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Seeking Classical Music Recommendations
July 6, 2014 10:56 PM   Subscribe

I like to think that I have eclectic taste in music... but the one major hole in my repertoire is the (vast!!) field of Classical Music. What can you recommend I give a spin?

While my tastes skew towards the darker side of things- I really do enjoy music of all sorts- from the electronic to folk; from metal to hip-hop. What are some of your essential classical picks? Be they dark and ominous or dreamy and serene. Especially great would be longer pieces/ pieces with multiple movements (so what we'd call an Album in the modern age).

Enlighten me, oh classical music buffs of MeFi!
posted by Philby to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd start with a fork at Debussy and Eduard Artemiev.
posted by rhizome at 11:13 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Try Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar.
posted by icanbreathe at 11:29 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner, of course! You probably heard some of it somewhere already. Speaking of which, same goes for Carmina Burana by Carl Orff or Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg.

In my experience, beginners in classical music appreciate some recognition, so that's why I recommend these. Plus they're all great pieces and classics within classical music themselves.
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 11:34 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Much of Orff's Carmina Burana is dark and awesome (although some of it is not great, in my opinion).

Górecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs is sweeping, sad and lovely.

Holst's Mars is menacing. Neptune is mysterious.
posted by thinman at 11:37 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


To copy my own comment (posted with a different account) from when this question was asked before:

Here's my idiosyncratic list of starter pieces (this is not at all to diminish these works -- some of them are the very greatest pieces of music ever written by anyone):

1. Mendelssohn - Octet for Strings
2. Bach - Goldberg Variations (not played by Glenn Gould; Kurt Rodarmer has a nice album where he adapts them to guitar)
3. Brahms - Piano Quintet (he only wrote one)
4. Dvorak - "American" Quartet (No. 14)
5. Schubert - "Unfinished" Symphony (No. 8)
6. Chopin - any piano recital, especially featuring the Mazurkas or Nocturnes
7. Beethoven - Symphony No. 7 (more accessible than some of his other greats)
8. Mozart - any of the more famous piano concertos [added: for instance, #20 in D minor]
9. Stravinsky - Petrushka
10. Debussy - Children's Corner (alternate: for an orchestral piece instead of piano, get La Mer)

That's somewhat arbitrary and in no particular order — all just off the top of my head... That's a very conservative list, with #9 and 10 being the only ones from the 20th century. If you want edgier stuff, focus on some other 20th century composers from this book, like Shostakovich (String Quartet No. 8!!!) or Prokofiev.
posted by John Cohen at 11:41 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


The pieces I listed are what you could consider 'albums', if you're interested, the 'songs', you'll definitely recognize are called 'ride of the valkyries' (Wagner), 'oh fortuna' (Orff) and 'hall of the mountain king' (Grieg).
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 11:41 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Beethoven's Moonlight, too.
posted by thinman at 11:45 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


A short personal list you might enjoy:
Beethoven, Symphony #6 The Pastoral
Mahler, 'Titan' Symphony #1
Verdi Requiem
Prokofiev, Lieutenant Kijé
Stravinsky, The Firebird and/or Rite of Spring

If you like these, listen to something by Takemitsu, Charles Ives, Penderecki
posted by lois1950 at 12:16 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Wow. WOW. This is a great and also really, really broad question! I'm going to give you several different recommendations moving through Western classical music, in as much of a survey as I can, and then you can tell me what of this you liked and what didn't move you. I presume you mean classical music in the lay person's sense of "stuff you hear in an orchestra hall" and not the academic sense of "music from the historical Classical period."

While it's hard to know where to draw the beginning line, J. S. Bach is as good as any. He wasn't just a genius, he was ASTOUNDINGLY prolific, and he created a lot of the form and aesthetic that continued through Western music for hundreds of years. He is the granddaddy of the Baroque era, in so many ways, and you're probably familiar with much of his music just from being a person who listens to things. I cannot possibly give a representative sample of Bach's music within the scope of this comment, but you might try the Cello Suite No. 1 in G, the two and three part inventions for keyboard, the Brandenberg Concertos, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and the Mass in B Minor.

