Understanding Orchestras & Orchestral Music
October 25, 2005 3:08 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to better understand/appreciate orchestras and orchestral music. What resources would you recommend?

A few years ago I heard a few programs of a series in which a conductor and a BBC orchestra explained the who, what, when, where, why and hows of the elements of different orchestras, the role of the conductor and some of the more widely known orchestral pieces of music. I've never heard it repeated but would be keen to get it on CD if possible (I figure that it'd be better than reading a book about orchestras & music). Failing that, alternatives?
posted by d-no to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I read this book about 10 years ago. I really liked it. It helped me appreciate the artists and the music. It also has long lists of recommended CD's.
posted by crapples at 4:22 AM on October 25, 2005

Here are some scripts from Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. (Which you might be able to find at your library.)
posted by Wolfdog at 4:37 AM on October 25, 2005

This might be similar to what you're looking for. It's a radio 3 series that deconstructs various pieces of music.
posted by Lotto at 5:09 AM on October 25, 2005

For something a little more advanced - check out The Classical Style by Howard Gardner. Classic book.
posted by kdern at 5:54 AM on October 25, 2005

check out The Classical Style by Howard Gardner
Do you mean Charles Rosen?
posted by Wolfdog at 6:06 AM on October 25, 2005

If you can afford it, you might try a series of lectures from The Teaching Company. I'm currently consuming How to Listen To and Understand Great Music, which has been educational and fun. You may find The Symphony more closely suited to your needs. These lecture sets can be expensive, but many public libraries have them.
posted by jdroth at 7:09 AM on October 25, 2005

Yes - sorry. The Classical Style is by Charles Rosen.

I should add an obvious step - listen to lots of classical music!
posted by kdern at 7:53 AM on October 25, 2005

Just take a class on any instrument you would find in an orchestra, perferably in one that includes practice as a large group of other instruments. Once you've been in their seat, it's tons better to understand and appreciate the kind of work involved. You might check out John Williams and Danny Elfman collections as movie score writers for good melodies and themes.
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:57 AM on October 25, 2005

A second vote for jdroth's suggestion of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. Robert Greenberg is an excellent and extremely enthusiastic presenter.

His lectures do a very good job at explaining European concert music through the early 20th century, and succeed in being accessible without being overly simplified.

Best of all, he approaches music without any snobbery, in an attempt to dispel the myth that orchestral music can only be appreciated by a small group of old, elitest patrons.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:11 AM on October 25, 2005

This guy
posted by hortense at 9:29 AM on October 25, 2005

In another vein entirely, you should probably check out Peter Schickele/P. D. Q. Bach. Be sure to catch "New Horizons in Music Appreciation: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony."
posted by tangerine at 5:36 PM on October 25, 2005

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