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What Basic Masterworks Do you Need To Start A Classical CD Collection ?

   It's a  long story , but I'm finally back after being unable to  post since last May .  Too long to explain here .  But everything  has been fixed  !
If you're new to classical music , you may want to start a  classical CD collection , possibly with some DVDs thrown in  to make things even more interesting .  But where do you begin ?  This can be a daunting  proposition with  the  vast  array of  different works  and all the  duplication of repertoire .  Suppose you want a recording of Beethoven's iconic fifth symphony . There may be at least  200 different reocrdings on the market ,available singly or  in sets of all nine Beethoven symphonies with  dozens of different conductors .  How do you choose among all these versions , which are almost all   coupled with another Beethoven symphony or some of   his concert  overtures etc . ?

   Furthermore , you can chose from  classic recordings made many  decades ago by such legendary conductors as Arturo Toscanini , Wilhelm Furtwangler, Bruno Walter,  Otto Klemperer, Willem Mengelberg and others , which  are not recommended if you want  great  recorded sound , or more recent ones by eminent  living conductors such as Riccardo Muti , Daniel Barenboim , David Zinman , Riccardo Chailly ,  John Eliot Gardiner and others .  You can also hear recordings made on  the so-called "authentic period instruments ", which attempt  to come as close as possible to  the way the music sounded like  in Beethoven's day , some 200 years ago , although we can never be certain about how "authentic" these performances are .  

    But here are some of the most famous and beloved masterpieces of the classical repertoire which you should have , ranging from the time of Bach and Handel  in the first half f the 18th century , although there is a lot of wonderful music  from composers who lived before them .  
For Bach , you need the six so-called "Brandenburg concertos ",  dedicated to the Markgrave of Brandenburg in northern Germany , even though he never seems to  have responded to the dedication for some reason .  Also , the monumental "Mass  in B minor", a setting of the Roman Catholic mass  despite the fact that Bach was a Lutheran .  

    You also need  a recording of  the  St. Matthew Passion ",  a setting  in German of  the final house of the life of Jesus from the New Testament .  The so-called "Goldberg variations", which can be played on either harpsichord or modern piano , was supposedly written to  help a Russian diplomat stationed in Germany with his insomnia  !   Of course, there is much more by Bach you must hear .

You need a recording of Handel's beloved oratorio "Messiah ", drawn from Bible verses about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ ,  as well as his so-called "Water Music",  a suite of orchestral music written for  a journey down the Thames by King George the first .  Being a monarch has its perks !    Handel, unlike  Bach , wrote numerous operas, the most famous being "Giulio Cesare " about  Caesar and Cleopatra in Egypt .  Bach wrote no operas at all .  

   Moving to the so-called classical period from the Baroque era in which Bach and Handel were the dominant figures ,  Joseph Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are the greatest names .   Haydn wrote no fewer than 104 symphonies, of which only a handful are perfomed with any prequency today unfortunately .  You should start with  nos 92 to the last one , 104 .  His brilliant oratorio "The Creation " is based on Genesis in the Bible .  Also try the concerto for trumpet .  

   For Mozart , you need the operas Don Giovanni (Don Juan ) Le Nozze Di Figaro (The marriage of Figaro ) , Die Zauberflote (the magic flute ) and Cosi Fan Tutte (So do they all ),  and  Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail (the abduction from the seraglio ) .  Also the symphonies 35-41 ) (for some reason there is no symphony no 37 ),   the piano concertos 20 - 27 ,  the four horn concertos, violin concertos 3,4,6 ,  the unfinished Requiem ( finished by a pupil after his death ) ,  etc.

   Beethoven, who lived from 1770 to 1827 , might be considered a transitional fuigure from the classical period to the  Romantic era of the 19th .  You need his none symphonies, the five piano concertos, the violin concerto , some of his 32 piano sonatas , the 16 string quartets ,  Fidelio , his only opera ,  the overtures "Egmont", Leonore no 3  , Coriolan   to begin with .

   Heading into the 19th century , you have such great composers as Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn , Brahms ,  Tchaikovsky , Wagner, Rossini, Verdi ,  Dvorak, Smetana ,  Chopin , Cesar Franck and others .  Chopin wrote almost exclusively for the piano, his instrument , except for two piano concertos etc . Nothing which did not feature the piano in some capacity .   You need recrodings of his Waltzes, Nocturnes, Ballades, etc . plus the two piano concertos .  Try any of his piano works .

  Franz Schubert wrote over 500 songs alone in his tragically brief  life (1797 - 1828 ).  Try his symphonies 5, 8 ( the so-called unfinished ), and the  makestic 9th ,  his string quintet in C , so so-called "Trout Quintet", whichuses a melody from his song "The trout " in one of its movements , and assorted songs .     To be continued .
Posted: Jan 19 2015, 02:27 PM by the horn | with no comments
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