Other composers in the Baroque era include G. F Handel (check out his Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks and the extremely famous Messiah oratorio) and Vivaldi (Four Seasons, Gloria -- the soprano soloist in the Gloria is a friend of mine).

Moving out of the Baroque period and into the Classical period, you have some of the true luminaries of the form. Franz Josef Haydn rose to prominence as the master of the symphonic form; you can hear how his sound evolved from his first five symphonies to his ninety-fourth, the Surprise Symphony (and he wrote ten more after that!) He also wrote some truly gorgeous chamber music; the Emperor Quartet is one of my favorites. And as a singer, can't let his massive oratorio The Creation go unmentioned.

And then we come to Mozart. Like Bach, there is absolutely no way I can give you a solid grounding in Mozart in the scope of this comment. You know his Requiem, whether you know it or not. You've heard his Symphony No. 41, the Jupiter, from Bugs Bunny if nothing else. His Concerto for Flute and Harp is ubiquitous. His opera Don Giovanni contains some of the most famous tunes in the genre. And he wrote a series of variations on a song you probably knew before you could talk.

(Man I am not doing any of this justice. There is so much. SO MUCH.)

Coming into the end of the classical period, there is Beethoven. The Moonlight Sonata, as mentioned above. The instantly recognized Fifth Symphony. His lovely and moving violin concerto in D. And of course, the stupendous, titanic, overwhelmingly awesome Symphony No. 9, the Choral.

After the Classical period comes the Romantic period. This is an era I am personally less familiar with, so I'll give you some popular highlights: Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Johann Strauss's Radetzky March. Chopin's Nocturnes. Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor. Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. Verdi's stunning Requiem. Wagner's Lohengrin. (That's the full opera, at close to four hours long, sorry). The SECOND Johann Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz (only nine minutes, that one!) Brahms' Symphony No. 2. Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Bizet's opera Carmen. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, featuring actual cannons. Sibelius's Finlandia. Dvorak's New World Symphony. Gabriel Faure's Requiem, the polar opposite of Verdi's in scope and style but not in skill or beauty. Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches, aka what everyone graduates to.

oh heck, it's past midnight, I should go to bed. When I get up in the morning I'll get into modernism, Schoenberg, Barber, Gorecki, Copeland, Bernstein, Penderecki, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and the rest, unless someone beats me to the punch.
posted by KathrynT at 12:29 AM on July 7 [43 favorites]


Wow indeed, KathrynT! That is a response beyond my wildest imaginings. Like, a topnotch FPP-worthy post in and of itself!

I know it's a super duper broad question- thanks soooo much for putting so much thought into your answer. Amazing!

And of course, thanks a whole lot to everyone else who has responded so far- I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful input. This is great!
posted by Philby at 12:41 AM on July 7


I can't add anything but for me this is a very good counter-point to my recent question looking for music to write by.
posted by Grinder at 1:16 AM on July 7


Here's Holst's The Planets, which on preview I see was mentioned above.

Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" is pretty nifty, too.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:14 AM on July 7


I have loved certain classical pieces my whole life and not been able to make head or tails of what I like by reading reviews because something that reads like I will like it often is just meh (Haydn Quartets, why so dull??), so in the past couple of years I have taken a different approach that has led me to several albums I play often and love.

Go to local concerts. They don't have to be pricey ones, look for student concerts or free open-air ones. Watch random documentaries about classical music. This year so far, I was left cold by St John's Passion, but have gone mildly nuts for harpsichord music (from a Jane Austen documentary), and a recent piano recital has me head over heels for a Janacek piece. Usually I just google the name of the piece I want and "best recording review" to get recommendations on a good album.

Classical music is so vast that serendipity has been the best way for me to discover what connects. When you find yourself frozen, with your hands on your headphones, just listening to the music - then you can explore from there.

