primal because… well you just have to listen to it without knowing what the ballet was meant to represent. If you had told me this was the music to Midsommer or The Wicker Man I would have probably believed you.

This is a stunning piece of work and will probably end up being one my favourite classical pieces that have been listened to for this list. Does it make me think that they are going to burn the bride alive at the end of the Wedding Feast? Well sure, but doesn’t that make things all the more fun!

🎻♫♪ – Fêtes Galantes by Claude Debussy

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
113/501Title: Fêtes Galantes
Composer: Claude Debussy
Nationality: French
Year:
1891-1904

A really short piece this time around at just over 15 minutes courtesy of Debussy. The Fêtes galantes are a set of six short songs, made of Debussy’s melodies that were written to accompany six poems by Paul Verlaine that in turn were inspired by a painting called Fêtes galantes or, in English, Courtship Party. These songs come in two sets of three and were composed and premiered over the course of a number of years, with each set being dedicated to a different person. 

Despite having a number of pieces on the classical list, this may actually be the first piece of Debussy that I have ever knowingly heard. I had a thought that when I saw one of the titles was ‘Clair de lune’ that this would ring a bell, but as that means ‘moonlight’ I am sure there are hundreds of classical pieces with that name and there is one of those that I have heard – it is just that with my limited knowledge I am unsure who that might be.

With the exception of the second song ‘Fantoches’, which is quite a lively piece, this collection is a beautiful and yet quite melancholy set. There is a sweetness in there too, but I guess I find it hard to tell those two apart when they are sung in a language I don’t quite understand. In the end, the tenderness is a longing for love and a putting yourself out there… which unless overblown is rather subdued. Give how short this was, I guess I am due a bombastic opera next time, or something of the like.

🎻♫♪ – Symphony no. 41, “Jupiter” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
112/501Title: Symphony no. 41, “Jupiter”
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Nationality: Austrian
Year:
1788

After a four year gap, suddenly it’s two Mozart pieces fairly close to one another. As with all things random, the first of the many Mozart symphonies that I have ended up listening to also happens to be the last one he wrote that is meant to be some culmination of his work. At least his work on symphonies.

The name ‘Jupiter’ is not contemporaneous, instead given at a later date. Apparently there is meant to be something humorous in this name, but I don’t get the joke. Maybe I should be listening to this alongside his 39th and 40th symphonies seeing how they were written around the same time and apparently can be seen as one larger work – but that’s just how it goes.

Symphony no. 41 is certainly a grand work and one with a brilliant finale. Just a bit of a pity for this to be my starting point than where I end up. Oh well, it’s not that common for me to agree with the best of an artist’s ouvre and I am sure Mozart will not be an exception to this.

🎻♫♪ – St. John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
112/501Title: St. John Passion
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Nationality: German
Year:
1724

As part of our Easter break, my husband wanted to tackle one of the Passion pieces. Well, that didn’t quite work out given all the gaming and film watching we did. So here I am on the Wednesday after Easter having to weave in this two hour piece between a whole bunch of meetings at work. Since this was meant to be played in two halves either side of a service, I guess I got the proper experience – even if it ended up being split in four rather than two.

This isn’t one of those pieces that works as well as many of the others for background working music. It’s grand and sorrowful with a regular switching up of vocalists which helps with giving the emotional heft of this piece some peaks and valleys. Makes me wonder though, as work begins to heat up towards another potential bad summer, how many more classical pieces like this I’ll be able to deal with. Probably worth getting them in now before my brain demands as much dopamine as I can give it.

🎻♫♪ – Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Gustav Mahler

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
111/501Title: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Nationality: Bohemian
Year:
1885

Time for the oldest of the Gustav Mahler pieces, a very brief song cycle whose title has been translated as either ‘Songs of a Wayfarer’ or ‘Songs of Journeyman’. These four songs, with lyrics also written by Mahler, tell four stories about a working man who has lost the love of his life to another man and how he gets over them.

We begin with a lovely flourish before hearing him mourn his loss, we go via some lightness under a tree and him wishing for a knife to end the pain before ending with things possibly being okay again. The whole piece goes by in what feels like an instant – so by the time I got part way through my writing set-up it was nearly over. Not that I cared, listening to this a few more times was a pleasure.

By the looks of it, this won’t be the last I hear of these particular pieces of music. At some point, when Mahler’s ‘Symphony no. 1’ comes out of the bucket, some of these themes will be making a return. I do look forward to seeing how it works for the second song in the cycle, it had such a lightness and a positivity to it that it would be nice to hear a longer classical work take more of a lead from such a good place.

