Suggestions for a Stravinsky / Orff / Respighi fan

July 12, 2007 at 08:50 PM · Hello. I’m new to It’s been so much fun to read through the backlog!

I’m looking for some new orchestral pieces to listen to. I don’t have a strong academic musical history background but I have fairly eclectic musical tastes and am open to a wide variety of styles. In general, I love really dark, atmospheric, “meaty” works and I tend to dislike a lot of chamber music (think: NOT something like Beethoven’s Minuet, for example). If I list some of my favorite pieces, perhaps folks can make suggestions in a similar vein?

Stravinsky’s “Rite Of Spring”

Prokofiev’s violin concerto, no. 2 op. 63 (particularly the 2nd movement)

Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture”

Beethoven’s 6th symphony and piano concerto no.3 in c-minor

Mozart’s Requiem

Respighi’s “Pines Of Rome: Pines Of Appian Way”

Holst’s “The Planets”

Orff’s “Carmina Burana”

Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”

Saint-Saëns “Danse Macabre”

Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and “Night on Bald Mountain”

Barber’s Adagio

Albinoni’s oboe concerto no. 2 op. 9

This is just a partial list, of course, but it gives an idea of what I like. Thank you, in advance, for any replies or suggestions!

Replies (41)

July 12, 2007 at 11:14 PM · To Joel's classical recommendations I'd add:

- Mozart: Sonata for Piano and Violin in E Minor, K304

If you're a Respighi fan you might also like

- Church Windows

- Brazilian Impressions

- Ancient Airs and Dances

If you prefer more "meaty” chamber music, try Brahms' Piano Quintet. You might also like Shostakovich's quartets (the 8th is probably the most well known).

Also from your description of musical taste, it sounds like you'd really like Mahler's symphonies. I'd especially recommend the 9th. If you can't get through the whole thing (it's almost 2 hrs long) you could even just start with the final movement. It's one of the most haunting pieces of music I've ever heard. Sad and yet so beautiful . . .

July 12, 2007 at 11:28 PM · Hi Amy,

Robert Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, and if you are interested in opera, Verdi.

Also, you might want to consider a Naxos subscription. For around $25.00 a year, you can listen on line to most of their huge catalogue of music. It is a great way to explore repertoire without a big financial or shelf space commitment. I have one, and use it a lot. Have fun!

July 13, 2007 at 03:18 AM · I like the same pieces you do, Amy. This spring, I got hooked on Verdi's Requiem, and I'm pretty sure you'd like it, too.

July 13, 2007 at 03:41 AM · Bartók, anyone? I'm especially fond of A kilenc csodaszarvas right now (that's Cantata Profana to you) ;-) and I'm getting really into A kékszakállú herceg vára (Bluebeard's Castle.) OK, OK, I'll stop tormenting you with those bizarre Hungarian words--but it's just too tempting. :P

Anyway, if you like depressing pieces that cry with the voice of all suffering humankind, check out his String Quartet #6.

July 13, 2007 at 04:03 AM · No, not an intimate familiarity--though I'm pretty sure I've got an old Horowitz recording of that sonata lying around somewhere, better go find it...

Incidentally, of course I love indulging my gloomy and morbid side--in case you've not noticed by now, I'm part Hungarian. ;-)

July 13, 2007 at 04:23 AM · Which part? My heart, of course. (Ugh, sorry, that was too poetic.)

Maybe it's not Horowitz then...or maybe I'm losing my mind.

Op. 131? Dude, what about the Takács Quartet?!

July 13, 2007 at 12:58 PM · Since this thread has been hijacked into Budapest, there are a bunch of Hungarian Dances...Brahms and Liszt wrote fun ones.

July 13, 2007 at 04:44 PM · Hello All.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful replies! I’m already familiar with and love many of these recommendations. My favorite by far is Verdi’s “Requiem.” I also really like the Beethoven quartet no. 14 op. 131 and hammerklavier sonata, Respighi’s “Church Windows” (although I’ve never cared for his “Ancient Airs and Dances”) and Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites (who can resist “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”?).

Two pieces I didn’t know but look very promising: Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet and Bartók’s “Canata Profana,” which seems somewhat similar to Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms.” (Maura, if you’re not familiar with it ---- I highly recommend it. I just saw it performed a couple of weeks ago in D.C. at the national cathedral, it was gorgeous.)

