Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 500 Greatest Works

Another epic guest playlist, from Jorge in Sweden. Jorge says:

"I have this book, written by Phil G. Goulding, called Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works. I don't know whether you know this book, but it's an excellent introduction to classical music. Here's the Amazon link for it.

Anyway, I made a playlist in Spotify based on his recommendations for each and one of the 50 composers listed. It's comprised of 10 major works. Some are missing, like complete operas from Verdi, Wagner and Puccini, reason being that I'm very well acquainted with them. Some other complete operas are there, though.

Initially, I also went after his specific recommendations regarding the recording itself, the conductor and orchestra and all that, but soon i gave that up. Just laziness, I guess. ;)"

Coincidentally, the Chinese translation of Goulding's book was one of the very first books I've read on classical music, and I think it's a good introduction too. If not for Jorge we would not be able to get this wonderful playlist that put the core repertoire of Western classical music in one place. Thanks Jorge.

Here's Jorge's Spotify playlist: Phil G. Goulding Classical Music (4685 tracks, 2 weeks) 10 major works each from 50 most important composers according to Goulding, a relatively conservative but very decent list, you will need to know these works well before you go beyond them. As The Dalai Lama says: "Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively."

And these are links to mreddington, piaf123456, jahart and bonving who have generously contributed guest playlists before, you can find lots of interesting playlists in their public profiles.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sergei Prokofiev: Op. 1-135

Today is Sergei Prokofiev's 119th birthday,I made a playlist of his complete works with opus number to celebrate the most popular composer of 20th century classical music. But since Chandos Records was mostly removed from Spotify for unknown reasons, this playlist is kind of broken. Please uncheck "Hide unplayable tracks" in Spotify's preference, otherwise you will only see some 700 tracks. Here's the list of works on wikipedia.

And here's the Spotify playlist: Sergei Prokofiev: Op. 1-135 (928 tracks, 2.6 days) Sorted by opus numbers. The picture above is the last known photo of the composer, taken in 1952. He died on March 5th, 1953, the very same day as Joseph Stalin.

Please leave a comment if you find substitutions for the removed Chandos albums or any works that I forgot to put in this playlist, thanks.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arvo Pärt: A Chronological Playlist

I received a Arvo Pärt playlist from Yan in France, but some albums are only available to Spotify's French users, so I modified and expanded his playlist a little bit. The works are arranged chronologically as Yan did. Thank you Yan, it's really fascinating to go through Pärt's oeuvre of the past 50 years that way. The elevation from his early, severe neo-classical style into a much more mature holy minimalism must be one of the most interesting musical development in history.

Here's the chronological Spotify playlist: Arvo Pärt (136 tracks, 14.9 hours)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Made In America: Naxos American Classics On Spotify

Before I go for the annual company trip tomorrow, I want to post the longest playlist I created so far. It consists of all recordings from Naxos' American Classics series available on Spotify, 271 of them in total.

"Our highly-acclaimed American Classics series boasts a unique catalogue of both well-known and rarely recorded masterpieces. This landmark series features the greatest American composers both familiar and unfamiliar: Romantics like Louis Moreau Gottschalk and Edward MacDowell; visionary modernists such as Charles Ives and John Cage; buoyant spirits like Sousa, Joplin, Ferde Grofé; figures at today's cutting edge such as John Adams, Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, William Bolcom and Michael Torke."

The recordings are arranged by composers alphabetically, the same as Naxos' official page, which also provides back covers, composer biographies, album details, and even librettos of the operas. I put the American Classics Sampler at the beginning and the 2-CD set The Story Of American Classical Music at the end.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Naxos: American Classics (3665 tracks, 1.7 weeks) And here's an interesting discussion on this series: Third Rate Music? Personally I like many American composers' works, and feel that they are vastly underrated and underappreciated. On Youtube there's no Rorem symphony, no Zwilich violin concerto, even no decent performance of Barber's wonderful piano concerto. Thanks to Naxos and Spotify we can explore so many new music at ease.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Second Viennese School: Schoenberg, Berg & Webern

I made a Schoenberg playlist of his opus 1-50 before, and the classical library of Spotify has since grown a lot, Moses und Aron is now available, so do many of his works without opus number, like an early string quartet in D major. So I put together the other works of Schönberg along with the complete works of his two most important pupils, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern, and made this Spotify playlist: Second Viennese School (329 tracks, 22.7 hours).