I used to listen to WCPE because they will tell you the pieces being played and you could check it on their website too, and they had a nice mix of the favourites and less well known pieces.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:21 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


It may be interesting to know that Bach's keyboard works (apart from what's clearly meant for the organ) would have been played on the harpsichord, clavichord, or very early fortepiano.

The Goldberg variations are indeed well worth listening to, and if you find a recording where a fine player plays a fine harpsichord, you may prefer this over a guitar arrangement. Here's a video with the French harpsichordist Pierre Hantai (the music starts around 7.00]. Gustav Leonhardt's 1965 recording is a classic.
And if you really don't like harpsichords, there's always Perahia.
posted by Namlit at 2:45 AM on July 7


To add onto KathrynT's wonderful response, I'd like to add a few 20th century pieces that I personally love:

Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring
Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)
Copland - Fanfare for the Common Man
Shostakovich - Symphony no. 5
Prokofiev - Romeo & Juliet
Britten - Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:47 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit like you. I listen to a wide range of contemporary music, a fair whack of experimental/avant-garde type stuff, and these days I'm increasingly into jazz. But classical has always been kind of a blind spot.

Anyway. One suite I do know and love is Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky. Technically I think this is Romantic music rather than Classical, but to you and me it's all the same. Possibly better known in its orchestral arrangement by Ravel, I prefer the original piano version. The main theme is very familiar and you'll probably recognise it, but the whole ten-movement suite has a lot of variety. It's all very accessible and "visual" in an abstract sense - as the name suggests, each piece is based on a painting. It's superb music and the performance I've linked you to is a good one. I hope you enjoy it!
posted by Ted Maul at 3:11 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


A lot of classic Warner Brothers cartoons have this kind of music.
posted by brujita at 3:38 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I am looking forward to KathrynT's next post!

Mozart's Requiem never fails to catch my attention; it's one of the most famous classical works for good reason. It is intimidating to try to recommend a specific recording, because so many have been done, and feelings can run high about the quality and approach! Of the recordings I have, this is the one I prefer.

One of my favorite "classical" composers is Arvo Pärt. His choral compositions are hauntingly beeautiful. Wikipedia calls is "sacred minimalism." I don't really know enough about movements within classical music to place him myself; all I know is that I really, really like it. I have this album and several others that I can't find on Amazon. His orchestral compositions are more hit and miss for me, but I really enjoy "Wenn Bach Bienen gezuchtet hatte" and this album.

I also enjoy Franz Liszt's piano works, especially the etudes. I have this album and it's been played many times.

Erik Satie is another one you shouldn't overlook. You have probably heard some of these pieces as well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:06 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


artistxite offers lots of new classical music reviews
Full disclosure: I work there
posted by chillmost at 4:08 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


but the one major hole in my repertoire is the (vast!!) field of Classical Music.

While you're tasting Western classical music, don't forget that the world is big and has been around for some time. Beethoven & Co. are a large part of art music, but there is more to art music than the serious music of Europe and its former colonies. How much music from all of these can you recognize and hum along to?

(And does the "electronic to folk; from metal to hip-hop" music you refer to include popular and folk music from the rest of the world? For instance, what proportion of your music collection was written and recorded by people who speak English as their first language? How much of it was written and recorded since the 1960s? When you say folk music, how much of this are you including?)
posted by pracowity at 4:31 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


If you like electronic music you could work backwards, starting with the contemporary classical composers who influence electronic musicians and then their influences and so on back through time.
I don't know much about it all, but I think you could start with Reich and consider Ligeti, Boulez, Bartok and Schoenberg.
posted by asok at 4:38 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


pracowity: "(And does the "electronic to folk; from metal to hip-hop" music you refer to include popular and folk music from the rest of the world? For instance, what proportion of your music collection was written and recorded by people who speak English as their first language? How much of it was written and recorded since the 1960s? When you say folk music, how much of this are you including?)"

