newbie question

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by bottleneck, Oct 11, 2006.

  1. bottleneck

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Firstly I know very little about classical music..


    I've just bought an album that I really love. I love the music, the playing is fantastic, and the recording is a brilliant one too.

    I also love the cello. It's my favourite classical instrument.

    All of that combines for me, and I play it a lot.

    more more more!


    This is it: http://www.emiclassics.com/groc/releases1/haydn.html

    I thought I'd explore a few more of these 'great recordings of the century'... here's the complete list...

    http://www.emiclassics.com/groc/groc_great_releases.html

    Trouble is, the rest of the list I mostly haven't heard of.

    If I like the one above (and I do!), what would be a good one from the rest of the list to try next?

    Cheers!
    Chris
     
    bottleneck, Oct 11, 2006
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  2. bottleneck

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Hi Chris,

    First things first: if you're purely interested in expanding your musical horizons, so to speak, then there's no particular reason to confine yourself to EMI Great Recordings of the Century (hereafter GROC), and no particular reason why if you liked that you'd like any others in the series - the recordings on GROC are simply deemed to be significant in some artistic / historical sense and are very diverse in terms of repertoire. To be fair there are a lot of very good records in that series, but equally there are a lot of very good records outside it, and if you're just on the lookout for nice cello music to listen to then basically any classical label will have lots of great stuff to choose from.

    With all that said, that combination of cellist du Pré and conductor Barbirolli does have a certain legendary status, in particular for this recording of the Elgar cello concerto, also on GROC, which really is an outstandingly excellent record and certainly well worth owning. I'm a big fan of the Brahms cello sonatas too, though I haven't heard that recording and the music isn't quite such a guaranteed hit as - for example - the Elgar cello concerto, which is liked by basically everybody in the world.

    Of the ones I've heard, my two personal favourite GROC releases are also two of my top ten all-time favourite CDs, namely the big-hearted Rostropovich / Oistrakh Brahms Double Concerto and Beethoven Triple Concerto (both of these works feature parts for solo cello BTW), and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf singing Strauss's Four Last Songs, which for me is pretty much the most devastatingly beautiful recording ever made of anything.

    WRT the music on that CD you've been listening to. Time-wise you're in the Classical period, ie. around Mozart, after Bach but before Beethoven, and a very long time before Elgar. Genre-wise you're dealing with the cello concerto, ie. the combination of solo cello with orchestra. Depending on how you listen, you might find that other cello concertos float your boat, in which case the Elgar above would be a good choice. The other super-popular concerto in the cello repertoire is the Dvorak, which IMHO is the finest of them all. For a beginner I'd heartily recommend just diving in and exploring the repertoire available; this set covers a fair amount of ground in 5 CDs at £2 per disc, including core works like the Dvorak and Shostakovich concerti, Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations and alternative versions of the Haydn works, and is by all accounts very good throughout (review and full track listing here). [I suspect you don't want at this stage to be getting into the business of buying multiple versions of the same music, so in that sense it's a shame that the above set includes recordings of the Haydn you've already got, but if you're a big fan then you might find it interesting to compare alternative interpretations.]

    However, the likes of the Dvorak and Elgar - the two most popular cello concertos - are thoroughly Romantic as opposed to Classical, written around a century after the stuff you've been listening to and hence completely different in many ways; more immediately heart-on-sleeve expressive, perhaps less clearly structured and in some respects more difficult to get to grips with. You might find that, rather than exploring cello concertos through the ages, you'd be better off listening to lots of other Classical-period music - in which case, grab yourself something like a bunch of the late Mozart symphonies, the piano concertos or the Requiem and dive in.

    The ultimate destination of the serious cello purist's pilgrimage through musical history is Bach's suites for unaccompanied cello. Personally I wouldn't recommend that for the classical beginner - the intensity and austerity of the sound and the rigorous concentration of the music make it rather hard going IMO and with no lush orchestral sonorities to bask in there's no sonic respite.

