Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joseph Haydn: The Spotify Edition

278 years ago tomorrow, the first master of the classical period, Father of the Symphony and the String Quartet, and the composer of the Austrian and German national anthems, Franz Joseph Haydn was born.

His output is so voluminous that it's almost impossible to create a chronicle playlist for him, so I just put together all the eight volumes of Warner's Haydn Editions, and substituted the two volumes of symphonies with The complete symphonies conducted by Antal Doráti (that's 104 of them! 33 CDs), replaced the piano trios volume with the legendary complete recordings of Beaux Arts Trio, and also put in John McCabe's wonderful recordings for the solo piano works instead of Warner's vol.3. The Angeles String Quartet's recording of the complete string quartets (21 CDs), included in the playlist here, has received rave reviews since it's release. Also included are two volumes (20 CDs) of operas from Philips records.

Here's the Spotify playlist of Joseph Haydn (1782 tracks, 5.5 days).  If you don't know where to start, go to the end of the playlist, there's a nice 4-CD audiobook from Naxos, Life And Works: Joseph Haydn. And here's some good Haydn recommendations too. This playlist just offers one way to browse Haydn's works on Spotify, feel free to make you own mini-playlists out of it, to highlight important works or arrange better play orders, and it would be great if you can share them on the comments here. Thanks.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Music on The HBO TV Drama: The Sopranos

I hope you don't mind I post a pop playlist here, or were you looking forward to this and already got tired of waiting? :)

Sopranos is my all time favourite show, and the music in the show is unique. Unlike most TV shows, it has no incidental music composed for the show at all. Instead, series creator David Chase personally selects all of the show's music with other producers and advisers. Each episode's closing credits sequence features a unique song, well except for the famous final episode. Check out this wiki page for more information on the music on The Sopranos.

I made my Sopranos Spotify playlist long ago, but the key track that ends one of the best episodes Pine Barrens, Cecilia Bartoli sings the aria Sposa son disprezzata from a Vivaldi opera, was missing till it was added to Spotify this week. Here's the Spotify playlist of The Sopranos (71 tracks, 4.6 hours). It features all the ending songs, as well as the famous theme song Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix) that plays at the beginning of every episode, and Journey's Don't Stop Believin' that ends the whole show.

As much I like the show, I cannot help to ask myself: "What is this all about?" when it ends. Unlike Orson Welles in his Touch Of Evil, Tony Soprano disdainfully say no to any possibility of redemption from the very beginning, and his absurd self-righteousness sometime brought the show into the realm of comedies. Of all the characters, I sympathize with Tony's son the most. To me the most moving scene of the show happened when he burst out crying to his shrink: "Why can't people just get along?" The show would made much more sense if we see more moments like this, in which children ask about the simple yet neglected truth and make the whole adult world speechless.

For other songs heard in the show, also check out The Sopranos and Music You Heard On The Sopranos.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Serenade: Music To Calm The Night Down

I love Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings so much that I have to do another playlist for it. So I did a playlist of serenades.

It opens with Mozart's signature tune: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, little night music, and followed by an early Baroque serenade from Alessandro Scarlatti, Serenade for Violin, Viola and Cello by Beethoven, Serenades for Strings by Dvořák, Elgar, Tchaikovsky, and Suk respectively, Stravinsky's Serenade for Piano in A, Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, Bernstein conducts his own Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion (after Plato's "Symposium"), Rodrigo's Concerto Serenade for Harp and Orchestra,  Arnold's Serenade for guitar and strings, a Scott Joplin piano rag called A Mexican Serenade, Haydn's serenade quartet - actually written by Roman Hoffstetter, and many others. I also put in some serenade movements from orchestral and chamber works, such as the serenade movement in Shostakovitch's last string quartet, No. 15

Here's the Spotify playlist: Serenade (181 tracks, 15.9 hours). It may grow as I will add in more stuff, and please suggest more recordings that you would like to be put in this playlist by commenting on this thread.

At the end of the playlist it's Mozart's Gran Partita, let's hear what Salieri had to say about this divine music.

