joe c wrote:
To actually enhance the discussion lets go with some classical works that people should hear when trying to understand the genre (note that I won't dig back into Renaissance or earlier because I don't know it well enough). For the same reason I won't address Opera. Please others add to this.
The Well Tempered Clavier by Bach is a great introduction to the various keys and some important basic structures that you need to understand classical music. Its also a fantastic cycle of pieces.
Bach's Mass in B Minor - Possibly the most powerful work in all of classical music. The depth of the piece is staggering and you can return to it again and again and get more out of it every time.
Mozart's Symphony No. 40 - An excellent piece of music that also gives you a good feel for the classical symphony form (which is important to understand the underlying form when you hear people break the rules later on). It's also really good.
Beethoven's 5th Symphony - An excellent work that also gives a good understanding of the transition into the Romantic Period.
Beethovern's 9th Symphony - Another contender for most powerful piece of music in classical and another one that will give you something different every time.
Schubert - Practically invented the modern song form so exploring his song cycles would be useful.
Chopin's Faintaisie Impromptu - Really listen to a lot of Chopin. This will give you a good feeling for how composers started composing for the piano in the Romantic period (taking full advantage of the instrument).
Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique - Berlioz really did a lot of breaking down of traditional structures in the Romantic period and this is one of his more fascinating works.
Brahms - John 17 is better equipped to handle Brahms but Brahms will give you a feel for true Romantic music. He is best in my view in his non-orchestral works (he wasn't the best orchestrator although his symphonies are still very good).
Tchaicovsky's Swan Lake - Exceptional ballet that will give you a feel for that style and for the Russian Romantics.
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (either orchestrated by Ravel or the original) - Mussorgsky was another ahead of his time and particularly was ahead harmonically.
Igor Stravnisky's The Right of Spring - here gets into more modern harmonic and rhythmic structures. This work is exceptional and essential listening.
Claude Debussy's Nocturnes - These will give you a great feel for Debussy's very unique and revolutionary harmonic sense. And the music is just so colorful.
Debussy's La Mer - Just an awesome piece.
Debussy's Clair de Lune - A more intimate way of hearing Debussy's phenomenal gifts.
Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto - A personal favorite that is exceptionally powerful and gives you some of the idea of the development in Russia.
Prokofiev's 5th Symphony - Just because
Shostakovich's 7th Symphony - His best and an interesting modification of the traditional symphony structure.
Schoenberg - I am not competent to porovide a suggestion here but his development of atonal music and the 12 tone system are massively important.
This is obviously a very incomplete list because I'm far from competent to do a full suggestion.
This is a very
Do you have any suggestions as to certain renditions or recordings available for any of these?
For the Beethoven symphonies Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic is the definitive but the Solti recordings with Chicago are also good. Andre Previn does the Prokofiev 2nd Piano concerto well. Otherwise not too sure on the recording direction you should go.