You raise some excellent points there, pracowity! Sounds to me like good fodder for next week's question! I have to admit- I have been extremely Western-centric in my tastes... but would certainly like to branch out. Guilty as charged- but I'd like to hear more.
posted by Philby at 5:13 AM on July 7


I'm going to risk sounding like a snob, and tell you that you'll probably appreciate a lot of classical music more if you understand it, who composed it, and the world they were living in. That said, I'm not suggesting you go back to school for this stuff; I'd recommend you pick up a book that just glosses over the classics of classical music and use that as a supplement to the very good suggestions here.

Here is such a book. NPR's Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection is a little dated in that it's about, y'know, CDs, but it has interesting stories about composers and famous pieces. Each composer gets like three pages or something, so you can literally spend five minutes looking at info and then go listen to the pieces on Youtube or whatever.
posted by nushustu at 6:04 AM on July 7


Try hearing the Adagio the way Herbert von Karajan hears it. Everybody else rushes it; von Karajan gives it enough time to soak in properly.

Then hoist yourself back into the world with a bit of Vivaldi.
posted by flabdablet at 6:58 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I have been extremely Western-centric in my tastes... but would certainly like to branch out.

Please do post the question! Not only do I have a lot of recommendations to make, I would like to see others' recommendations as well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:59 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I'd recommend you pick up a book that just glosses over the classics of classical music and use that as a supplement to the very good suggestions here.

If you do want a book like that, I recommend The Vintage Guide to Classical Music by Jan Swafford. His choice of which composers to focus on is pretty much perfect (better than the book I linked to in my previous comment).
posted by John Cohen at 7:06 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Improvisation is much less a part of the Western classical tradition than it once was. Not so with Hindi classical, into which the Shankar family provides some wonderful places to dive.
posted by flabdablet at 7:13 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I love the Goldberg variations. But they're long, and a lot of people find them boring. If you want to try you may find them more fun once you recognize the common bass that the variations are built on; the wikipedia page might help there.

Alternatively the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor is an example of Bach built on a much easier to hear repeating bass line. Plus it has that world-ending headbanging loudness a big church organ does so well. (Used, by the way, to hilarious effect in Neal Stephenson's "The Big U", which tells the story of a massive single-building university whose dormitory towers happen to have hallways of exactly the right length to resonate with the Passacaglia's low C.)

Or see also this famous Chaconne for a similar example of Bach doing crazy variations on a short repeating bass line. (And youtube also has transcriptions for organs, piano, and, of course, ukelele. Try 'em all.)

Be warned that classical recordings tend to have high dynamic range. If you turn them up loud enough to hear the quiet parts well, the loud parts may shake the walls. That's how it's supposed to be, but it can make listening in your car (for example) impractical. Try to make it to a concert occasionally.
posted by bfields at 7:36 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


That's how it's supposed to be

Ohhhhh yes. And buying the equipment you need in order to achieve truly satisfactory renditions in your house is both much more expensive and much less satisfying than hearing them do it live.

On a Ravi Shankar YouTube tear, now. Here's your basic four on the floor dance number.
posted by flabdablet at 7:45 AM on July 7


Bach's cello suites by Yo-Yo Ma are moody and beautiful. Also Bach's violin concertos, many of which you'll probably recognize, having absorbed them through osmosis. And all nine of Beethoven's symphonies.
posted by swheatie at 7:51 AM on July 7


If you're looking for dark and long with lots of movements, Havergal Brian's Symphony no. 1, "Gothic" fits the bill to a comical level of excess.

I also recommend Vaughan Williams, Symphony no. 6.

