WXXI Classical 91.5 - 40 for 40

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of WXXI-FM Classical 91.5, we’ve asked you to help us celebrate. Beginning Tuesday, April 15th, we’ll be playing your top 40 favorite classical works on air throughout the day, and posting more information about your favorites right here on this page. Come back every day to visit this page, learn more about each work, and see the complete list revealed on April 30th. We’re celebrating your favorites, this month on Classical 91.5.

Rank

#1

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 5

Beethoven's 5th Symphony barely made the list five years ago, coming in at #35.  But you spoke loud and clear this year; returning it to the #1 spot.  The familiar four note motif that trumpets its beginning are probably the most well-known four notes in history; even to the classical novice.  This symphony, wrote ETA Hoffman (a contemporary of Beethoven), "sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain, and awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of romanticism".  http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2013/sep/16/symphony-guide-beethoven-fifth-tom-service

Image Credit:

www.npr.org

#2

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 7

Although Beethoven was one of the most recognized composers of his time, he was not always the most popular or beloved.  His 7th symphony however, was welcomed by Viennese audiences at its premiere on December 8, 1813, with Beethoven conducting.  Audiences noted its energy, beauty and hopefulness of a victory over Napoleon.  Dedicated to both Count Moritz von Fries and Russian Empress Elisabeth Aleksiev, it was performed three times in the 10 weeks following its successful premiere.

Image Credit:

www.bostix.org

#3

Antonín Dvořák

Symphony No. 9, From the New World

Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, nicknamed From the New World, was written in the 1890s while Dvořák was living and working as the director for the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. The work premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893.  As a skilled as seasoned composer and professor at the Prague Conservatory, Dvořák had a great deal of experience and expertise to bring to eager young musicians in the United States, where classical music was just beginning to establish itself. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/220717/New-World-Symphony 

Image Credit:

First Voyage, Departure for the New World

http://commons.wikimedia.org

#4

Samuel Barber

Adagio for Strings

The  Adagio for Strings by American composer Samuel Barber, made its debut in 1938 when it was performed on the radio by the NBC Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.  It evolved as an arrangement of the second movement of Barber's String Quartet. The deep emotion of this work, which has been described as passionate, tender, dramatic, powerful, and gentle, has made it popular for use in television, movies and at times of tragedy like the events of 9/11, when American's were searching for comfort and unity.

Image Credit:

In 1937 NBC formed the first full-sized symphony orchestra exclusively for radio broadcasting. The conductor for its first 17 years was Arturo Toscanini.

kalw.com

#5

Sketch of Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"

Considered one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, Beethoven's 9th Symphony is one of the most widely heard pieces in the repertoire of classical music. The Symphony is known as the Choral Symphony from the choir and soloists who sing text from the poem "Ode to Joy" by Freiderich Schiller, in the fourth movement. Beethoven's decision to include voices in the Symphony, a traditionally instrumental genre, mark the first time a major composer had ever done so. Perhaps it was this choice that lead to some critics responding poorly to the work's premiere saying that it was "cryptic and eccentric, the product of a deaf and aging composer." However, the reception the Symphony continues to recieve from audiences around the world continues to show the popularity of the work, including your votes placing the 9th at #5 in our 40 for 40. Whatever the reason audiences adore this work, be it the sublime first movement, lively Shcerzo, or joyous fourth movement, Beethoven's Ninth shows no sign of losing its foothold in the canon of classical music.

Image Credit:

media.npr.org

#6

Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Lark Ascending 

This gorgeousness comes from the visionary 20th century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose musical language was profoundly influenced in 1904 when he was asked to edit the English Hymnal.  What was to take two months instead took two years, and in completing the project, Vaughan Williams came to love the modal, polyphonic beauty of Tudor composers.  He also drew inspiration from poets.  In writing The Lark Ascending, the composer quoted a poem by George Meredith which includes these lines:

For singing till his heaven fills,

‘Tis love of earth that he instils,

And ever winging up and up.

 

Read more here:  http://www.classicfm.com/composers/vaughan-williams/guides/vaughan-williams-15-facts-about-great-composer/lark-7/

 



Image Credit:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alauda_arvensis_qtl1.jpg

#7

J. S. Bach

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

The set of six concerti, presented by Johann Sebastian Bach to Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721, remain some of the most frequently performed and beloved compositions of the Baroque era.  Written during a happy period in Bach's life, while serving as the Music Director (or Kapellmeister) of Coethen and writing music for the Court, the concerti show the light side of Bach's genius.  Interestingly, each of the six concerti require a different combination of instruments and different featured instruments; all requiring virtuosos.  Although Classical 91.5 listeners requested all of the six concerti during our 40 for 40 celebration, numbers 2 and 3 were mentioned most often; so today we hear No. 3.



