Monday, 16 January 2012

December 2011 - Classical Music

Bach, J.S.
  • 'Triple Concerto' for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord
  • Triple Harpischord Concertos 1 and 2
  • Oboe D'Amore Concerto in A (reconstruction - BWV 1055R)
  • Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor (reconstruction - BWV 1060R)
Bach/Vivaldi - Quadruple Harpischord Concerto in A minor, BWV 1065
  • Dover Beach
  • Three Songs, Op. 10
  • Unpublished songs
Beethoven - Symphony No. 6 'Pastorale'
Beethoven - Mass in C
Faure - Barcarolle No. 3
Holmboe - Symphonies 1 to 8
Holst - The Planets
Mozart - Piano Sonatas 10 to 12
Mozart - Symphony No. 35 'Haffner'
Pisendel (?) - Saraband in C
Strauss, Richard - Metamorphosen
  • Violin Sonatas in C minor, D minor, G minor and B flat, RV 5, 15. 28 and 34
  • Laudate peri in C minor, RV 600
  • Laudate peri in A, RV 602 plus revised Gloria from RV 602a
  • Gaude mater Ecclesia (Rejoice, mother Church)
  • Salve Regina in C minor, RV 616
  • Salve Regina in G minor, RV 618
  • Sanctorum meritis, RV 620
  • Vos aurae per montes (You breezes through the mountains)
  • Ascende laeta (Gladly climb)
  • Cur sagittas, cur tela, RV 637
Nearly at the end of my bulk classical purchase - just a few Bach and Vivaldi pieces to go! Then I can start going back and remembering more of it.  As far as Vivaldi is concerned, there are a few fragments that have stuck in the mind, so it's not all been a wasted exercise.

My obsession with Vagn Holmboe flared with a vengeance this month.  The 8 symphonies mentioned above are just the things that are in my collection. I've been laying my hands on every Holmboe fragment I can find - samples on iTunes, and thanks to the Swedish record company BIS I've listened to about another 10 pieces in full online. I expect to greatly expand my Holmboe CD collection sometime soon.

Just what is it that causes me to obsess about a moderately obscure 20th century composer? It really started with what I read about him, primarily in the Penguin Guide to classical music. The qualities it talked about - his sense of structure, argument and development, plus his vague similarities to Sibelius - drew my attention, as well as the glowing terms constantly used to describe the quality, power and imagination of the music.  And then, when I finally got around to buying the set of the symphonies... I could hear what the writers had been talking about!

Not always, immediately, mind, because some of the symphonies are more accessible than others.  Only a few of the earlier ones could be regarded as 'tuneful' in any conventional sense.  But even in some of the 'non-tuneful' ones it didn't take long to hear how little pieces of music would grow and merge and swell into larger structures.  It's music that always sounds like it knows what it's doing and where it's going.

Okay, not always - I don't think every single thing is amazing. The choral Symphony No. 4 doesn't work all that convincingly.  But hits are far more frequent than misses and for a composer who's not terribly famous, it's pretty impressive stuff. And I want more of it.

Year in Review

Unlike the pop music list, the classical one is complete and tells me I've listened to... 438 different classical recordings!  There's some double-ups there, and some things that are only fragments, but it's still about 400 different classical works.

Which sounds like a lot more than the pop music list, but some of these 'works' are only a couple of minutes long while only 20 or 30 of them would be equivalent in length to a pop music album.

In terms of sheer number of compositions, Vivaldi ends up the winner - not a surprise given recent months! There are also fairly healthy doses of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Faure, Handel, Haydn, Holmboe, Mozart, Scarlatti, Schubert, Schumann and Telemann.  None of which is a great surprise to me personally. My classical collection actually isn't that enormous in terms of the composers represented.  There are certain composers for whom the collection is quite 'deep' and then many others, including some fairly famous names, aren't represented much or at all.  It's no different to pop music really, in that not every big name appeals to me. That still holds true even though, for classical music, there's been a much longer period of time over which lesser composers have been winnowed out and our culture has decided who's worth holding onto.

The spreadsheet claims I've actually managed to listen to around 40% of my classical collection during the year, which does surprise me.  I suspect it's due to how much the collection expanded during the year (with 2 big purchases, one right at New Year's and then the box sets a few months ago) and my efforts to listen to what I bought.

And I've got designs on buying more...

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