Alan Hovhaness's Mountains and Rivers Without End is mysterious and beautiful, as is his Mt. St. Helens symphony, no. 50. Don't use headphones the first time you listen to that last one. Trust me.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:54 AM on July 7


I can't imagine finding the Goldberg Variations boring! I recommend avoiding Glenn Gould's idiosyncratic interpretation, especially for a first listening. Angela Hewitt's piano rendition is my all-time favorite.
posted by Agave at 8:01 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Two more: Elgar's Cello Concerto and the underrated IMHO Variations for winds, strings and keyboards by Steve Reich.
posted by wittgenstein at 8:11 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


OK MODERN ERA LET'S DO THIS ONLY 114 YEARS LEFT TO GO

It is a cheat to claim Puccini's last opera, Turandot, within this era. It is really late Romanticism. But it was finished and premiered in the 20th century, and I love referring to it as a 20th century opera because so many people have such a clear idea in their head as to what 20th century classical music is like, and Puccini ain't it. They think of something more like Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, which makes use of a technique called "sprechstimme," or speak-singing. Schoenberg was also the father of serialism, also known as twelve-tone music or atonalism, used to pretty good effect in his String Quartet No. 3. This was pretty avant-garde stuff, to the point where Schoenberg would frequently have his compositions performed twice in a row, once to shock the ear and once to actually be listened to. Anton Webern took serialism even farther in his Symphony no. 21.

The Futurist movement welcomed the introduction of noises of all kinds into music, as well as exploring the tension between human and non-human players; Antheil's Ballet Mecanique was originally scored for percussion ensemble, two live pianists, and sixteen synchronized player pianos, though in that performance the mechanical element is provided by a single synthesizer. Less angular and perhaps more accessible is Mikhail Gnesin's Songs for a Knight Errant. This kind of aggressive experimentalism fell into disfavor around the time of the second World War because of its association with the Nazis, but not before it could influence composers like Igor Stravinsky, whose ballet score for the Rite of Spring famously caused riots. That video is a link to a reconstruction of the original Nijinsky choreography, and for an audience raised on Swan Lake and Giselle, it was almost vulgarly shocking. This one is really worth watching all the way through with some attention; I don't want to give too much away about the actual nature of the titular rite, but it is . . . really something. His Firebird Suite is also worth listening to, and will be familiar if you have ever seen Fantasia.

Carmina Burana is one of the most enduringly popular works of this era -- I have heard that it's the most popular 20th century classical work purchased after the Star Wars soundtrack, but I can't back that up right now. Everyone is familiar with the first movement just by virtue of being a person who leaves the house and listens to things, but the entire work is worth it; it is bold, risque, and brash in a way that few things that came before it were. I am having a hard time finding a link to a performance of it that I feel really does it justice, but this is probably because I am crazy picky because I've performed it like nine times. Not many people know that it's part of a triptych, three works designed to be performed in the same context; the first part, Catulli Carmina, and the last part, Trionfo di Afrodite, are academically interesting but less successful to my ear.

Speaking of the Star Wars soundtrack, there's Holst's Planets suite, as much-mentioned above. The Mars suite was given to Williams by George Lucas as an example of what he wanted Darth Vader's Imperial March to sound like, and as you can hear, they are very similar indeed. All classical music really is best experienced live, but this is one piece where that is exceptionally true; the dimensional and atmospheric nature of the music really blooms in a concert hall in a way that it never will through headphones.

One of my very favorite composers of the 20th century is Samuel Barber. He is most famous for his String Quartet, op. 11, the second movement of which was used to extremely moving effect in the movie Platoon, but my personal favorite of his is his Prayers of Kierkegaard. I could write an entire comment the length of both of these put together about this one piece and Barber's use of different modernist techniques to illustrate Kierkegaard's loss of faith and embracement of atheism, but my kids are out of school and they will only watch TV quietly for so long so this time I will skip it. :-)

