Suggest some classical music.
February 5, 2004 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Classical music advice... It finally dawned on me that the form of classical music I enjoy the most is soloist work such as Pablo Casals performing the Bach Cello Suites or Glenn Gould performing the Goldberg Variations. Anyone have advice for other one musician/one instrument/amazing performance classical works?
posted by machaus to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
may I piggy-back on this question to add classical guitarists to the request?
posted by o2b at 6:26 AM on February 5, 2004

One of the first classical CDs I owned & the first I really fell in love with featured Adam Harasiewicz's performances of Chopin's Nocturnes & Preludes. There seems to be a whole lot more music for solo piano out there than for solo-almost-anything-else...

With pianists (or any other solists) you might find you'd enjoy a particular performer's style across a range of different works - if you like Gould's Bach, you might well like the way he tackles other composers' work too. In my case, for example, I happened to pick up some LPs from a junkshop which included some 1960s performances of pieces by Tchaikovsky & Chopin by a pianist called Nikita Magaloff, which I loved. I've since found a couple of CDs on which he did some Mendelssohn, Liszt, Scriabin, etc., & I find I loved his way with those pieces too... it's like there's something about his personality as a performer that particularly appeals to me, and, although other pianists of his generation (Sviatoslav Richter, for example), appear to have been more highly-regarded by more critics, I find I just like Magaloff's style.

Trying to think of something not for piano: I really enjoy Eduardo Fernández's way with Villa-Lobos's Preludes & Etudes for solo guitar.
posted by misteraitch at 6:40 AM on February 5, 2004

Here's one for the search hounds: Barry Douglas doing Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" solo on piano as it was orginally written. Very enlightening.
posted by mischief at 6:46 AM on February 5, 2004

Gidon Kremer, Bach Violin Sonatas. The Ciaccone has to be heard to be believed. Also, any authentic recording of Vladimir Horowitz playing Rachmaninov.
posted by brownpau at 6:47 AM on February 5, 2004

For solo classical guitar, check out the Andres Segovia Collection series.
posted by eastlakestandard at 6:49 AM on February 5, 2004

Gould playing the French Suites is a must. The prelude to the D minor is one of my favorite pieces of music.

I also enjoy Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues as played by Vladimir Ashkenazy and Scriabin's Piano Sonatas performed by Ruth Laredo.
posted by amery at 7:01 AM on February 5, 2004

Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas are fun, and there are hundreds of them to explore. The classic is Horowitz, but there's a double-disc set on Virgin by Mikhail Pletnev that's quite good and unconventional. P.S. You can probably find Scarlatti transcriptions performed on guitar as well, if you do a bit of hunting.
posted by letourneau at 8:49 AM on February 5, 2004

I second much of the above, and will explore the others. Some stuff I enjoy, collected pretty much at random:

Bach: Well Tempered Clavier - Glenn Gould - SONY.
Bach: Piano Partitas - Glenn Gould - SONY.
Bach: Lute suites - Paul Galbraith - DELOS DE 3528.
Bach: Violin Partitas - SONY. I have the Hilary Hahn cut recorded when she was 17? Slow but amazing ciaccona in No. 2.
Barrios: Guitar Music of Barrios - David Russell - TELARC CD-80373. Latin guitar; includes 'La Catedral' suite, which pops up all the time.
Mozart: Piano Sonatas - Justus Franz - Eurodisc 69071-2-RG.
Mozart/Scelsi/Part/Bartschi/Busoni: Piano Compilation - Walter Bartschi - ECM New Series 1377. Juxtapositions Mozzer and dissonant new stuff; initially 'WTF?' but itt's a grower.
Schubert: Complete Impromptus (piano) - Alfred Brendel - Philips 456 061-2.

You can also consider trios/quartets/quintets; I've just acquired:
Mozart - Piano Trios - The Mozartean Players - 2 vols - Harmonia Mundi HCX 3957033/HCX 3957034.

sorry no links busy today
posted by carter at 10:55 AM on February 5, 2004

P.S. Sharon Isbin has several good collections of classical/latin/modern guitar. She plays fast but technique is good.
posted by carter at 10:56 AM on February 5, 2004

Laurence Juber has done some fantastic classical guitar recordings. Start by listening to Lunar Eclipse (self-hosted link, heh).
posted by Aaorn at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2004

I heartily recommend Maurice Andre for this recording of Trumpet Concerti if you like Baroque and this recording which covers music of what could be considered the golden age of trumpet technique.
posted by plinth at 1:02 PM on February 5, 2004

i very much enjoy Diana Boyle's recordings of Beethoven's Diabelli variations: very complex, but accessible. they're short and they range from dramatic to delicate; bright and fast to languorous. i don't really know much about the pianist herself (this is just the first recording of the pieces that i found) but she does a lovely job with the variations.