And have you voted in The Spotties yet? Vote for Spotify Classical Playlists now for a chance to win three months of Spotify Premium. Here's the Vote page, and introductions to Nominees for Best News or Music Finder Site. Please help to spread the word, thanks:)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Classical Goes Jazz

We've done a Jazz Goes Classical playlist before, this time it's the other way around. Here I collected recordings in which jazz musicians perform or improvise on classical works, in jazz style, so I didn't include Keith Jarrett or Jan Garbarek's classical recordings.

We've got Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and The Modern Jazz Quartet plays Bach, Chick Corea plays Mozart, Uri Caine plays Schumann, Wagner and Mahler. And many more. Here's the Spotify playlist: Classical Goes Jazz (185 tracks, 16.5 hours)

And here's the great late Oscar Peterson plays his original composition inspired by Bach's harmonies.

I know there must be many other recordings on Spotify that should be added into this playlist, leave a comment to tell me about your suggestions, thanks:)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Music Of Our Time: DG's 20/21 Series On Spotify

After the mammoth Beethoven playlist, it's time for some fresh contemporary air.

Here's the official site of Deutsche Grammophon's 20/21 series.

And here's the Spotify playlist that collected all the 20/21 albums in one place: 20/21.(574 tracks, 2.1 days)

I also put in another Luigi Nono album at the end of the playlist, it's from DG's 20th Century Classics series, features the beautiful "....Sofferte onde serene....for piano and magnetic tape" played by Pollini. Below is a well made video of Berio's Sinfonia, one of the many modern masterpieces that gorgeously represented in this splendid series. It's so refreshing to see Sir Simon Rattle in a suit, not that fluffy turtleneck;)

Two more link for this wonderful piece of work. The wiki page, which lists all the works Berio quoted in the 3rd movement, and a very informative introduction in the Modern World. Welcome to post any interesting links that you found on the composers and works in this series:)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ludwig van Beethoven: Opus 1-138

Update: I compiled a more comprehensive Beethoven Complete Chronological Catalogue, and stopped updating this one.


I made my Spotify playlist of Beethoven last week. It's great to see Spotify offers so many great recordings of LvB's works, and I had to restrain myself to selecting only one interpretation for every composition, otherwise the playlist would stretch for miles. Here's the principles that shaped this playlist:

1, The diversity. There's no such thing as the definite Moonlight sonata, and I hope this playlist could also function as a Beethoven index on Spotify, so I tried to include as many excellent interpretations as possible. For example, for Symphony No.1 I chose Wand's RCA recording for the vivid young spirit, Harnoncourt's No.2 for its thought provoking manner, Walter's Eroica for its sublime humanity, Gardiner's 4th for the blazing energy, Klemperer's 5th for the heaviest sound of fortune's wheel ever captured on wax, Karajan's Pastoral for the sheer beauty, Solti's 7th for its swing, Vänskä's 8th for the dynamics and buoyancy, and Furtwängler's 9th for it's the second coming of Beethoven himself. For the piano sonatas, we've got, among others, Gilels's Hammerklavier, Arrau's Appassionata, Pollini's Moonlight, Horowitz's Waldstein, and, IMHO the greatest recording of Op.109-111 from Richter.

2, The sound quality. Personally I listen to a lot of mono recordings from old masters like Edwin Fischer and Cortot, and if you want to know the Beethoven piano sonatas you really should know Schnabel's recording from the 1930s. But the aim of this playlist is mainly to present Beethoven's works in descent sound quality that will please most classical listeners, so I chose mostly stereo recordings. Only one sonata by Schnabel so that you can find his complete set at ease.

3, The opus numbers. You can find many complete sets of Beethoven's symphonies, chamber works etc. on Spotify, so I didn't sort this playlist by genre, but simply followed the order of the opus numbers. And I didn't include any of the WoOs here, so no Für Elise:) All the WoOs might be another playlist someday.

OK, here's the Spotify playlist of Ludwig van Beethoven: Op. 1-138 (632 tracks, 2.8 days) And this is the wiki page for the list of works.