Image Credit:

freemusicarchive.org

#8

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Concerto No. 2 in c-minor, op 18

The 1996 Oscar-winning movie Shine introduced the public to "Rach 3" and made it part of our popular culture.  But long before the film made the third concerto, it was Sergei Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, completed in 1901, that won the appeal of audiences and established Rachmaninoff as a concerto composer.  For several years, Rachmaninoff had been unable to compose. He was overwhelmed by doubt, depression and he had difficulty applying himself to his craft. It was Dr. Nikolai Dahl, an amateur musician himself, who began working with Rachmaninoff, taking him through sessions of hypnosis and discussions about music, that eventually brought him through this rough period.  The premiere of his Second, with the composer at the piano, was dedicated to Dr. Dahl.





Image Credit:

www.classicfm.com

#9

Fauré

Gabriel Fauré

Requiem in D minor, Op. 48

Fauré's Requiem in D minor, Op. 48 stands out as the composer's most well known large scale work. Due to the Requiem's date of of composition, 1887-1890, it was believed that perhaps Fauré was writing the piece to commemorate his parents, who passed away in 1885 and 1887. However, Fauré was quick to deny this fact, saying in a letter to a fellow composer that "My Requiem wasn't written for anything – for pleasure, if I may call it that!" Unlike the requiems of many composers, Fauré chose to set the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead with music that is tranquil, serene, and gentle. His reasons for writing the music in this way is summed up best by the composer himself in an interview from 1902: “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death, and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience... As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”

Image Credit:

vermontsymphonyorchestra.blogspot.com

#10

George Gershwin

Rhapsody in Blue  

Imagine hearing the premiere of Rhapsody in Blue!  It happened in the afternoon on February 12, 1924 in New York City. Gershwin was the pianist.  Rachmaninoff was in the crowd; so was John Philip Sousa.  (No pressure, right?)  The concert was billed as An Experiment in Modern Music, and it must have been electric.  The wild opening clarinet glissando sprouted as a musical joke from the orchestra’s playful clarinetist. Gershwin liked it during rehearsal, so he asked him to play it that way at the concert with “as much of a 'wail' as possible.” The first airing of this jazzy concerto established George Gershwin as a “serious” composer -- seriously fresh, bold, and American.

Read more here: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/rhapsody-in-blue-by-george-gershwin-performed-for-first-time







Image Credit:

http://songbook1.wordpress.com/pp/sw/composers-and-lyricists/george-gershwin/g-i-gershwin-film-score-standards-selected/ 

#11

Sir Edward Elgar

Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra (Enigma), Op. 36

The story goes that, after a long and tiring day of teaching, Sir Edward Elgar sat down at the piano and began to noodle.  A little tune caught the ear of his wife, Alice, who asked that he repeat it.  And so he did, throwing in variations as he went along. And so began one of Elgar's most beloved works, the Enigma Variations, with the deeply moving Nimrod variation as the centerpiece. Each movement is a variation on an unstated theme, created as a portrait of the Elgars' nearest and dearest friends, including themselves. The piece gave listeners two mysteries: who each movement described, and what that unplayed theme might be. Over time, the musical portraits have been decyphered, but that theme remains one of classical music's biggest mysteries. It's even been suggested that the theme isn't musical--it's perhaps literary or symbolic. But Elgar himself never unveiled the mystery, taking it to his grave. 

Image Credit:

http://www.theguardian.com

#12

Gustav Mahler

Symphony No. 2 in c-minor, Resurrection

Sometimes concertgoers just want spectacle, and Mahler certainly delivered that with his Symphony No. 2, the Resurrection. While several of his other offerings baffled the public and critics alike, this symphony would become one of Mahler's most popular in his lifetime. Mahler began it as a symphonic poem (Totenfeier), added two more movements 5 years later, and then was stymied.  He knew he wanted a choral finale, but what text?  What would work? A year later, when Mahler attended the funeral of the great conductor Hans von Bulow and heard Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock's hymn, Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection), he knew he had his answer. He took two of Klopstock's verses, added some of his own, dropped in an earlier song, Urlicht, and his masterpiece was complete. It is a work that has taken audiences on a journey from dark to light for over a century.

Image Credit:

http://www.mfiles.co.uk/composers/Gustav-Mahler.htm

#13

Saint-Saëns at the organ

Camille Saint-Saëns

Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, Organ

Completed in 1886, the third symphony takes its nickname, Organ, from the pipe organ that appears in two of the work's four sections. The piece was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in England and is considered by many scholars and critics to represent the height of Saint-Saëns' artistry. This feeling was echoed by the composer who said that "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again." With both critics and composer agreeing, it is no surprise that the symphony has found its way into WXXI's 40 for 40.

