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I was flicking through channels on the TV and started to casually watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve seen the movie a million times, of course, but this time I was sketching and therefore listening to it more than watching it.
It really struck me, as John Williams’ brilliant score played in the background, that this music is so much more than a soundtrack. For me and for fans of my generation around the world, it’s the music of our childhood. It’s the music that introduced so many of my friends to the wonders of orchestral music. It’s the music that allowed me, a classical violinist, to spread my love of instrumental music, from John Williams and Hans Zimmer to Beethoven and Brahms, to my friends, who might not have heard that music otherwise.
So, thank you, John Williams, for that. Thank you for making me tear up with feelings of both nostalgia and appreciation for what your music has done for my generation when “Hedwig’s Theme” plays. Thank you for the rush of excitement during “The Quidditch Match” and the wonder of “Hogwarts Forever.” Too often I forget how important music is next to a wonderful story.
YOU HAVE A LESSON
1. Yes. Oh, Mr. Strauss…
2. THAT GIF IS TERRIFYING
But in a good way.
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Listening to Beethoven’s Egmont Overture while studying makes everything seem a lot more epic…
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That moment when you use Shostakovich 5 as an example of music’s analytical commentaries on society in a paper. Yessir, ‘tis a good day.
Saint-Saens: Maestoso from Symphony No. 3 “Organ”
Eugene Ormandy with The Philadelphia Orchestra
Church of St. Francis de Sales, Philadelphia
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Vaughan Williams - Serenade to Music
Queens Hall Orchestra with Sir Henry Wood
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Peteris Vasks - Musica Dolorosa for String Orchestra
Riga Philharmonic Orchestra with Kriss Rusmanis
I came across Vasks several years ago and fell in love with the melancholy and visceral nature of his music. This was the first piece I heard of his. Its false simplicity and battles with harmony and dissonance are what make it special.
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I’m a classical violinist, and grew up with classical music. I have friends who would like to start listening to classical, but are either deterred by the sheer mass of music or start by listening to pieces that are famous but, well, quite possibly boring. Believe me, even the serious classical musicians find some of those Mozart symphonies boring, too.
So I decided to compile a list of 35 orchestral works spanning several eras. It’s a starter list, really, and it has a whole lot of the basics, but it also has some lesser known pieces that got me into classical music when I was a kid. This isn’t supposed to encompass all the monumental works. It just includes pieces that I think are good tools to get people into classical music. It might be helpful if you’re interested in some casual listening, and if you’re already into classical, it might be good to use with your friends who aren’t. Enjoy.
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion
Johann Sebastian Bach: Toccata and Fugue in d minor
Georg Phillipp Telemann: Water Music
Antonio Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in E “The Four Seasons”
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 44 “Trauer”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem
Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”
Hector Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1
Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto
Max Bruch: Scottish Fantasy
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 6
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”
Edward Elgar: Enigma Variationns
Edouard Lalo: Symphony Espagnol
Gustav Mahler: Smyphony No. 5
Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Camille Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 “Organ”
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia
Pyotr Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings
Bela Bartok: Romanian Folk Dances
Gustav Holst: The Planets
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2
Ottorino Respighi: The Pines of Rome
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
Igor Stravinsky: Firebird Suite
Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
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25 Favorite Composers: Day 23 - Richard Strauss
Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
25 Favorite Composers: Day Nineteen - Camille Saint-Saens
Symphony No. 3 “Organ” : “Maestoso”
Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra with Michael Murray, organ
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25 Favorite Composers: Day Two - Anton Bruckner
Symphony No. 6 - First Mvt.
Kubelik with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Outdated but really interesting.
A friend of mine sent me this link to a documentary on The Philadelphia Orchestra’s sound. It’s worth the watch if you either follow the Philadelphians or love orchestral music in general.