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Where can I find those very specific pieces? Any suggestions?

Well, you can try here

Just type in Rachmaninoff or Rachmaninov into the search! You can listen to samples, buy specific ones, and then download them. If you like many of them, then you can just go from there searching for entire cd's. You can visit a variety of music sites like this one, to find specific pieces. I'm not familiar with them at all though, just making a suggestion...

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Beethoven's 5th -- I took a girlfriend to this symphony two years ago and it was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. At the end we both realized how hard we were gripping each other's hands. It was unbelievable.

Beethoven's 9th

Bach - Air on the G String (beauty and love)

Dvorak - New World Symphony

Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture

Vivaldi - four seasons (especially winter)

Mozart's Requiem

Mozart - Symphony No. 25 in F minor, K. 183 (so much passion and intensity)

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  • 3 weeks later...
Indeed... have you listened to Maurice Ravel's "Bolero"? The same melody is relentlessly repeated, over and over, with harmonics and orchestration providing variety and color. It opens with a (barely audible) snare drum and flute, and finishes with the entire orchestra a blazin' away full-bore-- all under perfect control by the tempo and the still-repeating snare drum. A masterfully constructed piece.

In Allan Bloom's book The Closing of the American Mind, he saw students' fondness for Ravel's Bolero as a mark of cultural decay. The single piece of classical music that young people had any affection for, he mourned, was this banal piece of orchestral music that repeats the same figure over and over, louder and louder, to the close.

In my book, Allan Bloom can be a nitwit.

--Schefflera

Schoenberg - String Quartets (JUST KIDDING haha)

"Don't Be Cruel" (Elvis Presley)

--Schefflera

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Good gravy! What Rachmaninoff piece did that to you? I'm with Sophia on this one. You must try it again.

Yes. You have to get a good orchestra, a good conductor, and a good performer. It's not a matter of classical snobbery and fussiness; it's a matter of coherence. There are some classical pieces out there, like The Nutcracker, that are so simple that the main idea will come across no matter what. Even if you're listening to a third-rate Eastern European radio symphony orchestra trying to survive by churning out LaserLight recordings, it still falls together in the ear. But for Rachmaninoff's difficult and complex piano music, there are many variations in tempo and phrasing (just for starters). The artist-interpreter is going to make a huge difference. Martha Argerich is one of my favorite pianists for Rachmaninoff. For his piano preludes, there is a CD available from BMG Classical Music (the buy-1-get-12-free people) featuring Alexis Weissenberg, which I can recommend.

My favorite Rachmaninoff piece is the Trio Elegiaque, on a Library of Congress recording with the Budapest String Quartet. Skip the Moscow Conservatory Trio's recording of the same piece; the violin goes flat in the high parts of my favorite passage.

I would also caution that piano-heavy music is an acquired taste, like opera, or like much other solo-instrumental music. The first time I heard a violin concerto with double- and triple-stops (a particular way of bowing the instrument so that the violinist is playing more than one note at once), I thought that it was some sort of ghastly mix-up. As a horn player, I can enjoy dozens of Baroque horn concertos that other classical-music-likers just can't stand, because they aren't used to the sound of the instrument and it sounds out of place. The same thing was the case with piano. I couldn't stand the sound of solo piano music until after a few weeks of listening to it.

Good listening!

--Schefflera

I don't like other composers of classical music. But I don't know many pieces by others. Once I bought a Rachmaninoff CD but found it depressing and threw it away.

It was Isle of the Dead, wasn't it?

--Schefflera

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  • 2 months later...

I'm a neo-classical composer and have always been fascinated by classical music. My favorite classical piece must be Carl Orff's O Fortuna:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=lF7_PhB9coo

The text is also quite profound, written by a German monk in the middle ages, where he damns the goddess of fortune for governing the lives of humans. I interpret it as the first uttered longing for atheism.

I am also very fond of Richard Wagner's Also Sprach Zarathustra -- my favorite sunrise, here interpreted by Stanley Kubrick in the famous scene "Dawn of Man" from "Space Odyssey" where proto-man discovers how to use a tool for the first time:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=pZqp79FOJB0

But my absolute favorite piece of music through all time is modern, and it is Oxygene, particularly part 1 and part 2, by Jean Michel Jarre. Unfortunately there are no good recordings available on YouTube, but there are a few fairly decent recordings of another masterpiece by Jarre, namely Equinoxe, particularly part 2-4 and part 7. Part 2 is my favorite night song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwuYbx2tBvA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wegkPVYrK8

Notice that Oxygene was recorded in 1976 and Equinoxe in 1978, prior to the advent of digital synthesizers. At the time they were like alien music dropped onto Earth, and even today they sound surprisingly timeless. Virtually all music from the 70s really sound like they are from the 70s, but Jarre's Classics sounds like they could have been made today. Sadly Jarre never produced anything that rivaled these two albums later.

There is also no way around Vangelis, particularly his epic "1492 - Conquest of Paradise"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJdsCm2PV80

His "Chariots of Fire" is also definitely worth mentioning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWWACvR299Y

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I am also very fond of Richard Wagner's Also Sprach Zarathustra -- my favorite sunrise, here interpreted by Stanley Kubrick in the famous scene "Dawn of Man" from "Space Odyssey" where proto-man discovers how to use a tool for the first time:

That's Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra".

