Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Classical Music - December 2015

Bach, J.S. - Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (Oh how fleeting, oh how trivial)
Bach, J.S. - Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ (You Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ)
Beethoven - String Quartet No.10
Beethoven - 'Kakadu Variations' for piano trio
Brahms - Clarinet Quintet
Chopin
  • Fantaisie in F minor
  • Ballade No.3
  • Allegro de Concert
  • Tarantelle
  • Polonaise, op.44
  • 2 Nocturnes, op.48
  • Prelude, op.45
  • Waltz, op.70/2
Dvorak
  • String Quartets 7 to 10
  • Piano Trios 1 and 2
  • Piano Quartet No.1
  • String Quintet No.2
  • String Sextet
Grieg - Piano Concerto
Handel - Keyboard Suite No.7
Haydn - Symphonies 84 and 99
Holmboe
  • Symphonies 1 to 5
  • Concertos 1 to 9
  • Concerto for Orchestra
  • Violin Sonatas 1 and 2
  • Bagatelle No.1 'Arabesque'
  • Molto allegro scherzando for solo violin
  • Romanian Suite for piano
  • Sonatina Briosa
  • Piano Suite
  • Small piano pieces
  • Lagerkvist songs (partial)
  • Hominis Dies
  • Jeg ved en urt så dejlig og bold (I know a plant so lovely and fine)
Holst - The Planets
Janacek - Mladi (Youth) 
Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.1
Schubert - Moments Musicaux
Schubert - Piano Sonata in A minor, D.784 
Schumann - Papillons
Sibelius - Symphony No.4
Thybo - Concerto Breve for organ and brass quintet 
Vivaldi - Beatus vir (1739 version)

It's fairly obvious that there were explosions of listening activity around certain composers in December...

The (somewhat sputtering) chronological exploration of Chopin's music reached a fairly important milestone, in a group of works that arguably helped inspire this method of exploration in the first place. Chopin completed his opuses 43 to 49 during one particularly impressive burst of activity at George Sand's house in Nohant, in the summer and autumn of 1841.

I've listened to this set of works as a unit once before, and devised a sort of concert of them in an order I find musically satisfying. It's just over an hour of music, and while not all of it would rate as Chopin's very best, none of it is bad and it does include some major highlights such as 2 of his finest nocturnes and the epic Fantaisie.

For Dvorak, I suddenly decided to listen to all of the chamber works I own, from String Quartet No.7 onwards. The starting point was not entirely arbitrary, as this involved skipping the early quartets that Dvorak half-revised or never had published, and starting around the time his career began to take off in earnest.

I'm not sure what brought this on, beyond a desire to get to know many of the pieces better, but the rewards have been excellent. Dvorak is perhaps the most naturally tuneful of all famous composers, and all of these pieces are enjoyable. I think if I was trying to introduce someone to classical music, Dvorak would be one of the first composers I would use.

And then there was Holmboe... having listened to the last of the works I'd purchased earlier in 2015 (the choral work Hominis Dies), I immediately wanted to put those works in context and began a chronological survey. In the second half of December I got through the earliest pre-opus works right through to opus 39.  My enthusiasm for this slightly obscure Danish composer appears limitless.

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The total number of classical works/performances I listened to in 2015 was, according to my spreadsheets, 421.  This is down on the previous year, but more than 2013, and it seems likely to be near the longer-term average.

Beethoven, Chopin and (of course) Holmboe had strong years. My excursion through Bach's cantatas is not gathering momentum with only 17 entries. At this rate it will take me several more years to get to the final disc of the BIS Suzuki series, and I'm unlikely to have any memory by then of the first disc which I listened to in March 2012!

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