I also put in some of Schoenberg's interesting arrangements, like the intimate and angelic chamber version of Mahler's Das Lied Von Der Erde, and orchestration of Bach's St. Anne Prelude and Fugue, BWV 552. At the end of the playlist there are 4 Johann Strauss II waltzes transcription by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern respectively.

Some links: the wiki page and the Google Directory of the Second Viennese School, the libretto of Berg's Woyzeck, the poems used in Webern's lieder, and New Grove Second Viennese School on Google Books. To my knowledge the libretto of Lulu is still under copyright so it's not online yet, I booked The Cambridge Opera Handbook to Lulu but I doubt it will offer the full libretto. Anyone offers a online resource will be much appreciated.

If you want to recommend interesting works by lesser known composers of the Second Viennese School, please post your comment here and I will add into the playlist. Looking forward to suggestions:)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spellbound: The Sound of The Theremin

Another guest playlist! I got an email from Martin last weekend:

"A couple of contemporary female composers you might like to add to your excellent playlist on this are the Austrian Olga Neuwirth and the Japanese Misato Mochizuki. There is little on Spotify but you will find one piece by Mochizuki and some music for Theremin by Olga Neuwirth."

"Since I mentioned the Theremin in my last mail I thought you might be interested in this playlist of music for this little known and very bizarre electronic instrument that has been used to play very romantic pieces as well as inspired some composers to use it in contemporary works."

I have added in those two composers into the women composers playlist. And thanks to Martin, I finally found out about this peculiar thing that played that dreamy and quirky sound in Hitchcock's Spellbound. I've heard one piece by Clara Rockmore before, in a interesting compilation called OHM- The Gurus of Electronic Music, and I always remembered it as Trip-Hop of the 1940s. It's great that now I can explore a whole lot of works written for and performed on this instrument.

Here's the Spotify playlist from Martin: Theremin. (90 tracks, 6.9 hours). Thanks Martin! I think instrument playlists is a great idea, I'm going to make some others, and if any of the readers here is specialized in any instrument, it would be great to see your playlists too:)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Polish Composers On Spotify

R.I.P. Mr. Lech Aleksander Kaczyńsk. Terrible news. I don't know his politics but Poland is a country I always admire. Krzysztof Kieślowski's The Decalogue is probably my favourite film, and aside from being the homeland of Chopin, Poland has also offered many other great composers from Szymanowski, Górecki to Penderecki.

Here's the Spotify playlist: The Polish Composers (508 tracks, 2.2 days) It consists of Polish composers works and sorted by composers alphabetically. I didn't want to put Chopin here as I have done a Chopin playlist before, but Chopin is still everywhere in this playlist, Godowsky's Chopin arrangements, Josef Hofmann, and some other Polish composer-pianist plays Chopin, including Polański's Pianist Władysław Szpilman playing the A minor Mazurka. At the end there's two compilations: Polish Chamber Music and The Polish Heart.

May the Polish people find the strength in faith and all the great art that they created to get through this tragedy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Guest Playlist: Gerald Finzi's Complete Works

I've got quite a few emails about this blog recently, and today I received a playlist from a very kind classical listener and Spotify user. It's the complete work of 20th-century British composer: Gerald Finzi. John wrote in his email:

"I was first attracted to him because a friend's daughter was playing the Clarinet Concerto in an amateur concert. This led me on to his other orchestral works, then his songs."

I think that might be a good way to explore Finzi's works. Here's the Spotify playlist: Gerald Finzi (112 tracks, 7.9 hours) Thank you, John:) I'm listening to the Cello Concerto now and it's a great discover, looking forward to see more from you and the others.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1200 Years of Women Composers: From Hildegard To Higdon

Das Ewig Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan.
(The eternal feminine
leads us upwards.)