By the middle of the 20th century, classical music was moving in a lot of different directions at once, from Aaron Copland's love affair with the American West in the form of Rodeo (the final suite of which is most familiar to modern ears as the music which accompanied the American Beef Council's "It's What's for Dinner" commercials) to Leonard Bernstein's jazz-infused Chichester Psalms to the darkness of Gorecki's third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs -- you can hear the continuity between this and the Knight Errant piece I posted above -- to Benjamin Britten's dissection, inversion, and re-invention of the British choral tradition in his Hymn to St. Cecelia. Krzyzstof Penderecki was most famous for his score to The Exorcist, but for my money, some of his most effective works are his Stabat Mater for a capella chorus, and his eerie, terrifying, easy to love but hard to listen to Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. But if I had to pick one work to typify this whole time period, which is impossible because the music in it was so diverse, I would choose the Britten War Requiem, commissioned to re-open the Coventry Cathedral after it was rebuilt following WWII. I had the exceedingly great fortune to perform this last year and it was like a punch in the gut, in the best possible way.

Oh man, the time is getting away from me again, I'm going to do another laundry list, I'm sorry. Ralph Vaughan Williams, Symphony No. 5. Ligeti's Atmospheres. (Also Ligeti's Symphonic Poem for 100 Metronomes, which definitely extends that futurist "tension between human and machine" idea.) John Adams, Short Ride in a Fast Machine. John Cage's Sonata V for prepared piano. Philip Glass, Metamorphosis. Arvo Part's Magnificat and Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. Veljo Tormis, A Sword From the Sea. Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3. John Tavener, Song for Athene.

I am a classical musician but I am the farthest thing from a scholar. This list should not be taken to be definitive, exhaustive, or in any way a statement on anything I either included or excluded. You could ask twelve other people this same question and get twelve lists of works with zero overlap with mine, all just as good. I hope you find something in this magnum opus (these magna opera?) that stirs your heart and your mind and your ears. If there's anything you particularly like, let me know here or in memail and I can find you other things along those same lines. Happy listening!
posted by KathrynT at 10:42 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Carmina Burana is one of the most enduringly popular works of this era -- I have heard that it's the most popular 20th century classical work purchased after the Star Wars soundtrack, but I can't back that up right now.

It's a big ad!
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


If you want something dark and analogous to a modern album, I'd recommend one of Schubert's song cycles: Die schöne Müllerin (1824), Winterreise (1828), or Schwanengesang (1829).

Listen to individual songs like Der Doppelganger, Der Leiermann, Gute Nacht, and Der Lindenbaum to begin with. Then try a full cycle: you can't go wrong with Gerald Moore & Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Winterreise. (Try to read along with a translation!)
posted by rollick at 12:03 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


My favorite song in the Winterreise cycle is no. 7, Auf Dem Flusse. Try that one.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:20 PM on July 7


I loved Monteverdi's operas when I first encountered them (I had a season's ticket for all premieres at the Dutch national opera house, and had no idea what to expect).
posted by rjs at 4:18 PM on July 7


I started on a response regarding non-Western classical music, so here is the India section before I lose it. This isn't a good overview; it's just some of my favorites with some Wikipedia articles thrown in.

Indian classical music can be divided into two types: Hindustani and Carnatic. Within each type, there are multiple schools.

If you’ve heard classical Indian music, it was probably Hindustani, and there’s a good chance it was specifically Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar was the premier popularizer of Indian classical music and the sitar outside of India. His list of recordings is vast. I like The Sounds of India, for its delightfully retro spoken introduction and its affordability.

Amjad Ali Khan is another high-profile artist. He plays the sarod, which has a deeper and more spare sound than the sitar. He also has a vast list of recordings. Music from the 13th Century is an album of ragas that are less commonly performed today.

Shivkumar Sharma is probably the premier player of the santoor, a type of dulcimer. With the santoor, you can really hear the connection between the musicial traditions of South Asia and Persia. This album might be a good place to start. As another elder statesman of Indian classical there is so much to explore if you discover you like him.

An instrument that I wish I knew more about is the vichitra veena, a wonderfully improbable looking instrument with a soulful, deep sound. I haven’t really explored artists who specialize in it yet. I have one album I really enjoy, “Musician's Guild Presents Radhika Budhkar”, which I can’t find on Amazon, but—cough cough—can find on Google.