🎻♫♪ – Chants d’Auvergne by Joseph Canteloube

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
110/501Title: Chants d’Auvergne
Composer: Joseph Canteloube
Nationality: French
Year:
1923-1954

A nice bit of a change of pace again with the classical piece of the week (which, looking back at how I originally prefaced the 1001 classicals list as being something I would do rarely, is neat to able to say) in that this feels about as close to a popular music album that I am likely to get. Chants d’Auvergne is a collection of traditional folk songs of the region that have been set to classical music by Joseph Canteloube. In essence, this is a songbook and an album of these reads similar to the acclaimed series that Ella Fitzgerald did in the 1950s when she made multi-disc albums of the composers of the Great American Songbook.

The songs themselves are still sung using the Occitan language, which is founded in the south of France with dialects of it spoken in Spain, Monaco and Italy. Given that most of the dialects of this language are endangered, there is something beautifully unique when listening to Chants d’Auvergne. 

As this is a collection of folk songs, rather than a purpose made classical piece, there is something different about these. For one, there is more levity to a number of these songs and they have a passing resemblance to a sung verse-chorus structure. Others start to get more ethereal in the same way that ‘Donna Donna’ by Joan Baez or ‘Forward, Oneroi’ from Over The Garden Wall. So yes, this was a nice and varied listen for an hour and a half.

🎻♫♪ – Piano Quintet in F minor by Johannes Brahms

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
109/501Title: Piano Quintet in F minor
Composer: Johannes Brahms
Nationality: German
Year:
1862-1864

I am enjoying my weekly visits to the classical list, even if I am finding that this kind of music is especially potent in influencing my mood as it plays. Luckily for me this Piano Quintet by Brahms, whilst it didn’t end up with me getting delusions of grandeur like some recent pieces, was light and airy enough for the most part so that I could smile my way through some routine work tasks and took my mind off of the fact that I was having some pretty major meetings later in the day.

There is some variation in this piece, with it getting slightly more tense in the ‘Scherzo’ and then a bit melancholy in the ‘Finale’, but I think just by it being a chamber music quintet and having such a positive beginning you are just happily carried on through to the end.

🎻♫♪ – Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
108/501Title: Nabucco
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Nationality: Italian
Year:
1842

It is opera time again where, once again, I am reminded just how stymied I am by not having the visuals. My husband had a YouTube recording open as he listened along, which I would catch glimpses of when I came downstairs to make a cup of tea, but I stuck with Spotify. In the end, this is about the music – so it shouldn’t matter too much how beautiful the set dressing can be for the opera. Even if the sets he were seeing were glitzy Babylonian palaces and therefore a darn sight better than what we saw for Salome.

Nabucco is the third Verdi opera that I have heard, after La Traviata and Don Carlos, but it has the distinction of being his earliest piece on the list as well as the work that propelled him to classical stardom back in his day. Set in the times of King Nebuchadnezzar, Nabucco tells the story of the Jews whose lands have been conquered by the Babylonian king and their subsequent. Like most operas, Nebuchadnezzar isn’t completely accurate and, instead, a number of Babylonian kings combined. 

This is probably most famous for ‘Va, pensiero’, a stirring song at the end of the third act that is sung by the Hebrew slaves as they long for home and for the time that they were not enslaved. It is stunning and, having read the libretto, I can see how a song like this would have become popular in a conquered Italy and how it lingers still as a call for people or institutions that are longing for the better days of old.

🎻♫♪ – Octet in F major, D803 by Franz Schubert

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
107/501Title: Octet in F major, D803
Composer: Franz Schubert
Nationality: Austrian
Year:
1824

After a few years, it is back to one of Schubert’s works – although this time more a chamber piece than his Winterreise song cycle that I listened to over Christmas many moons ago. Or was it, with all this Covid related isolation it is getting frequently harder to tell things like this. Recently I had to remind myself the month I was in and that my birthday was actually five months ago and not in the coming month. If I could go to the cinema and feel safe doing so by the time this post is up in seven months time… I would be so happy.

Anyway, back to this Octet. I really enjoyed it for how light it was. So many classical pieces can feel overly stern or claustrophobic, but this just feels like an hour of fun. Like, this hour long piece of music made of six movements feels the closest that I am going to get to the classical music equivalent of a Carly Rae Jepsen album. 

Okay that’s weird – but this is upbeat with some slow parts mixed in for good measure, there are hummable parts that repeat like a chorus and it just ends with joy. It’s not often enough that pieces like this come out of our random picking of classical pieces, but I would so love to hear more happy pieces like this. Takes the sting out of a lot of the Covid woes.