i'm fond of all vladmir horowitz's recordings, myself: particularly his Chopin mazurkas and the nocturnes (some are collected on his last recording, released as "The Last Recording").

as for trios, etc, you cannot beat the labeque sisters. their dvorak slovanic dances is *perfect*.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:13 PM on February 5, 2004

Evelyn Glennie is a great solo percussionist who happens to be deaf. I've got this disc, which I can highly recommend. I've only heard cuts here and there off of other ones.
posted by soyjoy at 6:54 PM on February 5, 2004

My favourite musicians:
Horowitz: (seems to be a popular choice here!) Pretty much anything he has recorded is amazing and leagues ahead of most other pianists. His Chopin is particularly insightful.
Rachmaninov: if you can stand the quality of those old recordings. One of the greatest pianists of all time.
Marc-Andre Hamelin: fantastic contemporary pianist. Not afraid to tackle and champion obscure music. Some of my favourites of his include the Scriabin sonatas and the compilation CDs. Many people like his Alkan, but I just don't like Alkan I'm afraid.
Glenn Gould: If you get the Goldberg Variations, make sure you get the 1955 version instead of the 1981 version. It's a question of taste, but I much prefer the spontaneity and fire of the earlier recording.
I'm a fan of Itzhak Perlman's Unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas myself... this really is down to taste though. If you're new to Bach, I think Perlman's more romantic approach will probably be more accessible.
I quite like Yo-Yo Ma's version of the Bach 'Cello Suites... specifically the version that was used for the television series. Again, a question of taste.
posted by BobsterLobster at 4:58 AM on February 6, 2004

Oh yeah, if you like one musician/one instrument/amazing performance classical works, you definitely want to check out all of the Liszt transcriptions of popular Orchestral works. A good place to start is probably the transcription of the Beethoven Symphonies for solo piano on the Hyperion label played by Howard Shelley. If you want something a little cheaper, there's a recording of Danse Macarbre on Naxos for solo piano that's breathtaking. Also a very decent transcription of Symphonie Fantastique on Naxos.
posted by BobsterLobster at 5:04 AM on February 6, 2004

For Bach's solo Sonatas and Partitas there is nothing to compare to Szeryng's classic recording. For the cello suites, both Starker and Fournier easily outclass those mentioned above IMHO.

Salvatore Accardo's Paganini Caprices are very impressive but not to everyone's taste.

For solo piano, Alicia de Larrocha's Albeniz (Iberia, Navarra, etc.) is sublime. Pollini's Beethoven is unbeatable. Not restricting to solo works, the Quartetto Italiano's late Beethoven is astounding - raw, aggressive, perfect.
posted by cbrody at 7:12 AM on February 6, 2004

Following up on BobsterLobster: If you like Glenn Gould at all, you should spring for the Goldberg Variations Box set that has both versions. I find there are moments in each of the two versions that I prefer to the other, and its fascinating to hear his twin interpretations of the piece a quarter-century apart.

As to Rachmaninoff, as the topic of this thread is solo pieces, I can't diss his versions of his preludes, but man, I found him to be the worst interpreter of his concertos (2 & 3, anyway) that I'd ever heard.
posted by soyjoy at 7:37 AM on February 6, 2004

Following on from the above post, I spefically like Midori's Paganini Caprices, I personally don't think Accardo's technique is quite up to the job. Again, some people find Midori's recording a little too unemotional.
On the subject of Alicia de Larrocha, her recording of Granados' Goyescas is absolutely stunning. Wonderful music to fall in love to, and will help things along! I can't think of much other classical music which is as tender and red-blooded.
Ah, I've just read the other post above... I've keeled over as I read that Rachmaninov couldn't interpret his own Concertos... As far as I'm concerned (and most others), they are definitive! It's just a shame that he cut so much out of the 3rd concerto.
posted by BobsterLobster at 7:40 AM on February 6, 2004

It's just a shame that he cut so much out of the 3rd concerto.

That's part of the problem - he seemed to want to get it over with a lot of the time (something Horowitz sometimes shares), and not wear on listeners' patience, instead of relaxing, lingering and caressing the notes the way his music especially seems to call for. There's no doubt he was an incredibly dextrous pianist (and a thoughtful interpreter in general), but in many places I found Rachmaninoff the performer proving this at the expense of Rachmaninoff the composer.
posted by soyjoy at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2004

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