Kassia (c.810–before 867)
Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
Caterina Assandra (1580–1632)
Francesca Caccini (1587–1640?)
Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana (1590–1662)
Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602–1678)
Sulpitia Cesis (fl. 1619)
Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677)
Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665–1729)
Anna Bon (born 1738/1739)
Maria Theresa Paradis (1759–1824)
Maria Agata Szymanowska (1789–1831)
Louise Farrenc (1804–1875)
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847)
Josephine Lang (1815–1880)
Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska (1834–1861)
Alice Mary Smith (1839–1884)
Agathe Backer Grøndahl (1847–1907)
Augusta Holmès (1847–1903)
Teresa Carreño (1853–1917)
Maude Valérie White (1855–1937)
Cécile Chaminade (1857–1944)
Guy d'Hardelot (1858–1936)
Ethel Smyth (1858–1944)
Amy Woodforde-Finden (1860–1919)
Liza Lehmann (1862–1918)
Alice Tegnér (1864–1943)
Amy Beach (1867–1944)
Henriette Renié (1875-1956)
Alma Mahler (1879–1964)
Poldowski (1879–1932)
Marion Bauer (1882–1955)
May Brahe (1884–1956)
Nadia Boulanger (1887–1979)
Florence Beatrice Price (1888-1953)
Katherine K. Davis (1892-1980)
Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983)
Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)
Henriëtte Bosmans (1895–1952)
Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)
Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1901–1974)
Claude Arrieu (1903-1990)
Elizabeth Poston (1905–1987)
Elisabeth Lutyens (1906–1983)
Louise Talma (1906–1996)
Grace Williams (1906–1977)
Imogen Holst (1907–1984)
Elizabeth Maconchy (1907–1994)
Grażyna Bacewicz (1909–1969)
Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Ljubica Marić (1909–2003)
Barbara Pentland (1912–2000)
Violet Archer (1913–2000)
Margaret Allison Bonds (1913–1972)
Vitezslava Kapralova (1915-1940)
Joan Trimble (1915–2000)
Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Jeanne Demessieux (1921–1968)
Doreen Carwithen (1922–2003)
Jean Eichelberger Ivey (born 1923)
Tatyana Nikolayeva (1924–1993)
Ruth Schonthal (1924–2006)
Erzsébet Szőnyi (born 1924)
Emma Lou Diemer (born 1927)
Ruth Anderson (born 1928)
Thea Musgrave (born 1928)
Lucia Dlugoszewski (1931–2000)
Sofia Gubaidulina (born 1931)
Pauline Oliveros (born 1932)
Kazuko Hara (born 1935)
Keiko Abe (born 1937)
Diana McIntosh (born 1937)
Gloria Coates (born 1938)
Joan Tower (born 1938)
Annea Lockwood (born 1939)
Ellen Zwilich (born 1939)
Kay Gardner (1941–2002)
Meredith Monk (born 1942)
Maryanne Amacher (1943-2009)
Tania León (born 1943)
Rhian Samuel (born 1944)
Elizabeth Raum (born 1945)
Barbara Benary (born 1946)
Marilyn Shrude (born 1946)
Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (born 1947)
Nicola LeFanu (born 1947)
Diana Burrell (born 1948)
Bernadette Speach (born 1948)
Alexina Louie (born 1949)
Beth Anderson (born 1950)
Elena Firsova (born 1950)
Libby Larsen (born 1950)
Elodie Lauten (born 1950)
Pamela St. John (born 1950)
Lois V Vierk (born 1951)
Judith Bingham (born 1952)
Kaija Saariaho (born 1952)
Chen Yi (born 1953)
Anne LeBaron (born 1953)
Bun-Ching Lam (born 1954)
Sally Beamish (born 1956)
Chaya Czernowin (born 1957)
Linda Bouchard (born 1957)
Ellen Fullman (born 1957)
Karin Rehnqvist (born 1957)
Eve Beglarian (born 1958)
Hilda Paredes (born 1959)
Annie Gosfield (born 1960)
Unsuk Chin (born 1961)
Jennifer Higdon (born 1962)
Isabel Mundry (born 1963)
Augusta Read Thomas (born 1964)
Olga Neuwirth (born 1968)
Roxanna Panufnik (born 1968)
Misato Mochizuki  (born 1969)
Helena Tulvea (born 1972)
Lera Auerbach (born 1973)

