Classical music newbie needs suggestions
June 9, 2016 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm a classical music newbie and need suggestions on composers and pieces that are similar in vein to Wagner's Tristan & Isolde.

For writing projects I've found Tristan & Isolde to be so moving and the pace to be slow enough not to feel uppity or annoying. The mood it conveys is... perfection! I can't seem to find anything else like it. Suggestions?
posted by hollypolly to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Tchaikovsky has a bit of romance to him. Romeo and Juliette overture?
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:03 PM on June 9, 2016

Schoenberg, Pelleas and Melisande, and Gurrelieder.
posted by dilaudid at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Any operas by Richard Strauss... I've never really taken to his orchestral music but I love his operas. Usually sung by singers with a similar voice type to singers who you might find singing Wagner.
posted by matildaben at 2:34 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good suggestions so far. If you like slow-moving Wagner you should also try out his Parsifal.
posted by dfan at 3:40 PM on June 9, 2016

Late Mahler? The 6th, 7th, and 9th symphonies might do it.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 5:58 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tchaikovsky would have been my suggestion as well. In addition to "Romeo and Juliet", try his late symphonies (Nos. 4–6, especially No. 5), his piano concertos, and his Serenade for Strings.

Also, Sibelius might be up your alley; he's never terribly "peppy", and his music conveys a wonderful dark Nordic mood. His Symphony No. 2 is probably the most accessible, but I like No. 7 as well.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:23 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tristan and Isolde is an absolutely fascinating work on every level. From a musical standpoint, it's given analysts an enduring puzzle to debate ever since it was written, and on a purely sonic level, it very rarely "resolves." Much has been written about this masterpiece, if you want to delve further into it.

Some of my recommendations below include specific conductors' recordings that I think would suit what you're looking for. These pieces have been recorded beautifully countless times by many different conductors and orchestras, I'm simply highlighting what I think would reach you the most immediately.

In your case, you probably can't go wrong with anything Boulez recorded. Probably won't be partial to his compositions, though.

Schoenberg: Pelleas & Melisande; Verklarte Nacht (Boulez)

Mahler: Kindertotenlieder; Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony 7 (Boulez or Michael Tilson Thomas)

Rachmaninoff: Symphony no. 2; "The Bells" (Ashkenazy)

Bartok: Piano Concertos 2 & 3 (Boulez); the middle movements will probably serve your purposes best

Scriabin: Poem of Ecstasy; Piano Concerto; maybe the Violin Concerto (Boulez)

Debussy: Printemps (Lots of options)

Bax: Symphonies and Violin Sonatas

Strauss: Elektra; Salome; any of his more expressionist works may ring your bell, but they get pretty busy and tumultuous and aren't great "background" music...

Shostakovich: Symphony 10 (lots of options)

Stravinsky: Petrouchka; Sacre du Printemps (not going to invite a flamewar by recommending conductors)

And a little further afield from the above...

Mozart: Requiem K. 626 (Gardiner); Symphony 40 K. 550 (Gardiner or Karajan); Piano Concerto 20 K. 466 (Perahia or Uchida/Tate)

You may also enjoy the Dvorak Cello and Piano Concertos, as well as symphonies 6-9.

Have fun!
posted by stewiethegreat at 1:03 AM on June 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

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