As for Mahler ---- given my “favorites” list, you’d think that I’d love his symphonies (particularly the ninth). They have all the right “elements” but I’ve never really gotten into them. I’ve always felt a little embarrassed about that. To say “give me Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture” over a Mahler symphony any day” just seems so horribly unsophisticated!!

And Joel ---- I loved your charming “restorative cocktail” prescription of Strauss’ “Four Last Songs.” My recording is Jessye Norman with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Fantastic. I’ll be sure to check out Schwarzkopf’s version.

And I am sorry, but you’re all trumped by Anne’s suggestion of a Naxos subscription. What a find!! I signed up today. SOOOOOO much better than 30-second snippets on emusic or iTunes.

There are a lot of chamber music suggestions here. I’m hoping for a few more orchestral suggestions. Something along the lines of: If you like “Danse Macabre” and “Night On Bald Mountain,” you might like Berlioz’ “Symphony Fantastique” sort of thing……

July 13, 2007 at 01:49 PM · "The Bells" by Rachmaninov. (Glad you like the Naxos idea. The sound is not ideal, of course, but it is a great tool to explore repertoire. I like it for the offbeat stuff.)

July 13, 2007 at 03:11 PM · If you like The Rite of Spring, try Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments. Also check out Agon, one of his best works from his later years.

Also Firebird, Petrushka.

Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celeste; Concerto for Orchestra; Sonata for 2 Pianos & Percussion, in addition to the 6th Quartet (and all the others, too)

Beethoven: String quartet op. 95 "Serioso" (very savage)

Bach: Suites for solo cello

July 13, 2007 at 03:54 PM · Joel, that Russian joke literally made me laugh out loud. :-)

Edit: ugh, and sorry about that "dude." It was late at night and sometimes at that hour I simply lose ALL dignity and composure...

July 13, 2007 at 04:53 PM · Bruckner:

Symphony no. 3

Symphony no. 4

Symphony no. 5

Symphony no. 6

Symphony no. 7

Symphony no. 8

Symphony no. 9

Te Deum

String Quintet

July 13, 2007 at 05:48 PM · Yeah. I don't blame Bruckner for the works you mentioned...

July 13, 2007 at 10:06 PM · If you like Rimsky-Korsakov, do you know Scheherazade? Nobody's suggested Miraculous Mandarin (Bartok) yet, even with the sojourn in Budapest - creepy piece of music. There's a lot more great Stravinsky for orchestra - Firebird, Petrushka - good places to start. Let me keep thinking...

July 13, 2007 at 10:34 PM · Oh, I know, I've got the perfect thing. (*slaps head* duh!) At summer camp our orchestra played a piece called Last Round by Osvaldo Golijov. Its dark, spooky, wild . . . quite a piece. One of the expressive markings is literally Macho, cool, and dangerous. It's available here or on iTunes.

July 13, 2007 at 11:46 PM · I think you would like Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by Carl Maria von Weber"

and, for a really wild ride, Messiaen's "Turangalila" Symphony

July 14, 2007 at 12:06 AM · I heard "Last Round" at Innsbrook last month! It was AWESOME! I need to listen to more Golijov, I really like what I've heard so far.

July 14, 2007 at 12:21 AM · Really, Maura?? Isn't it insane? It was a real challenge since it is written for two separate string orchestras, but thrilling to play. And the second movement has some really gorgeous spots . . .

July 14, 2007 at 08:13 AM · Do you like Stravinsky? I was introduced to his symphony in three movements last fall, and I enjoyed it immensely.

July 14, 2007 at 02:07 PM · Sibelius VC

Sibelius symphony #2

Elgar Cello conc.

Mussorsky - Pictures

July 14, 2007 at 03:26 PM · Thanks, everybody, for more fantastic suggestions! There’s a lot to explore here.

Anne: I wasn’t familiar with Rachmaninov’s “The Bells.” Sounds very promising. I really like Isle Of The Dead op. 29 (surprise, surprise), and some of his better-known works. Thanks.

Bill and Emily: I’m a HUGE fan of Stravinsky’s works from his early and neo-classical periods and know most of the repertoire. “Rite Of Spring” is my favorite, but I also like “The Firebird,” “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” and “Symphony in Three Movements.” The intro to "The Firebird” is really similar to the intro to Respighi’s “Pines Of Rome: Pines of the Appian Way.” They are both so atmospheric, creepy and ominous. I love how they both repeat a single minor string refrain that just keeps building and building. However, I’ve never liked Stravinsky’s works from his serialism period, including “Agon.” The first time I heard “Elegy for J.F.K.” I must have made the most ugly face. I think serialism is one of those things that either you groove on intellectually and adore, or you just hate it ---- there’s really no in-between.