This is the Spotify playlist that features all the 116 composers listed above: 1200 Years of Women Composers. (1012 tracks, 3.7 days) Sorted by the birth years of the composers. It's a Spotify anthology of women composers, as well as a brief history of western classical music. It's really fascinating to hear music constantly reinventing itself from the monophonic and deeply spiritual medieval chant of Hildegard all the way into Higdon's lush and ultra-modern percussion concerto. This is my personal favourite playlist so far, hope you enjoy it too;)

If you appreciate what women and music brought to this world, please help to spread the word about this post, by retweeting this in twitter, sharing in your blog, facebook, google reader or via email. After all, it is the feminine side of mankind, I believe, that gives us the beautiful things in life.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Entartete Musik: Music Banned By The Third Reich

Entartete Musik (Degenerate music), was a label applied in the 1930s by the Nazi government in Germany to certain forms of music that it considered to be harmful or decadent.

Some links: The official page on the Decca website. The Google timeline. Toward Entartete Musik on, an Amzon list that features most of the albums on the playlist, and a youtube playlist: Entartete Musik.

Wiki pages of the composers featured in this playlist: Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942), Franz Schreker (1878-1934), Alma Mahler (1979-1964), Walter Braunfels (1882-1954), Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953), Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942), Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), Karol Rathaus (1895-1954), Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), Pavel Haas (1899-1944), Hans Krása (1899-1944), Ernst Krenek (1900-1991), Kurt Weill (1900-1950), Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972), Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996), Erich Zeisl (1905-1959), Franz Waxman (1906-1967), Ignace Strasfogel (1909-1994).

From the mid-1990s the Decca Record Company released a series of recordings under the title 'Entartete Musik: music suppressed by the third reich covering lesser-known works by the above-named composers.

Here's a Spotify playlist of Entartete Musik (461 tracks, 1.4 days).

I also wanted to use a photo of Hitler listening to a rehearsal in Nuremberg from The Rest Is Noise, but it is copyrighted. If you can find any online libretto of the operas in this playlist please leave a comment, I have listened Braunfels' ravishing Die Vögel two times and I really want to know what the birds were singing. Thanks.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bernstein's Music Lectures: On Bach, Jazz and Symphonies

Here's the Spotify playlist: Bernstein's Music Lectures (146tracks, 13.6 hours). And here are the Amazon links to the two albums listed above, 1, 2. Other recordings featured in this playlist are Bernstern's lectures on Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Beethoven, Ives, and Bach's Saint Matthew Passion. My favourite part is Bernstein's analysis on Schumann's Symphony No.2 and his defense on Schumann's orchestration. Lenny's Schumann cycle with NYPO using Schumann's original orchestrations are fantastic, especially the 2nd.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Complete Works on Spotify

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born 137 years ago today. He is the last great representative of Russian late Romanticism in classical music, the composer of the last great romantic piano concerto, and the coolest emo that ever walked the earth. OK you may not agree with me on the last one, then take it as a Fools' Day joke and don't accuse me of blasphemy:) I do love many of his deeper works, such as the symphonies and choral works.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Sergei Rachmaninoff: Complete Works (277 tracks, 1.1 days). It consists of the op. 1-45, sorted by opus numbers. And some interesting works without opus numbers, like the lovely string quartets and the only survived movement of his "Youth" symphony. This is the wiki page for the list of compositions.

Rachmaninoff is also one of the greatest pianists of the last century, check out Rachmaninoff Plays Rachmaninoff (Spotify link) for his interpretations of his own works.