I hope it will help you to enjoy LvB's music. To me, I absolutely adore him, but also afraid to come to him too close. He is like the Kurosawa of music, the man of men with incomparable genius, moral integrity and the earth-shattering power. Every time I put on a Kurosawa film, I carefully prepared to be knocked down beforehand. Beethoven is the same for me, only more frightful because he was deaf:)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ladies and Gentleman, Johannes Brahms

Last month I did a playlist of Brahms' complete works with opus number, and I said: "Deutsche Grammophon's Complete Edition of Brahms is still available in Amazon, 100 USD for 46 CDs, great bargain. Grab this beautiful box-set before Spotify makes it streamable;)"

Well, now, it IS on Spotify.

Spotify Link:Brahms: Complete Edition (772 tracks, 2.2 days.)

It's still worth to browse my Brahms playlist for different interpretation:)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Britten Conducts Britten, And The Silently Growing Classical Catalogue On Spotify

The first search I did in Spotify was The Beatles, as for every online music service I tried, just to check it's legal status, because the Fabs' music hasn't gone digital anywhere. Then, if memory serves me right, I searched "Britten Tenor Horn". I was looking for Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (background info), one of the most heartachingly beautiful pieces of the 20th century. I was glad that I found a couple of recordings, only a wee bit disappointed that the performance conducted by Britten himself and featuring his lifelong lover, tenor Peter Pears, was not available.

From last week on, I sensed that Spotify was adding a lot of classical albums into their library, according to the official blog, 300,000 tracks of all kinds of music were added last week, but the New On Spotify page seems only show a small portion of it. I guess that record labels now even don't bother to promote their newly added classical albums by tagging them '"new". What a shame. I found both Gilels and Arrau's Beethoven piano sonatas box-set appeared on Spotify this week, probably two of the best studio recordings of the New Testament of the piano literature, and the promising debut from the Chinese pianist Yujia Wang, previously not available to the UK listeners. Last month I searched for label:Deutsche-Grammophon, only some 200 albums. Right now, 1222 albums! It's unbelievable to me that neither of Spotify and DG is promoting this update.

OK the good news, and personally the best Spotify news in a long time, is that three out of the four volumes of Britten Conducts Britten are on Spotify now! Here's the Spotify playlist: Britten Conducts Britten (572 tracks, 1.5 days). I also put in Peter Grimes and Albert Herring conducted by Britten, and I will substitute them with Vol.1 when it's available.

Friday, March 12, 2010

111 Years of Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon, arguably the most important classical label in the world, just started tweeting. And better news is that they are adding more and more music from their splendid catalog into Spotify. This box-set below will give you a good overview of DG, if you are a newcomer to classical music, great, let's start dancing to the very first track, the seductive Hungarian Dance No.5. If you are a seansoned listener, there should be many tracks in the box-set that you've missed out, even never imagined existing: like the exciting finale of Mozart's great G Minor symphony conducted by Richard Strauss.

(Spotify link, 6CDs 111tracks)

The official site of the box-set. Search for the whole DG catalog in Spotify: enter label:Deutsche-Grammophon in the search box.

P.S: It's great to see another blog that covers classical music on Spotify: Spotify Chart. Go and find more classical albums there. Happy listening and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Modern Ensembles on Spotify: Acoustic Aphex Twin & Many More

Last night I was triumphantly humming the opening of the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto, then my wife said it made her feel sick. No not OMG-I-have-heard-that-tune-a-million-times sick, but literally sick. Well the next time when you are privileged to be in love with such a special personality, play him/her the playlist below instead of good old Rach. One of the rare moments that my wife appreciated the music I listened to was when I played Aphex Twin's 4, performed acoustically by Alarm Will Sound. I guess that little wicked violin tune is really sick, the man-that-trick-was-sick-yo sick.