    Hope some of that is useful! - do let us know how you get on.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2006
    PeteH, Oct 11, 2006
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  3. bottleneck

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Thanks Pete

    I've ordered a couple more cd's yesterday, and will follow with the Elgar reccomendation.

    cheers
    chris
     
    bottleneck, Oct 11, 2006
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  4. bottleneck

    walnut Burrrr....

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    Luigi Boccherini 'Cello Concertos' are in a similar vein to Haydn and are v.accessable, and great fun.

    As always check out your library catalogue (which you can do on-line), it's a good cheap way to explore new genres.
     
    walnut, Oct 11, 2006
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  5. bottleneck

    jacksparks

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    Can i also recommend the Prokofiev Sinfonia Concertante (a cello concerto in all but name), in particular the Yo-Yo Ma/Loren Maazel recording on Sony Classical. A quite marvellous piece, beautifully played. Yes very different in style to the Haydn piece you enjoy, but well worth expanding your horizons.

    Btw, please don't limit your explorations of the classical repertoire to the cello! Like you, i adore the cello, but there is so much more..
     
    jacksparks, Oct 11, 2006
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  6. bottleneck

    Coda II getting there slowly

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    Can I disagree with Pete about the Bach cello?
    Get a copy (Ma probably not my first choice but no matter)
    File it under 'ambient' or 'nu jazz' or anywhere but classical
    Play it often

    It is some of the most purely musical music I know
    For many years it was the only Bach I owned

    A couple of nights ago it went on straight after Stars of the Lid
    Then again last night but played on the double bass.

    Schwarzkopf/Four Last Songs couldn't agree more...

    Has anyone mentioned the Beethoven Cello sonatas yet?
     
    Coda II, Oct 11, 2006
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  7. bottleneck

    Herman

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    Going from Haydn's Cello Concertos to Strauss' Four Last Songs or Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante is a huge step.

    I'd suggest checking out some more works from the Haydn & Mozart era, such as Mozart's Violin Concertos + Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola. Beethoven's Violin Cto, too.
     
    Herman, Oct 13, 2006
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  8. bottleneck

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Absolutely it is, I thought I'd made it clear that I was just going off on a tangent about my favourite recordings in the GROC series :). I did make a range of "if you'll like that, you'll like this..." type suggestions too, and you'll notice I did also make your suggestion of exploring by period rather than by genre.

    I'd still be inclined to buy that jumbo box of cello concertos though - in fact I think I might pick it up myself!
     
    PeteH, Oct 13, 2006
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  9. bottleneck

    walnut Burrrr....

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    To continue on that 'tangent' I would recommend Rachmaninov / Dvorak / Sibelius Cello Works on Philips 412 732-2, if you can find a copy. It's truly excellent. Play it as loud as you like! :D
     
    walnut, Oct 13, 2006
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  10. bottleneck

    treacle Treacle

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    Chris

    I'd echo Coda's green light for the Bach cello concertos. If you like them they may end up being amongst your favourite recordings. Of the two in GROC, Casals would be my choice. In respected pressings, these go for big money on vinyl, so a small investment in the cd might be sensible.

    Sticking to GROC as a good way of narrowing things, I'd also recommend the Beethoven and Schubert trios disc as being approachable chamber stuff.

    Happy listening!
     
    treacle, Oct 13, 2006
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  11. bottleneck

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    bought this, and about 3 others.

    bit dissapointing TBH. The singing bird - (dont know her name) gets right on my tits, and spoils the album.

    The other bits are a bit..... well, a bit like the music soundtrack I mentally associate with the film 'gone with the wind'. I don't like it in short!

    Maybe if I can go back to what I like about the original record?

    The cello stands out, it has a raspy aggressive texture to it. It's got balls, and passion. This stands out from a melodic and beautiful backpiece (IMO). I can't emphasize, that for me recording quality on classical music is paramount - it really helps me enjoy it to hear in detail the musical instruments STAND OUT. iF they blend together in some sort of miasmic jelly (no matter how realistic that might be to the live experience) I enjoy it less on listening.

