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Need some help getting into classical


Phobic
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Hi everyone,

       I've tried a couple of times to expand my listening into classical but to be honest I'm struggling to find what's right for me, it's quite a big area!

I'm fortunate enough to have been left a decent sized classical CD collection by a relative ~100 cds. In the past I've read various guides & recommendations of things to listen to, and have taken the time to listen to key pieces from each major period to try and identify what I do & don't like.

With a few exceptions nothings really clicked with me all that well, Vivaldi 4 seasons has been my favorite to date followed by moonlight sonatas. I very much don't like medieval ...

Generally while I can appreciate big orchestral symphonies, and do like some of them, I've enjoyed more delicate sonatas much more, particularly piano. I generally prefer more relaxing pieces rather than big rousing numbers as well.

I think I might be better trying to be more focused, unfortunately I don't know enough about all the composers and genres to really know how to target things a bit better.

I've also not really tried much in the way of string quartets, Opera's also something I've not really listened to yet, my Uncle didn't have any in his collection, so keen to give that a go at some point, but I think I can just read a guide about that and jump in.

would be really grateful if someone could suggest a few pieces to try, keen to expand my knowledge of piano soloists.

thanks in advance!

Edited by Phobic
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This guide may help you get started with piano: https://www.udiscovermusic.com/classical-features/best-solo-piano-pieces-classical-top-10/

I like the Mozart Sonatas with Maria-Joao Pires playing.

Edited by StingRay
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Just finished listening to the guide, thanks very helpful
 
my notes
  • Beethoven was good again for me.
  • Goldberg Variations were too formal for my taste.
  • didn't like the funeral march section of onata No.2 in B flat minor by chopin, but the middle section was lovey
  • Schumann: Fantasie in C, Op.17 was a bit too chaotic and hard work for me, similar story for Brahms: 6 Klavierstücke Op. 118
  • I liked Schubert: Sonata in A major, D959, reminds of the Keith Jarretts Koln Concert which I absolutely love. Debussy: Preludes, Books 1 & 2 was lovely as well. - maybe I should dig into some more improvised piano works
  • I struggled a bit with Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, might have to give it another try in a different frame of mind.

some great direction for me to give other things a try

 
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On 14/09/2020 at 03:26, Phobic said:

With a few exceptions nothings really clicked with me all that well, Vivaldi 4 seasons has been my favorite to date followed by moonlight sonatas. I very much don't like medieval ...

Generally while I can appreciate big orchestral symphonies, and do like some of them, I've enjoyed more delicate sonatas much more, particularly piano. I generally prefer more relaxing pieces rather than big rousing numbers as well.

It's not unusual for seasoned classical fans to prefer chamber music over large orchestral works. 

It's really impossible to guess what you may like to offering suggestions is difficult.  There are probably a number of piano music CDs and YouTube playlists which have a compilation of 'most famous' works.  That might be a good place to start to see what types of works you might like.  Don't get too bothered by the fame of composers.  There are many lesser-known composers who have written works which are greatly enjoyed by those who know about them. 

If you like Vivaldi's music, perhaps you should check out other Italian Baroque composers like Albinoni, Marcello, and A. and D. Scarlatti.  I could list probably hundreds more Italian Baroque composers worth checking out, but at least that offers a start.  Some of these 'concertos' might seem like big orchestral music by description, and sometimes it is performed as such, but typically it's performed by a small number of performers that has the intimacy of chamber music.  German, Dutch, and English Baroque music was heavily influenced by the Italians as well, including Bach, so you might find some music there you might like.  There's certainly more to Baroque music than just Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel though.

Someone mentioned Mendelssohn's E minor violin concerto.  You might really like that one.  On the surface, the music of Felix Mendelssohn may not have much in common with Vivaldi.  They are different composers from vastly different times and from different places.  But, yet, both tend to have music which can be described as being 'driving' rhythmically.  You might like Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trios then and perhaps something like Mendelssohn's F minor string quartet (No. 6, Op. 80).  That was written during the short period of time between the death of his sister, Fanny, whom he was close to and his own death.  It's an emotional work certainly if you know the background of it, but I think even if you didn't know you might find it to be a pretty impressive work.

An early work of Mendelssohn you might like is his Concerto for Violin, Piano, and Strings in D minor.  This was an unpublished work from Mendelssohn's early days.  It's orchestral music technically, but it's really like chamber music since the orchestral strings play only a minor supportive role in the dialog between the violin and piano. 

Here's the first movement of the above concerto:

I could name thousands of recommendations really, but hopefully you'll like the few recommendations I've posted above.

Oh, and about performers.  In some ways, it really matters who performs the music with earlier music because there are vastly different playing styles.  In some cases, the types of instruments used will vary dramatically (for example, Bach keyboard music performed on harpsichord might leave a different impression than Bach keyboard music performed on piano).  Again, it's hard to make recommendations blindly without knowing what you like.  The only thing I suggest is to not get too wrapped up with the names of performers.  There are many fine, fine performers who you've never heard of.  Don't skip listening to something just because you're not familiar with the performer.

