Tag Archives: 1001 classical works

🎻♫♪ – Violin Concerto no. 5, “Turkish” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
106/501Title: Violin Concerto no. 5, “Turkish”
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Nationality: Austrian
Year:
1775

Sometimes it’s good to flex about the music you listen to. Today was one of those days with a lot of meetings where I ended up being ask to speak – so why not have Mozart playing in the background? Like this wasn’t meant in the beginning to be a flex, but I have to say that there is an interesting amount of confidence you get from classical music when having to explain some technical concepts.

Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 is one of the earliest of Mozart’s pieces that I will end up listening to as part of this classical music challenge – although the date of this piece appears to have been somewhat inconsistent. Given how this is only the second piece I have listened to – other than Requiem many many years ago – there isn’t a lot I can make as a point of comparison. Especially as the Requiem is meant to be maudlin, compared to this concerto which was so jovial.

Looking back on my post about Requiem, it really does amaze me that there are some classical pieces where I would write massive posts about – compared to now where I mostly struggle to get to three whole paragraphs. Granted this has always been a topic where I wrote fairly little on, but I do look forward to getting one of the more well known operas or – just imagine – actually seeing a piece first hand rather than it being over Spotify.

🎻♫♪ – Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
105/501Title: Music for 18 Musicians
Composer: Steve Reich
Nationality: American
Year:
1976

Also!

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 314/1000

Music for 18 Musicians is a bit of an odd one. This is the only album that I have found, at least so far, that is on both the classical and popular music list. I guess it’s one of those things where it shows how these two worlds do touch one another. In this instance, this is where we have minimalist classical music that apparently crossed over so much that it ended up on best of lists in major music publications.

Listening to it was very much like listening to Reich’s Different Trains in that I am seeing how much the term of classical music is being stretched. There are some more regular classical instruments here, but also you have voices being used like notes on a keyboard and some interesting variation in percussive instruments.

Unlike a lot of classical pieces or popular music albums, Music for 18 Musicians comes as just a single track on the 1978 album – although other recordings of the piece have been split up into smaller tracks. It being together as one large piece does work, although there are times where I would like a signal as to far into this hour long track I am. However that’s probably just my stupid attention span.

Listening to this, the thing that came most to mind was the closing track ‘Out of Egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and I Shake the Dirt from My Sandals as I Run’ from Sufjan Stevens’ IllinoisI will probably also hear echoes of it in other more instrumental works that are in the ambient and lo-fi styles.

🎻♫♪ – String Quartets, op. 18 by Ludwig van Beethoven

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
104/501Title: String Quartets, op. 18
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Nationality: German
Year:
1800

Today at work was a weird one. A meeting all afternoon where, to be honest, I just wanted to snooze and a morning where I could just jet on with the part of my work that I actually really enjoy. So, obviously, it was this morning where I let loose the dogs of classical music for a two and a half hour blitz of Beethoven string quartets.

This is the first of two sets of string quartets that appear on the 1001 classical pieces list. Written across a few years, these were written for an early(ish) commission of his. It’s hard to really talk and differentiate between these quartets because I listened to all of them in succession and they all sounded similar enough that nothing particularly stood out other than making me feel rather intelligent. 

Having the morning time with my classical music and my happy working times really was a contrast with the three and a half hour mandatory afternoon ‘training’ session that… was pretty much useless. Made me miss my moments of grandeur as I sent e-mails off with a flourish of strings. I also wrote most of this blog during that meeting. God I was bored.

🎻♫♪ – Concerto for Orchestra by Elliott Carter

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
103/501Title: Concerto for Orchestra
Composer: Elliott Carter
Nationality: American
Year:
1969

There is a weird benefit of pulling out these classical pieces out of the old theme park popcorn container – sometimes you end up with incredibly contrasting pieces from the opposite ends of the book. Dating from the 1960s, Concerto for Orchestra is probably the most difficult piece that I have listened to for the 1001 classical pieces list. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that means this was one of the worst.

I have said a few times for other albums (both popular music and classical) that if a piece is too busy or discordant, it can trigger a panic response in me. I hate that this is a thing, but whatever this isn’t a common occurrence. Well, it began to happen with Concerto for Orchestra. Then I did something I don’t usually do – I leaned into it and really focused on the piece. 

You see, normally these classical pieces become good background music for work – but this is not the piece for that. This is a piece where, shortly after I actually started listening to it, the different elements of this 20-odd minute concerto opened up a bit. I could start to hear the large variety of instruments operating on their different rhythms … and somehow it actually made sense. Like, knowing this might be an option for these kinds of classical pieces is revelatory. I do get why a lot of people really cannot get close to liking it, but you can’t deny how interesting it is.

🎻♫♪ – Violin Sonata in G minor, “The Devil’s Trill” by Giuseppe Tartini

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
102/501Title: Violin Sonata in G minor, “The Devil’s Trill”
Composer: Giuseppe Tartini
Nationality: Italian
Year:
1765

I am not entirely sure where the idea of the devil being a fiddle player came from. Like how I am not sure about him later being related to the guitar. Is there something innately satanic about a string instrument? Or maybe the violin was the vagabond instrument of the past. 

Anyway, this doesn’t have too much to do with today’s piece – other than it supposedly being based on a dream that Tartini had and him trying to replicate the piece. A bit like ‘Tribute’ by Tenacious D, but less comedic and more complex violin solos. 

Okay, so this post is reading like a weird troll of what is a really good piece for an accomplished violin soloist. It’s interesting to note that this is Tartini’s only piece on the classical list – especially weird in this era of composers where you have nearly all of them with a wealth of entries. I wonder if this entry is down to it influencing and being included as a base in a number of future compositions.