    NB
    THe other albums were some baroque (organ & choir (is it Purcell - the death of queen someone or other) - quite like it, but one album is enough... and some organ music for fun.

    Hoping for a few more pointers!

    :D

    Cheers
    Chrs
     
    bottleneck, Oct 18, 2006
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  12. bottleneck

    Herman

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    I thought so.

    I'd try one or two Mozart violin concertos, and Mozart's sinfonia oncertante for violinand viola.
     
    Herman, Oct 18, 2006
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  13. bottleneck

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    I must admit to being a little puzzled that you find the Boccherini or Haydn cello concerti to have more "balls and passion" than the Elgar, especially as played by du Pré. It takes all sorts in this game I suppose ;).

    And if "one baroque album is enough", we're working within fairly tight limits here :). I'm not really too sure what to suggest TBH. It does sound like you might get more out of branching out in the Classical period - unfortunately AFAIK there isn't a massive amount of major cello repertoire there beyond what you've already got. (There are lots of other yummy things written for the cello by all sorts of people - Schumann, Lalo, Saint-Saens, Fauré, Bruch, Holst, etc. - but most of the really famous stuff is rather closer to Elgar than to Haydn.) Mozart's Sinfonia concertante is a good suggestion; a violin and a viola put together must nearly make a cello. I really can't be bothered with Mozart's violin concerti myself, but obviously lots of people do like them.

    I suppose you could still give the Dvorak cello concerto a go, which is one of my very favourite pieces of music and is certainly ballsy - it's tougher, tauter and less sprawling than the Elgar too.

    If you want to avoid a miasmic mush, what about some chamber music? I'm usually hesitant to start pushing people into listening to string quartets, but you never know - you might find you'd get on well with, say, Beethoven's early set of six (opus 18), or with the later works by Haydn or Mozart. I'd definitely suggest you try before you buy if you want to go down that road though - it's quite a lot different to the stuff you've been enjoying.
     
    PeteH, Oct 18, 2006
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  14. bottleneck

    badchamp Thermionic Member

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    badchamp, Oct 19, 2006
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  15. bottleneck

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    I've been thinking about this more, because it's been bothering me. The problem is that it can be difficult to reach an understanding between people who mostly listen to classical and people who mostly don't. Those of us who predominantly listen to classical music generally become accustomed to thinking in terms of period, style and genre, simply because that's really the only way to deal with the overwhelming mass of music out there (thus we have the classical string quartet, the romantic piano sonata, the modern symphony, ...). However, these are divisions which are often less meaningful to somebody who hasn't listened to a lot of classical music, so therefore it may not necessarily follow that because he likes one Classical-period work he's more likely to find what he's looking for in the same era. In other words, two pieces of music which seem closely related to one person may sound completely different to another.

    What bottleneck is actually looking for here - ballsiness, passion, beauty - can be found in any period and any genre, it's just manifest in different ways. I'm going to stick my neck out here and, in an attempt to right my earlier wrong (or possibly dig myself a deeper hole :D) point you back towards the Brahms double concerto CD. It's not all that massive a leap from Haydn and Boccherini in any case - the two works on that disc both have a fair compromise between Classical proportion and elegance and Romantic full-on sensory onslaught, with the Beethoven more towards the former and the Brahms the latter. I suspect the close-up, muscular recorded sound of the soloists is also exactly what you're looking for. And if you try it and don't like it I promise I'll never recommend you anything ever again.

    (Tones and I have disagreed slightly about that CD - my opinion is that the Brahms is much the better work, whereas his opinion is, well, wrong. ;) Either way we agree that it's an outstandingly excellent disc.)

    WRT Sea Pictures, I'm not a great fan of warbling either in general :) . For me it's really the cello concerto that makes that album essential, though the other's nice enough.
     
    PeteH, Oct 19, 2006
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  16. bottleneck

    bottleneck talks a load of rubbish

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    Pete! you don't have to feel bad, it's about exploring music and the journey is half the fun!