Marty: Thank you SO MUCH for suggesting Bruckner!!! I didn’t know about this composer at all. (Revealing huge gaps in my musical history background ----- I’m a sculptor, not a professional musician.) His works really appeal to my taste: magisterial, sweeping, “meaty.” And I love how he favors minor keys and 3/4 or 6/8 time signatures. After just an initial listen, I really like Symphony no. 9 and Symphony no. 0. (Thanks, Joel ☺) Which of his symphonies is your favorite?

Megan: Yes, I know “Scheherazade” and love it. I really like a lot of Bartók, but wasn’t familiar with “Miraculous Mandarin.” Fantastic. Thank you!

Ruth: Didn’t know of Golijov at all. “Last Round” is wonderful! Can’t wait to delve in.

Evan: After a cursory listen, I’m not crazy about the Hindemith suggestion but I LOVE “Turangalilia.” Very powerful. Thanks!

Christopher: I know and love the Sibelius violin concerto. I don’t really care for Symphony no. 2. However, I LOVE Pelleas & Melisande and The Tempest. I listed Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in my initial post. I particularly enjoy “The Gnome.”

Thanks again, everybody! My post has payed off WAY BEYOND my expectations!

July 14, 2007 at 03:37 PM · As for Respighi you should listen to the whole Roman Trilogy: Dutoit recorded a very impressive version of this.

Especially Feste Romane is endowed of a lot of dark atmospheres you shoul absolutely know.

July 14, 2007 at 03:47 PM · Prokofiev:

Concertant Symphony for Cello and orchestra:

there is an intense interpretation by Laszlo Varga.

Wow is amazing and as sharp as a knife!!

July 15, 2007 at 07:13 AM · Amy, I just now saw that I asked if you were a Stravinsky fan, and the answer was already in the title of the thread.


July 15, 2007 at 07:22 AM · I will second the Sibelius violin concerto and add to that Shostakovich's first violin concerto. I think the first movement of the latter may be the dark and atmospheric you're looking for, and the work as a whole is sardonic and devilish.

As an aside, I was quite surprised when I read Joel suggest the second movement of the Beethoven fourth, but then I thought about it a bit more and it made perfect sense. I'm way too used to hearing the third movement follow immediately after.

July 15, 2007 at 12:43 PM · No one has suggested Glazunov yet. The Violin Concerto is nice, and there are a whole bunch of symphonies too.

I listened to Clara Schumann's Piano Trio for the first time the other day. Not a bad piece.

Also, if you like Barber's Adagio, you might like "Knoxville: Summer of 1915". Lovely stuff.

July 15, 2007 at 12:55 PM · What about Stravinsky's pulcinella suite..

Although it is a bit more like chamber music..

Perhaps I better get back to you

July 15, 2007 at 04:04 PM · Glazunov concerto is lots of fun, but pretty much the exact opposite of all this dark, heavy stuff we're all looking for here. Glazunov is more like fin-de-siecle pre-Revolutionary Russian schmaltz.

July 15, 2007 at 06:28 PM · Antonello: Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll be sure to check out Dutoit’s Roman Trilogy recording. The two recordings I have right now of Respighi’s “Pines Of Rome” are Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Fritz Reiner. I didn’t know Prokofiev’s Cello Concertino. Very nice.

Eugene: I like the Shostakovich violin concerto. I have Hilary Hahn’s recording. I don’t love it quite as much as the Sibelius or the Prokofiev no. 2, which is my favorite violin concerto of all time (particularly the second movement). Do you have any recommendations for recordings of these concertos?

Emily: I’m not crazy about Stravinsky’s Pulchinella Suite. You’re right ---- a little too “chamber-y” for my tastes.

Anne and Maura: I know the Glazunov violin concerto. I think Maura’s right about its characterization in context of this thread. I don’t really care for it --- it starts off great but I can’t stand the third movement for some reason. I have Julia Fischer’s recording (with the Khachaturian and Prokofiev no. 1 concertos). She is so fantastic!! I saw her perform the Khachaturian earlier this year with the D.C. National Symphony Orchestra. What a treat! She’s really fun to watch perform. She wore a stunning one-strap bronze gown and kind of half-danced, half-flitted across the stage. My father-in-law called her “a little butterfly.” I think he’s nursing a crush on her. ☺

July 15, 2007 at 08:02 PM · Well, I guess I love Fin-De-Siecle Pre-Revolutionary Russian Schmaltz enough for everybody... :)

Also, Britten is good.

