Need New-to-Me Classical Music!
March 5, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I have 400 classical music tracks on my MP3 player, and I'm sick of all of them. Help me find more!

I'm looking for classical music recommendations to add to my collection. I'm bored of listening to the same stuff.

Here's a small sampling of what I already have, and like:

Stile Antico, Music for Compline
Les Witches, Nobody's Jig
The Cardinall's Musick, Early Latin Church Music & Propers for Lady Mass
Trio Mediaeval, Stella Maris

Anything by the Tallis Scholars; JS & CPE Bach's violin concertos and chamber and choral works; and Chopin.

Can you MeFites suggest some other works or artists that I might enjoy? A thousand thanks in advance!
posted by orrnyereg to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Palestrina.
posted by variella at 8:30 AM on March 5, 2009

Since you seem to enjoy vocals, there's always opera. The choices there are endless. A typical opera can last 2-3 hours, unless it's Wagner, in which case a whole day.

And no classical collection is complete without Gorecki's Symphony No. 3. But dont listen to it at work, unless you want to cry over your keyboard.
posted by elendil71 at 8:31 AM on March 5, 2009

This is really broad. Have you tried signing up for eMusic and looking around? You get a free 2-week trial account when you first sign up, with 25 (50?) free tracks. They have tons of classical music from all eras -- just start searching around for Bach, Handel Chopin, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Machaut, etc. They have a lot of music on the Naxos and Chandos labels, which are excellent. Much, much cheaper than iTunes or a CD store (25-40 cents a track depending on your subscription). The mp3s are DRM-free, totally legal, and permanently re-downloadable as long as you keep your account active.

Another composer: Arvo Part. He's modern (still living), but much of his work sounds like it's from before the Renaissance or Middle Ages.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm currently in love with "Bull on the Roof" by Darius Milhaud, if you don't have that.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:34 AM on March 5, 2009

Also ... If you like CPE Bach, I recommend looking into Haydn's super-early symphonies -- like, in the single digits. Of course, as a classical fan you must own his later ones (#88-104, etc.), but don't overlook the more obscure early ones.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:37 AM on March 5, 2009

You may want to peek around Magnatune. They have a good amount of medieval/renaissance music in their catalogue, ready to download non-DRM with nice ownership conditions and all.
posted by Iosephus at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2009

Oh, ho this is fun!
Do you use Last.Fm? Once you've logged a good number of songs, it can make recommendations. On iTunes there is also a free podcast of your personalized recs. I use it and it's fairly on-point, I like nearly everything they suggest.
Do you like (I hate this term) avant-Classical? The Rachels, Max Richter, Dirty Three, Helios... they are all very good. Hard-to-classify bands like Ida, Low, Alarm Will Sound, Mowgli, Azure Ray, Kaki King: also tops.

For traditional classical, try Franz Schubert, Dvorzak, Smetana, Bach's Inventions (pref. performed by GLenn Gould), Schumann, Strauss (esp Last Four Songs perf. by Jessye Norman), anything Chopin, the Trios Gymnopedies by Erik Satie....

I have tons of CDs you can borrow and burn, o co-worker of mine!
posted by wowbobwow at 9:47 AM on March 5, 2009

I really loved Morimur by The Hilliard Ensemble and Christoph Poppen. It's a mix of Bach solo violin music and choral music, it's BEAUTIFUL.

I really loved the re-recording of the 1955 Glenn Gould recording of the Goldberg variations. They digitized the old recording and then replayed it through a digital player piano. It's so good.

Anything that has Jordi Savall in it is going to be meaty and good. I like the Cantigas De Santa Maria.

Check out "Claire De Lune Oistraick" on youtube for a beautiful moment.

And two albums by Leon Fleisher, The Journey and Two Hands, are both amazing.

Oh yeah, youtube "Cappricio Bach Richter" for another stunning short piece.
posted by sully75 at 10:12 AM on March 5, 2009

elendil71 nails it. You really, really, do want to listen to Gorecki's 3rd.
It's just so gutwrenching.
I even had a character dying of AIDS in one of my novels listen to it and describe the pain and abandonment he was feeling. HARD chapter to write.
The piece is amazing.
posted by willmize at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2009

I really like Bedrich Smetana. Ma Vlast, but also The Bartered Bride.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:11 AM on March 5, 2009

A great way to broaden your collection is to use your local classical radio station as a source for music references.

It seems as though your tastes center mainly on early (=medieval/renaissance) and Baroque music, with possibly a smattering of Romantic, and that you're equally open to choral and instrumental works. Any local classical station worth its salt is going to have a dedicated early music program; if you make a habit of listening to that regularly, you can be fairly sure of coming away from each program with 2-3 good ideas for new pieces/composers/performers to explore. (If your local station doesn't have such a show, then WWFM's "A Distant Mirror", Sundays 11-1, is a good place to start; they have free streaming audio available here.)

It's a little outside-the-box, but you might also want to consider working by recording label, instead of by piece (this has the added benefit of providing some assurance that you won't unwittingly end up with a crappy or poorly-recorded performance of what would otherwise have been a lovely work. Seriously, it happens!). I'm sure there are others, but in my experience Deutsche Grammophon Archive, Decca's L'Oiseau-Lyre, and Gimell (the Tallis Scholars' label) are pretty solid for med/ren/Baroque stuff. A quick glance through any of their catalogues might give you some new ideas for cool-sounding compilations or composers to try.

Lastly, seconding anything by the Hilliard Ensemble. Also, Palestrina!
posted by Bardolph at 11:13 AM on March 5, 2009

Eric Whitacre is a phenomenal contemporary composer who does great choral work.

But that's not what I ducked in here to say. What you need is to branch out into Wind Ensemble. If you're looking at a recording and you're given options, you really can't go wrong with the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

For a sampling of great wind ensemble music, and great music usually arranged for wind ensemble:

Molly on the Shore - Percy Grainger
Southern Harmony, Exhilaration - Grantham
Concerto for 23 Winds - Hartley
Gloriosa - Ito
Symphony in Bb - Hindemith
Othello - Reed
First Suite in Eb/Second Suite in F - Holst
October - Whitacre
Symphonic Overture - Shostakovich
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:59 AM on March 5, 2009

Zoe Keating.
Absolutely amazing.
posted by horseshoecrab at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2009

I asked something similar not too long ago and the recommendations were very cool.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 9:10 PM on March 5, 2009

I'd also suggest plunking down the $10 bucks for a membership at it's per year if I remember right, but you can stream in high quality every recording they've ever done. It's a fantastic way to discover new composers.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 9:12 PM on March 5, 2009

Il Giardino Armonico are freaking incredible.
posted by Emilyisnow at 10:45 PM on March 5, 2009

Weighing in late, but you may want to give WNYC2 a listen - they mainly play contemporary classical, but their knowledge of the music and their challenging programming makes them a rare bird among classical stations these days. It has been a useful tool for me for learning about new composers to check out.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:01 AM on March 7, 2009

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