🎻♫♪ – Livre du Saint Sacrement by Olivier Messiaen

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
101/501Title: Livre du Saint Sacrement
Composer: Olivier Messiaen
Nationality: French
Year:
1984

Warning: if you are fatigued and taking down Christmas decorations, this is not a piece you want to be listening to. There is a time and a place for this type of almost discordant organ music that are based on improvisation – but my first time listening to this was not the right time.

We later tried this again when there wasn’t the removal of tinsel involved and… wow it still made me feel uneasy. I know little to nothing about the organ as an instrument – so I am not able to comment on how difficult these pieces are. I am so in the position of not knowing what I do not know about the workings of an organ that pieces of it feel more like the mashing of hands on a keyboard than the incredibly dextrous playing that I am sure is taking place.

There are differences between movements though. Others are subtler and feel a lot more controlled, but the initial feelings that I had still remain. In the end, organ music like this has a tendency to sound sinister to me rather than joyous or have the ability to stir something up in me.

🎻♫♪ – The Rio Grande by Constant Lambert

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
100/501Title: The Rio Grande
Composer: Constant Lambert
Nationality: British
Year:
1927

I know, mainly because of Porgy & Bess, that there isn’t too far a bridge to cross between the latter classical pieces and what would eventually become musical theatre. In the end, what is a modern stage musical other than an opera with a different style of singing and, usually, more dancing. This thought really hit my head with today’s piece The Rio Grande. Once I had finished listening to it, all I wanted to do was listen to the opening track of Wicked to hear the chorus bits (and then Kristin Chenowith, because she is a treasure).

There isn’t anything as dramatic in The Rio Grande as ‘No One Mourns The Wicked’ from Wicked – so I guess it was the chorus singing together. If anything, it should have made me think of Carmen Jones or the Cuban scene of Guys and Dolls in how Lambert brings together jazz and Latin rhythms to make something that is undoubtedly cool.

In the middle there is a bit of a dip in the mood that takes us out to the end, where there are more mournful solos and prominent piano movements. As this is based on a poem, it would appear that this slower section is meant to take us out of the noisy towns the Rio Grande flows through and makes its way to the sea and it becomes one with the ocean. Listening to it again, with the poem to hand, really does help understand the moods.

🎻♫♪ – Piano Quintet by Robert Schumann

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
99/501Title: Piano Quintet
Composer: Robert Schumann
Nationality: German
Year:
1842

Thanks to some prolific weeks, I am back in the position where – at least for now – I am going to be able to start posting every day. This may go back down when things get busier again, but seeing how I am hitting the accelerator on the albums list and that I am now making a quicker path through the films, it felt like time.

So the let’s get onto my second Schumann piece – a Piano Quintet that is one of his more famous and beloved pieces. Honestly the first two sections of this four movement piece made enough of an effect on me that I was actually jotting notes as I was waiting for code to run.

The first of the four movements of Schumann’s Piano Quintet is something that I wish more classical music could be: fun. There is something so wonderfully energetic about this first section that it reminds me of a romantic chase, like some of the mythological scenes from Fantasia.

This contrasts hugely with the second ‘funeral march’ section which, if the first piece is a bit like a romantic chase, is the obstacle in the way of the chase. Kind of like the Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet or just how hopeless Lady Dedlock is in Bleak House given her back story.  I know I probably have these imaged from my head as this second section has been used in films I’ve seen like Fanny and Alexander and The Favourite.

The final two movements of the piece go back up in terms of energy levels, but in terms of interest they don’t manage to reach the same level as the contrasting first two. This was a really great classical piece to listen to and would have made for a satisfactory 100th piece… but that’ll have to wait until next time.

🎻♫♪ – Keyboard Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
98/501Title: Keyboard Sonatas
Composer: Domenico Scarlatti
Nationality: Italian
Year:
1740s

When I think of the word ‘keyboard’ my mind immediately went to something new and electronic – so I got a bit lost when scouring the book for this particular piece. It makes more sense that ‘keyboard’ is just a generic name for instruments like the piano, harpsichord and synthesizer that operate using pressed keys. Feels so obvious now, but also built up some hopes of something that was like a classical David Bowie.

Over the course of his life, Domenico Scarlatti wrote over 550 keyboard sonatas – so listening to all of them would take me days. Luckily the 1001 book lists a specific collection, which is also available on Spotify, so that meant I could hear whatever it was the list makers decided were the best representation.

Like with last week’s Mystery Sonatasthis is another batch of ridiculously complex sonatas – although this time it’s for the piano rather than the violin. They were a baroque treat for an hour of classical music, but I don’t think that I would have been able to listen to his entire keyboard sonata oeuvre. That would be a bit much.

🎻♫♪ – Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
97/501Title: Mystery Sonatas
Composer: Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber
Nationality: Bohemian
Year:
1674

I guess when a piece gets as old as this one, it’ll accumulate a few names. In the 1001 book they are referred to as the Mystery Sonatas, the version I listened to called them the Rosary Sonatas and then they can also be called Copper-Engraving Sonatas. I guess that the name Mystery Sonatas comes from the repeated phrase ‘the mystery of faith’ rather than the fact that they were only really discovered over two centuries after completion.

The entire piece is made 16 sections, the first 15 being short sonatas and then a final closer. These are all religious in nature, with the 15 short sonatas being three equal groups of five dealing with the early life, the crucifixion and then the resurrection of Jesus. These are all violin centric and sound hideously complicated to perform, which makes for a very good listen, even if it takes more than two hours to get through them all.