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fantastic help, thanks so much for writing that out :)

I'll check out what you've suggested.

i've managed to make some headway today, I've been listening to some Philip Glass and Ludovico Einaudi, I particularly enjoyed Einaudi, I'm listening to Divenire right now having just listened to Islands earlier.

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Big Glass fan, well worth trying his Bowie symphonies - Heroes and Low

I would also check John Adams as well and also Pierre Boulez, who not only conducts very well but has some super compositions as well.

This a rather good CD with examples of the composers you mention and also the rather superb Arvo Part

R-4743409-1374094176-7860.jpeg.jpg

Edited by griffo104
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brilliant thanks.

I've got to confess I completely overlooked more recent modern music when I first tried to figure out what I liked. I kinda gave it a try after listening to some Brian Eno. So far I think I'm enjoying it the most.

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On 16/09/2020 at 00:01, griffo104 said:

Big Glass fan, well worth trying his Bowie symphonies - Heroes and Low

I would also check John Adams as well and also Pierre Boulez, who not only conducts very well but has some super compositions as well.

This a rather good CD with examples of the composers you mention and also the rather superb Arvo Part

R-4743409-1374094176-7860.jpeg.jpg

listened to Spheres last night with my wife, we both enjoyed almost every track on it. Lots of new things to go and investigate as a result. The only tracks that didn't really land well with us were the ones which were more random in nature, just 2 tracks i think, otherwise it's by far the best thing we've tried to date. Thanks a lot for suggesting it, just had our eyes opened!

Edited by Phobic
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On 14/09/2020 at 13:13, Phobic said:

didn't like the funeral march section of onata No.2 in B flat minor by chopin, but the middle section was lovey

You might like Chopin’s Preludes or Nocturnes then.  I love almost every note he wrote, but the preludes have great variety, and the nocturnes are mostly calming, with some outbursts.  
For drama, his Scherzos are something else!   
Try this...http://open.qobuz.com/album/0002894470962

Edited by Nopiano
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just had a listen to Mendelssohn's E minor violin concerto and I see what you mean about parallels with Vivaldi, quite liked it. listened to a version by Chee-Yun picked at random.

there seem to be a dizzying number of recordings out there, how do you pick a good version on Qobuz with so much to choose from? is it a case of looking on somewhere like Gramophone for reviews? I've looked in the past for lists of good recordings, however there seems to be lots of different options out there. I guess even from my limited exposure that different performers will impart different things to the music, suppose that's personal choice in what you prefer to a greater or lessor extent however it's a bit intimidating to a newbie....

Edited by Phobic
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4 hours ago, Phobic said:

just had a listen to Mendelssohn's E minor violin concerto and I see what you mean about parallels with Vivaldi, quite liked it. listened to a version by Chee-Yun picked at random.

there seem to be a dizzying number of recordings out there, how do you pick a good version on Qobuz with so much to choose from? is it a case of looking on somewhere like Gramophone for reviews? I've looked in the past for lists of good recordings, however there seems to be lots of different options out there. I guess even from my limited exposure that different performers will impart different things to the music, suppose that's personal choice in what you prefer to a greater or lessor extent however it's a bit intimidating to a newbie....

In the case of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto specifically, you should check out a post I made about it a few months ago if you don't mind me promoting my own posts.  xD  I'm not really promoting it for anything I said in it, but rather because there is a great link to a radio show recording where violinist Rachel Barton Pine goes through samples of several famous recordings of the Mendelssohn concerto made throughout the 20th century and gives feedback about how those performances reflect performance practices of their time.  Rachel Barton Pine also speaks about how she approaches the work.  It's highly recommended.

Aside from that, it's hard to suggest how to pick a recording.  In the case of Mendelssohn's music, given the somewhat fiery, driving nature of his music, I find that it needs to be performed in a way that is somewhat fiery.  I suppose with some experience, you'll probably be able to pick a recording that fits your tastes just by listening to quick samples of music.  When you're new, it's a bit difficult.  Perhaps it's best to pick a few random recordings of a work you like and are willing to listen to repeatedly and just listen to them while paying attention to the details.  Exposure like that might help you understand different approaches to performance.

With older music like Baroque music, often the instruments meant for a solo or ensemble work are not even specified by the composer.  Part of this is because the music was meant to be performed domestically by amateur musicians and so the music was written with some flexibility in mind so it could be performed with whatever instruments people had at their disposal.  The end result of this is that two different performances of the same work may sound drastically different and that's not even factoring the vast differences in things like historically informed performance practice (HIP) vs. non-HIP performances.

So, yeah, it's just a matter of experience, but I wouldn't worry about this too much.  Good music usually sounds good if it's performed by any kind of remotely skilled performers.  Once you're more exposed to things, you'll naturally become more able to pick out differences.  Also, as you get experience, you may find yourself listening to more obscure music and with obscure music, there often aren't a lot of choices in performances.  xD

Edited by Klassik
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