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Try www.classicalarchives.com for extremely inexpensive downloads. Join for a year for $20 and get virtually unlimited downloads. REcordings vary from amateur to very good professional. All recordings there are in the public domain, which is why it's so cheap.

While there, I rediscovered a composer that I hadn't heard for more than 20 years (and then only in a very limited way -- I played some of his piano pieces at that time). Erno Dohnanyi. I had never heard his orchestral stuff before, and upon hearing it I was completely blown away. Absolutely beautiful. I downloaded all his stuff at classicalarchives.com and then went and bought everything I could find by him at amazon. Very interesting life story as well.

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I'm a neo-classical composer and have always been fascinated by classical music. My favorite classical piece must be Carl Orff's O Fortuna:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=lF7_PhB9coo

Now that's a great piece. Was that in the movie Conan the Barbarian? Sounds familiar.

There is also no way around Vangelis, particularly his epic "1492 - Conquest of Paradise"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJdsCm2PV80

Love it. I loved his music in Cosmos, the Sagan series as well.

In fact, here is a Cosmos promo, so you can enjoy the music and Sagan's description of the cosmos.

Don't ask my why a muslim put this up. Sagan was an atheist.

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It was obviously well past my bed time when I wrote Wagner.

It's all good. :D

Tell me this though. Have you listened to the whole of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", or just the Einleitung (i.e. the famous piece from 2001)?

I found most of the rest quite dull, you?

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It's all good. :D

Tell me this though. Have you listened to the whole of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", or just the Einleitung (i.e. the famous piece from 2001)?

I found most of the rest quite dull, you?

I have listened extensively to the rest of it, and I understand your reaction to it. Most of it is in my opinion not very memorable. I've learned over the years that actually being able to remember a piece is a good indication of whether it is *worth* remembering. If a song or piece is not quickly recognizable or memorable, then it is usually not a good piece.

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  • 2 months later...

I was a little surprised as I looked through this thread, expecting to see a lot of pontifications about what is good music from the standpoint of Randian aesthetics. Of course, Rand's musings in the realm of music were sparse, no doubt because music, of all the arts, is the least capable of having philosophical content.

I've been a lover of serious music all my life, and have been moved by composers as disparate as Bach and Mozart to Arvo Part and John Tavener. I've often wondered why I found pleasure in such widely divergent styles and genres. I concluded long ago that philosophy and "sense of life" have nothing to do with musical appreciation. Now I am even more certain of this.

A great deal of research has been conducted over the past few decades which indicate that good music strongly resonates with the way the brain responds to and processes sounds. Our minds, as a product of evolution, are disposed to finding regularities in nature. Good music presents intelligible regularities in terms of rhythm, pitch, timbre, melody, and higher structures, which set up expectations in our minds. In other words, what we have just heard, gives us expectations as to what we are about to hear.

According to the research, music which most effectively evokes emotional responses is, ironically, music which sets up expectations--and then proceeds to violate those expectations before finally giving our brains what they're looking for.

The point is that musical appreciation stems not from philosophy, but from neurology.

Larry

Edited by Larry Kulp
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I hope no one thought my previous post about "serious music" denigrates popular music. My own appreciation of music has greatly widened over the years. I was reared on "serious music" and, during my adolescence through most of my middle years, had little interest in popular music. I'm in my golden years now, and find that I enjoy most any kind of music (but I draw the line at rap and heavy metal). But I do notice, that even in popular music, I perceive the same sort of process at work in serious music, that is: the setting up and then the violation of expectations. In popular music, however, the relevant structures are based more on rhythm and timbre, whereas "classical" music is more often concerned with melodic and harmonic contours.

Because of the course of development of my musical appreciation, I wondered if the structures of popular music were actually more subtle or complex than in serious music. After all, why did it take me so long to begin enjoying the former?

But again, the research I mentioned above indicates that the recognition of structure in music of a particular genre is enhanced by familarity. In my case, my musical experience began with serious music. By the time I was high school, I could listen to almost any classical music for a few minutes and tell you where it was ultimately going. But the excitement in the music remained, as I have pointed out, because of the "rocks and shoals" which the composer used to impede the music's progress towards resolution.

Larry

Edited by Larry Kulp
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  • 1 month later...

As someone else said, in the end, it all depends on the goal you're hoping to achieve from your music. Personally, I enjoy majestic, grandiose classical music so I'm a big fan of Beethoven, particularly his 9th, 3rd (can't believe no one's mentioned Eroica!) and 5th.

Chopin is also a favorite with his nocturnes for relaxation, but his piano concerti make me wonder why he never wrote a symphony.

Dvorak's New World Symphony is just stunning.

And the last movement of Brahms' Double concerto is delightful.

For relaxation on the other hand, as I said the nocturnes, and also there's Beethoven's moonlight, the pathetique, pastorale, and appassionata to name a few. Any of Vivaldi's chamber music is also very pleasant, and Albinoni's Adagio for Strings and Organ in G always does a number on me.

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