Most people who know me know that when it comes to music, the two art forms I love the most are rap/hip-hop (esp. foreign) and classical. I’ve already devoted some time to hip-hop, so I thought it would be fitting to do a classical music post. I spent most of my work day today listening to various pieces on ClassicalArchives.com, which is the inspiration for this post.
It is insanely difficult to choose “Top X” lists or favorite pieces for me when it comes to classical music, because my answers will change on a daily basis, and I’ll rattle off hundreds of pieces in my head (or out loud if you’re unfortunate enough to be near me at the time) trying to come up with a list. But, here is my attempt anyway. I’m just going to create some categories out of the air, and we’ll see what comes of it:
Favorite Piece To Play: Schubert - Piano Sonata in Bb Major
(Part 1 of 6) I’m not the most accomplished pianist, and this piece fits right into my skill level, plus is it incredibly evocative, as is generally the case with Schubert. In a close second is Schubert’s Impromptu in C Minor, Op. 90. We’ll be revisiting Schubert later in the list, I promise!
Greatest Showcases of Virtuosity: Henry Charles Litolff - Concerto Symphonique #4 Scherzo | Nikolai Kasputin - Largo & Perpetuum Mobile
I had to list two pieces here, because I just couldn’t select one for this category, particularly since they are both rather obscure and each magnificent in its own way. If anyone other than Shoko Inoue has ever recorded the Kasputin piece, I’d love to know about it. The recording above came from my own personal archives, when I participated in recording the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 1999. I imagine someone will ask me to remove this eventually, but it’s worth posting now and apologizing later, because the piece is too good not to share with the world.
Favorite Vocal Performance: Friedrich von Flotow - M’Appari, from the Opera Marta
I’ve been attached to this song ever since I saw the movie Breaking Away as a little kid. This barely beat out Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Die schöne Müllerin…and a few dozen others
Favorite Solo (almost) Piece I Can’t Play: Schubert - Arpeggione Sonata
(Part 1 of 2) I don’t think I’ll be skewered too badly for this choice. It’s a bit of a …mainstream choice, if such a thing exists in classical music, but I love every note of it!
Favorite Concerto: Schumann - Piano Concerto in A Minor
(Part 1 of 4) I’ll definitely get skewered for this choice. It has to be one of the most recorded full orchestra pieces ever, along with Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor (I have own the score, but I don’t own the skill). I actually prefer Grieg’s second movement to Schumann’s (an allowable comparison, given how often the two are paired into the same recording). I’m not the biggest Helene Grimaud fan (she lost me with her rendition of Brahms’ Rhapsodies - a little too quick for my taste), but I found her Schumann interpretation to be spectacular.
Favorite Piece My Dad Plays: Beethoven - Sonata Pathetique
I enjoy playing this piece as well (I taught myself to play the second movement blindfolded), but from my earliest childhood memories, I’ll forever associate this piece with my dad. And he plays it very, very well. As far as recordings go, I’ll take the entire Beethoven Sonata collection by son of family friend Anton Kuerti, if asked. I’m almost equally a fan of my dad’s Soler and Scarlatti. I’m pretty sure he knows all 650+ sonatas by heart.
Favorite Piece to See Performed Live: Modest Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition | Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt
(Part 1 of 4) I didn’t provide a sample of Peer Gynt, because it only makes my list if it is narrated, which adds a really nice performance element to it. I actually prefer Mussorgsky’s Pictures orchestrated, versus how he intended (piano solo). Bruckner’s Symphony #7 heads up a lengthy list of other pieces that are serious contenders for this category too.
Favorite 4-Handed Piano: Schubert - Fantasy in F Minor
(Part 1 of 2) One more Schubert? Why not! I don’t know if he’s my favorite composer, but he’s certainly produced many of my favorites, and this is another one that’s actually in my skill range - I can play all four hands of the first page-and-a-half by myself before it falls apart (it’s really is meant for two people to play).
Well, that’s plenty for now. Maybe I’ll continue or revise this list in the future. Feel free to share your favorites or debate the merits of mine.!