July 15, 2007 at 08:19 PM · There is also the Stravinsky "Fairy's Kiss." The "Divertissement" was arranged for violin and piano, if you like the piece.

July 15, 2007 at 08:37 PM · Hey, Anna, I never said I didn't like it...

July 15, 2007 at 08:45 PM · Hi Amy, I think Szymanowsky's violin concertos (especially #1) fit the kind of thing you're looking for; also Bartok's piano concerto #3.

July 15, 2007 at 11:07 PM · Prokofiev #2: Perlman+Leinsdorf Boston SO

July 15, 2007 at 11:27 PM · Amy, you could always go Second Viennese School. Schoenberg, Berg, Webern...good stuff. The Berg Violin Concerto might be a good place to start.

July 16, 2007 at 07:09 PM · Thanks, Antonello, for your suggestion on the Prokofiev violin concerto no. 2. I have five different recordings but now the only one I ever reach for is Tedi Papavrami’s recording. There is something about his style that I find so appealing: technical but still very lyrical. I vastly prefer the phrasing of his version over some of the recordings by much “bigger name” violinists. And I could never get into Heifetz’ version. Although I appreciate it for historical value, it’s just played much, much too fast for my taste.

Of the other new suggestions, I’m particularly intrigued by Szymanowsky’s violin concerto no.1, which I had never heard before. Fantastic. So intense. Thanks, Mitchell!

July 16, 2007 at 07:18 PM · Heifetz plays that Prokofiev so well. I like the late recording of it better with I believe the BSO.

July 16, 2007 at 09:21 PM · Nate: That may be the Heifetz recording I have. It’s from 1949 with Koussevitzky conducting the BSO. That’s the one where the 2nd movement is really, really fast. There’s another version recorded with the BSO (Munch conducting) that’s a little slower but still too fast for my tastes. I still prefer Papavrami’s Prokofiev no. 2. Is that heretical to say on

July 16, 2007 at 08:38 PM · Amy, I'm really glad you liked the Szym. #1. I thought it had the kind of edginess and evocativeness you were looking for. A true original.

I love the composers who came up with totally originally sounding material, among whom (in the early 20th century) I would include Mahler, Nielsen, Janacek, Szymanowsky and Bartok.

(If you want to try a luscious, yet edgy, piece of chamber music, listen to Janacek's violin sonata. Fantastic.)

Finally, if you or anyone else out there wants to listen to just a really fun piece of mid-20th century romanticism, listen to Gerald Finzi's cello concerto. Finzi may not be the world's most original composer, but he writes themes that you just can't seem to get out of your head. On the "fun scale" I would place it almost up there with the Korngold violin concerto.

July 16, 2007 at 10:50 PM · I think the Heifetz recordings of the Prokofiev g-minor are gems. My teacher who was a student of Heifetz told me Prokofiev was in the process of writing a 3rd violin concerto dedicated to Heifetz because Heifetz was the composer's favorite violinist. The recording I am referring to is the Munch recording with the BSO recorded in 1959 I think. Listen to it a few times through, and I think you'll see how the tempi he took really worked. Same could be said about his tempi in the Brahms and Beethoven concertos.

July 17, 2007 at 01:15 AM · Nate: Wow! How wonderful it must have been to hear all those Heifetz stories. And I agree with you on Heifetz’ Beethoven. His Beethoven and Mendelssohn are by far my favorites over any others I’ve heard. I’m still not crazy about his second movement of the Prokofiev 2. It just sounds rushed to me. My reaction to Heifetz vs. Papavrami is purely a physiological, visceral one. I must have listened to Papavrami’s recording hundreds of times, and it still gives me goosebumps. But I’ve proven to have questionable musical tastes, as evidenced by earlier posts in this thread!

But there’s something to be said for the fact that Heifetz knew Prokofiev. Perhaps his interpretation, then, is the “truest” as compared to violinists a couple of generations removed.

I LOVE watching YouTube clips of Heifetz teaching his masterclasses. He’s such a character ---- it’s almost as if he’s “playing” the part of the ornery curmudgeon, because he’s doing it with such cheek and a twinkle in his eye. I particularly like it when he’s rolling his eyes and grimacing during his students’ performances. And I love that when you search for a clip of a masterclass, another clip comes up of Glenn Gould playing a Bach partita in his bathrobe and warblingly singing along. God bless YouTube!!

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