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'Classical' In The Broadest Sense

  • Jun 16, 2010
Here are some works (piano / orchestral / classical) of various eras that I am crazy about.  List could get kind of long winded, let's just call it my top 9.  
Sonata Pathétique
Of the big Beethoven sonatas, the Pathétique gets the most under my skin. The thirtysecond note runs that pepper the Grave melt into the slow methodical patterns of dancing Adagio, creating a sense of balance and power. This is as impressive of core composition as the Appassionata, with as much emotional connection of The Moonlight Sonata.
Satie was so profoundly poetic and introspective that listening to his best works can be a little sleepy. Perhaps, being a chronic insomniac, that is why I'm drawn to these calm expressions. These compositions are a true rejection of classical principles and I believe this newness of movement and era is why Debussy and other Romantic era masters acknowledged with variations.
Prelude no. 20 C minor
Big dramatic chords in a drunken Largo. The Preludes in general are some of my favorite piano compositions ever, but the C minor is especially compelling. Evocative overwhelming harmony meets expressive dynamics and Chopin's force of tone.
Symphony No. 40 in G Minor
The scope of symphonic composition isn't often easily focussed through minor keys, and perhaps this very fact led Mozart to some of the creative composition displayed by No. 40. In a Stylistic Analysis class in 1994 I hit a wall with this one, finally realizing that my academic pursuits to understand and communicate about Mozart were seriously hindering my ability to enjoy the music. All this time later, I still hear the haunting string thematics of this work echoing in my head, but now it just makes me smile. So perfect, so complicated, so Mozart.
Peter and the Wolf
I played this for my 3 year old son today. Not only is it thematic and fun, but it has a narrated character assignment to instruments, allowing educators and parents to use the story to further musical learning (for example, the bird is represented by flute, Peter by the strings, et al). I wasn't sure if my son liked it at first, but later in the day he asked to listen to "Wolfie," and I was happy to comply with the London Symphony Orchestra's LP conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent.
Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler's eastern influences are exotic and sweet. Each movement of this work has its own style, culminating in some of the composer's most personal harmonic expressions.
Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
A big one for sure. If piano concertos were t.v. shows this would be the "Days of Our Lives" dramatic and unending style. At first the piano seems to accept its percussive nature, banging out big rhythms that support orchestral themes. Eventually, the piano work becomes some of the most memorable sonic explosions ever. Before hearing this, I thought of Tchaikovsky mainly in light ballet and storytelling capacity. When I started listening to his concertos, I started to take him much more seriously (for better or worse).
Symphonie Fantastique
What an amazing expression of "hopeless love" and the artistic spirit! A journey into darkness and back again, I have always been moved by the Romantic flair for drama and style.
Cello Suite No. 1 - Prelude
It is only through playing Bach that we find his mastery and extensive influence, a treasure in the deep emptiness. This prelude includes a beguiling drone note that makes an easy connection for modern listeners. In defining 12 tone music, Bach also set incredible standards for its enjoyment.

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About the list creator
Christopher Eck ()
Ranked #9
I've spent most of my life getting paid to teach, mostly young children. Obsessed with the ancient world, I studied Classics with a focus on Roman poetry, contributing to my degree in English from … more
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