Wednesday, March 05, 2008


If you have not yet been initiated into the world of classical music, prepare to be! I am going to be one of those annoying people who shoves a huge book in your face and insists you read it. In this case the book is really, really good and your life will change forever if you only give it a fair go.

These photos are just some of my favourite composers. Who wouldn't want to listen to music written by someone as cool-looking as top-left, Edvard Grieg? Clockwise from Grieg, there's Ludwig van Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich, Felix Mendelssohn, Béla Bartók, and Antonín Dvořák. Yes, they're all men. But don't hold it against them.

I was thinking about how best to do this, and I've decided to make you a series of playlists. I may repeat songs across different playlists, and it's probably very uncivilised to even think of suggesting playlists rather than insisting you listen to entire symphonies before you go to bed every night. But I don't care. This is the music I love and what it makes me think of:

For beginners. This playlist is not easy-peasy and boring. But it's not music that is too subtle or too extreme for people who have never listened to classical music before, and I think it's enjoyable to listen to in many different ways.
- Clarinet Concerto in A, K622, by Mozart - great cooking music!
- Chorus of the Jewish Slaves, from Nabucco, by Verdi - for an introduction to opera
- In the Hall of the Mountain King, from Peer Gynt, by Grieg - you've gotta love this one, and you'll recognise it
- Prelude in Db (also called the Raindrop Prelude), by Chopin - one of my favourite piano pieces to play
- Clair de Lune, by Debussy - gorgeous, and trust me, you will know this one if you liked Ocean's 11
- Carnival of the Animals, by Saint-Saëns
- Nimrod, by Elgar - be prepared with tissues
- Prelude in C# Minor (also called The Bells of Moscow), by Rachmaninov - this piece will blow your mind. It's another favourite piece of mine to play.

Descriptive - for those who like to hear some music and imagine something... Sit back and let your mind relax...
- Evening in the Mountains, by Grieg - this is almost my favourite piece of music... ever.
- Rustle of Spring, by Sinding
- Hear My Prayer, by Mendelssohn
- The people who walked in darkness, from Messiah, by Handel
- Prelude in C# Minor (The Bells of Moscow), by Rachmaninov
- Silent Woods, from the American Suite, by Dvořák - mmmm....
- The Adieu, by Mendelssohn
- At Your Feet, by Grieg - the most beautiful love song
- Clair de Lune, by Debussy
- He trusted in God, from Messiah, by Handel
- Moonlight Sonata, by Beethoven - the first real piece of classical music I ever played and a turning point in my life
- To Spring, by Grieg

Masterclass - this music is a display of pieces I think show skill displayed with either incredible restraint or impressive finger-moving skills.
- Andante from Sonata Op. 14, No. 2, by Beethoven - this piece is basically Beethoven showing off at how cool he can make a rather ordinary tune sound.
- Humoresque in Gb major, by Dvořák
- Piano Concerto No 1, by Tchaikovsky - phwoar. This is It. Who needs rock music.
- Romance, by Shostakovich
- Prelude in E Minor, by Chopin
- Hallelujah Chorus, from Messiah, by Handel - this piece has everything in it. I know it's almost a cliché now but give it a chance!
- Barcarolle, from The Tales of Hoffman, by Offenbach - you'll know this if you've seen Life is Beautiful
- Nimrod, by Elgar

For piano - because I'm a pianist so am slightly biased.
- Piano Concerto in A Minor, by Grieg
- Étude in A Minor, by Chopin
- Praeludium in E Minor, by Mendelssohn
- Wanderer-Fantasie, by Schubert - another phwoar. This is like the Holy Grail of piano music for me.
- Homeward, by Grieg - one of my favourites to play
- Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, by Rachmaninov
- Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, by Debussy - another favourite to play
- Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1, by Chopin
- Duetto (from Songs Without Words), by Mendelssohn
- Gangar (Norwegian March), by Grieg

No BS - shall we just say that this classical music is not nerdy. In fact, you could also call this showing-off music.
- Montagues and Capulets, by Prokofiev
- Piano Concerto No. 1, by Tchaikovsky
- In the Hall of the Mountain King, from Peer Gynt, by Grieg
- Wanderer-Fantasie, by Schubert
- Praeludium in E Minor, by Mendelssohn
- Symphony No. 5, Beethoven
- Piano Concerto in A Minor, by Grieg
- 1812 Overture, by Tchaikovsky

Allie's Favourites - this is my miscellaneous list of the music I love the most.
- Silent Woods, from the American Suite, by Dvořák
- Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, by Debussy
- Romance, by Shostakovich
- In the Hall of the Mountain King, by Grieg
- Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, by Rachmaninov - my sister walked up the aisle to this
- Prelude in Db (the Raindrop Prelude), by Chopin
- Finlandia, by Sibelius
- At Your Feet, by Grieg
- Rondo, by Purcell - Elizabeth and Darcy dance to this in the latest Pride and Prejudice movie. Only good part of the movie.
- Rumanian Folk Songs, by Bartók
- Danse Macabre, by Saint-Saëns
- Presto from the Italian Concerto, by Bach - fiddled with by the Jacques Loussier Trio.
- Miserere Mei, Deus, by Allegri - this was a secret song that could only be sung once a year at the Vatican. Mozart went along, listened, went home and wrote it down. Oh, bless...
- Prelude in E Minor, by Chopin
- Humoresque in Gb Major, by Dvořák
- Hear My Prayer, by Mendelssohn
- Evening in the Mountains, by Grieg

Playlists are over, but here's the rest of the music I love that I think you should hear:
- Grieg's Lyric Pieces. Some are mentioned here but they're all just so great. Also:
- Grieg's Peer Gynt - the music he wrote for Ibsen's play. Some mentioned here but the whole thing is incredible.
- O Mio Babbino Caro, by Puccini. Also heard sung by Kiri te Kanawa at the beginning of A Room With a View.
- Agnus Dei, by Barber
- Flocks May Graze Secure, by Bach.
- Art of the Fugue, No. 1, by Bach
- All of Chopin's nocturnes and preludes and études
- Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words
- Rachmaninov's piano concertos
- Polka from The Age of Gold, by Shostakovich
- Handel's Messiah

My personal aim for this year is to go to more concerts and hopefully at least one opera, and widen my scope of classical music. I've realised that I mostly listen to piano music and need to expand my horizons!


Sarakastic said...

I listened to Nimrod by Elgar because I was intrigued by the name. You've convinced me, I need more classical music in my life. I'll faithfully make my way through this list. Now I just need to learn how to talk about classical music, because all I have to say is "all kinds of pretty"

~Virginia~ said...

i've always liked classical music...i just never knew who or what i was listening to! :) i have a mozart CD and that's about it. for shame! and i've always wanted to see an opera. man, i'm lazy! i'll try to work in more classical music--thanks for the list!

LEstes65 said...

Oh my goodness! I love your list. We are huge into classical here. Pokemon Boy still can't decide if he'll be a teacher or a composer. His favorite composer? Dvořák. Grieg is another of his faves. He also used to pronounce Beethoven as "Bee tovin". Loved that from a cute little 4 yr old. I should really pull out some Dvořák right about now. I need something to make him and his 4 yr old brother are painfully into the soundtrack from Alvin & The Chipmunks. And no, they haven't seen the movie. They just like to torture their mom.

pilgrimchick said...

That's a great selection of classical music, and you have some fabulous favorite composers, too. I like your playlists, and it is always refreshing to find someone interested in this kind of thing when art like classical music is so regularly overlooked.