The reason that I probably didn’t discover the vichitra veena earlier is that it’s not as popular as a solo instrument, although it certainly has the sonic capacity to be. Another wonderful instrument like that is the tabla tarang, tuned drums. This is an excellent album of tabla tarang as a solo instrument (with some tabla for accompaniment). This is not the same as the tabla, whose most famous player is probably Zakir Hussain. (He shows up in a lot of duets, but I don’t know enough to recommend a particular album.)

My favorite Indian instrument (after the voice) is the sarangi, and this album by Ram Narayan is excellent.

Speaking of the voice, you simply must check out Kaushiki Chakraborty. If I had to pick one artist to use to introduce someone to Indian classical music, it would be her. She doesn’t have the same status (yet) as someone like Lakshmi Shankar or her father, Ajoy Chakraborty, but there is something captivating about her performances. This album is worth buying.

I know much less about Carnatic music, but I enjoy Sudha Ragunathan.

Someone recommended in the last thread that you will enjoy classical music more if you know more about its context—its history, movements, etc. I think that’s true here too. I haven’t said anything about the different schools because I don’t feel qualified, but it’s fascinating.

posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:54 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Repost of above with "smart" quotes removed from links, mods for the convenience of:

---snip---
I started on a response regarding non-Western classical music, so here is the India section before I lose it. This isn't a good overview; it's just some of my favorites with some Wikipedia articles thrown in.

Indian classical music can be divided into two types: Hindustani and Carnatic. Within each type, there are multiple schools.

If you’ve heard classical Indian music, it was probably Hindustani, and there’s a good chance it was specifically Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar was the premier popularizer of Indian classical music and the sitar outside of India. His list of recordings is vast. I like The Sounds of India, for its delightfully retro spoken introduction and its affordability.

Amjad Ali Khan is another high-profile artist. He plays the sarod, which has a deeper and more spare sound than the sitar. He also has a vast list of recordings. Music from the 13th Century is an album of ragas that are less commonly performed today.

Shivkumar Sharma is probably the premier player of the santoor, a type of dulcimer. With the santoor, you can really hear the connection between the musicial traditions of South Asia and Persia. This album might be a good place to start. As another elder statesman of Indian classical there is so much to explore if you discover you like him.

An instrument that I wish I knew more about is the vichitra veena, a wonderfully improbable looking instrument with a soulful, deep sound. I haven’t really explored artists who specialize in it yet. I have one album I really enjoy, Musician's Guild Presents Radhika Budhkar, which I can’t find on Amazon, but—cough cough—can find on Google.

The reason that I probably didn’t discover the vichitra veena earlier is that it’s not as popular as a solo instrument, although it certainly has the sonic capacity to be. Another wonderful instrument like that is the tabla tarang, tuned drums. This is an excellent album of tabla tarang as a solo instrument (with some tabla for accompaniment). This is not the same as the tabla, whose most famous player is probably Zakir Hussain. (He shows up in a lot of duets, but I don’t know enough to recommend a particular album.)

My favorite Indian instrument (after the voice) is the sarangi, and this album by Ram Narayan is excellent.

Speaking of the voice, you simply must check out Kaushiki Chakraborty. If I had to pick one artist to use to introduce someone to Indian classical music, it would be her. She doesn’t have the same status (yet) as someone like Lakshmi Shankar or her father, Ajoy Chakraborty, but there is something captivating about her performances. This album is worth buying.

I know much less about Carnatic music, but I enjoy Sudha Ragunathan.

Someone recommended in the last thread that you will enjoy classical music more if you know more about its context—its history, movements, etc. I think that’s true here too. I haven’t said anything about the different schools because I don’t feel qualified, but it’s fascinating.

posted by flabdablet at 8:34 AM on July 8


Thank you flabdablet, I didn't even realize that TextEditor was doing that! What a pain. Will take care to turn off smart quotes in the future.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:35 AM on July 8


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