    I probably will try that Brahms one.

    You're right, I like close up recorded soloists, that leap from the speakers... and I like the cello a lot, so lets give it a whirl!
     
    bottleneck, Oct 19, 2006
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  17. bottleneck

    Coda II getting there slowly

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    In which case:

    [​IMG]

    bit of a leap from first post but definately not ...after all, tomorrow is another day... da dah da daaah
     
    Coda II, Oct 19, 2006
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  18. bottleneck

    walnut Burrrr....

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    Well, they do, but it's nice that they get involved.


    Avoid Deli-arse then.


    Laugh, I would if I could stop crying. That rock 'studio sound' just doesn't happen (well, not often). Post mid-ninties recordings tend to be better. Try disconnecting your supertweeters, and the sub probably hurts more than it helps.


    Try quartets / quintets, etc. The four / five piece band is probably more akin to what you're used to, and the recording engineers seem to cope better than with a full orchestra!

    BTW I realise that most of the above is contentious, sweeping and generalised, it's just an opinion!
     
    walnut, Oct 19, 2006
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  19. bottleneck

    Herman

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    1) from what I've seen the problem is not with the people who ask these questions (though they are hard to respond to in a satisfactory way). The problem is that overwhelmingly people respond by giving a couple of their favorite pieces. As I said before, I'm not entirely sure it's really helpful to assume someone who has just discovered he likes Haydn's cello concertos will also really dig Strauss' Four Last Songs.

    2) the idea the classical music fans are completely differently wired than pop / rock fans, because there are so many different genres and periods they get to handle - well, I don't know a thing about pop or rock, but I do know that by this day and age there are tons of minutely different genres in pop music. So there's no difference in that type of sophistication.

    3) I think Walnut may have a point, suggesting string quartets can have this leaping-from-the-speakers quality too. Beethoven's Opus 59 quartets (3 pieces in all / 2 cd) may just be an idea; very energetic and tightly organized. And with great cello stuff.
     
    Herman, Oct 19, 2006
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  20. bottleneck

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Either that, or they tell whichever poor soul asked the question about what he "should" be listening to for self-improvement, with the implication that the person responding doesn't want to lower himself to the point of recommending something somebody might actually enjoy. [Question: I like Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto, what should I try next? Answer: Tchaikovsky is for idiots, go and listen to the St Matthew Passion / late Beethoven piano sonatas / complete works of Webern, so you can become really great, like me.]

    I agree, as I also said before. And as I told you the last time I agreed, that wasn't what I was getting at when I mentioned the Strauss. What I'm trying to say now is that it's also not necessarily going to be helpful to assume that because he likes Haydn cello concertos he'll also like other recordings of classical concertos. Going from Haydn to, say, Mozart's violin concerti, there are obviously many stylistic similarities but there are also a lot of differences. For a beginner not au fait with the various niceties, the stylistic things may not be so readily apparent or so important. (Again, I'll point out that what he actually said he's looking for can be found in all sorts of periods and genres.)

    I'm finding it a little difficult to express this idea satisfactorily :). Put it this way: for somebody who can easily identify a classical-period concerto at fifty paces, the connection between Haydn's cello concerti and Mozart's violin concerti is immediately obvious, whereas for somebody who can't, it may not be. IME classical beginners are often very diverse in the pieces of music they enjoy at first, because they haven't yet started thinking along taxonomic lines and as a consequence any two pieces of music sound equally different (or similar) to each other.

    Maybe I wasn't clear, but I think you've misunderstood what I was trying to say. I've restated it above; perhaps it's clearer now.

    TBH I think the leaping-from-the-speakers thing bottleneck's looking for is more a function of the recording than of the music; you find it a lot in 60s and 70s concerto recordings, where often the soloist was close-miked to an almost "pop" extent and thus stands out a mile in front of the orchestra (which sounds like it's down the road somewhere :)). The Brahms / Beethoven CD would suit pretty well if that's the case.
     
    PeteH, Oct 20, 2006
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