Here's the list of contemporary classical ensembles on wikipeida, I chose one album per ensemble and made this Spotify playlist: Modern Ensembles (264 tracks, 21.9 hours)

Enjoy the music. If you want to suggest more ensembles or albums just leave a comment and I will add in, thanks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Samuel Barber Centenary Playlist On Spotify

Tomorrow is Barber's 100th Birthday. Let's celebrate by listening to one of his works that is NOT the Adagio For Strings.

Some interesting links: The Life And Music Of Samuel Barber on NPR, An Adagio for Strings, and for the Ages on NYT, Out of the Classical Closet: Great Music by Gay Composers on Leonard Link, and the Barber story told by Gay For Today.

The Spotify Playlist: Samuel Barber: Complete Works (198 tracks, 14.4 hours, sorted by opus numbers) For the list of compositions and introductions to his important works, go to this wiki page.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Borrowed Playlist: The Swedish Romantic Composers

Spotify is a great service started from Sweden, so I always wanted to make a playlist of Swedish composers. This morning I found a wonderful playlist on Gehrmans' Twitter, and I've been listening to it all day, really love these lush orchestral pieces with soaring Nordic melodies! Here's the links to the biographies of the composers in this playlist:

Lars-Erik Vilner Larsson (1908-1986)
Hilding Rosenberg (1892-1985)
Hugo Emil Alfvén  (1872-1960)
Franz Adolf Berwald (1796-1868)
Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968)
Daniel Börtz (1943- )
Thomas Jennefelt (1954- )
Fredrik Högberg (1971- )
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982)
Nils Lindberg (1933- )

You can find the sheet music from the publisher Gehrmans Musikförla

Here's the Spotify playlist: Published by Gehrmans Musikförlag (172 tracks, 13.8 hours) Happy listening and have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Classical On Spotify This Week: Beethoven & Mahler Symphony Cycles & 6 Other Box-sets

From Afront's New On Spotify page I discovered that Spotify just added in some awesome classical box-sets this week, including probably the best HIP cycle of Beethoven symphonies from John Eliot Gardiner, he is the only one I know that finished the 9th in one hour, and it still sounds very convincing. His 4th is my favourite of the set, neat and energetic. Bernstein's Mahler remains one of the best for the beginners, though now I mainly listen to Abbado, Bertini, Boulez and Michael Gielen's Mahler recordings.

And some relatively smaller box-sets, Antal Doráti – Kodaly: Orchestral Works, Bernard Haitink – Liszt: Tone Poems, Witold Rowicki – Dvorak: The Symphonies.OK the Dvorak set is actually bigger than Beethoven's CD-number wise, though many considered his first 6 symphonies of lesser importance, I'm just being lazy here not to put a image for it. At least his 3rd and 6th are classics. By the way, one of my favourite joke on LvB:

Teacher: How many symphonies did Beethoven write?

Student: Three. The 3rd, the fifth, and the ninth.

Great to see so many classical warhorses coming into Spotify this week, and happy listening:)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Spotify Chopin Bicentennial Playlist

Happy 200th Birthday, Mr. Chopin, wherever you are now:)

This playlist is quite easy to make. Both EMI and Deutsche Grammophon have release a wonderful set of almost complete works of Chopin, and an excellent 2 CDs highlights, Chopin Gold and Essentinal Chopin. Additionally, I added in four Chopin recordings, two by great masters Horowitz and Rachmaninov, two from young and exciting new Chopinists, Alexandre Tharaud and Ingrid Fliter. In the beginning of the playlist it's probably the best introduction to Chopin on Spotify, Naxos audiobook Life And Works: Frédéric Chopin.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Chopin Bicentennial

Some interesting links: Chopin for Dummies by Jeremy Denk. Chopin, Rothko, and the bowler hat by Stephen Hough. An NYT article on Chopin and Schumann, the two greatest creators of piano miniatures were born in the same year. And Chopin's Letters on Google Books and Amazon.

Rubinstein's performance of the Scherzo in C sharp minor, Op. 39, one of Chopin's most tragic pieces.

Rare footage from, some might call the greatest interpreter of Chopin and Schumann, Alfred Cortot.

And one last video to cheer you up on this blue Monday:)