Image Credit:

www.bach-cantatas.com

#14

Aaron Copland

Appalachian Spring

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!

It was that opening line of Hart Crane's poem that eventually became the title of one of America's most beloved and evocative works--a piece known for most of its gestation as "Ballet for Martha." The aforementioned Martha was Martha Graham, who created the piece on a grant from the Coolidge Foundation. Although the ballet was set in rural Pennsylvania, Copland wrote it while in California and Mexico, putting the final touches on in Massachusetts. The first scoring was for a mere 13 instruments--the largest group that could fit in the pit--but Copland would later orchestrate it for a concert suite.  It's that larger version that we listen to.

Image Credit:

http://www.dancestudiolife.com

#15

Portrait of Erik Satie by Suzanne Valadon

Erik Satie

Gymnopédies Nos. 1-3

Erik Satie's atmospheric piano pieces, Gymnopédies, mark an important moment in music history. By writing music that avoids generating either momentum or tension, Satie was rejecting many of the romantic ideas that were prominent in his day. Rather than try to excite the emotions of his audience, Satie chose instead to create music that does not demand to be followed closely, but allows the audience to sit back and enjoy each colorful moment as it happens. This idea would be picked up on by many young composers, including Debussy. This popularity among composers has lead to many differently orchestrated versions of the Gymnopédies, including the version heard in our 40 for 40.

Image Credit:

www.satie-archives.com

portrait by Suzanne Valadon

#16

Dancers performing the Rite of Spring

Igor Stravinsky

The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps)

First performed in Paris in 1913, Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring, is considered one of the most influential works of music written in the twentieth century. The ballet is meant to depict ancient Pagan rituals glorifying the arrival of spring and reaching its climax with the ritual selection of a young maiden who dances herself to death as a sacrifice to the gods of spring. At the ballet's premiere, the choreography of dancer Vaslav Nijinsky caused a riot as the audience objected to how Nijinsky choreographed this primitive scene.  Stravinsky gave two very different accounts of the inspiration for the piece. He first said that the nature of the music he had written dictated the pagan setting, but later said that it was the image of the pagan ritual that inspired the music. Audiences do not seem to care which came first. Instead, they remain fascinated by the same dynamic intensity, rhythmic drive, and angular melodies that helped cause the riot at the piece's premiere.

Image Credit:

lowryyouthdance.wordpress.com

#17

Beethoven composing at a piano

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 Emperor

Written between 1809 and 1811, the fifth piano concerto is one of many pieces that Beethoven dedicated to his patron & student Archduke Rudolf. Due to Beethoven's hearing loss, this is the only piano concerto that Beethoven did not premiere with himself at the keyboard. His hearing loss did not in any way hinder his creativity in writing the piece. The 5th concerto is full of the heroic grandeur often associated with Beethoven in which he "blends brilliance with quiet, and throughout he tempers the virtuosic writing with the instruction dolce, literally “sweet.”  Like many nicknames of Beethoven's pieces, Emperor" was not given by Beethoven, but by the English publisher of the work who was picking up on the heroic nature of the concerto.

Read more here.

Image Credit:

Ludwig van Beethoven composing at a piano. Painting by Hermann Junker. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

www.theguardian.com

#18

Planets and astrological calendar

Gustav Holst

The Planets, Op. 32

Written between 1914-16, English composer Gustav Holst based this seven movement work not on astronomy, but on astrology, a topic that he had become interested in when he was introduced to it by a friend in the spring of 1913. Each movement is intended to convey the emotional effect that the planet is said to have on the psyche according to astrology and it is these characters and colors created by Holst that have made the piece so popular with audiences. While this piece is undoubtedly a masterpiece and Holst's most widely known/performed work, Holst himself was unhappy with how it seemed to overshadow many of his other works. Despite this, he remained partial to his favorite movement: Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age.

Image Credit:

www.highpointavenue.com

#19

Piano by Moonlight - A painting

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2, Moonlight

Even though this famous work by Beethoven is widely known by its nickname, the Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven himself never heard or used this name. The origin of this famous nickname can be attributed to German music critic and poet, Ludwig Rellstab. In 1832, five years after Beethoven's death, Rellstab described the effect of the first movement as moonlight reflecting on Lake Lucerne. While some critics have disagreed with Rellstab's description of the piece, within ten years of his comments this nickname was being used in both English and German publications of the sonata and has stuck with the work ever since.

Image Credit:

thebeethoven.org

#20

The Bogatyr Gates

Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition

The ten movement suite for solo piano, Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky was written as a memorial to the composer's friend, artist Viktor Hartmann. Each of the suite's movements is meant to depict a different painting or sketch by Hartmann as viewed by Mussorgsky at an exhibition arranged in honor of his departed friend. The memorable Promenade that introduces the work and serves to link many of the movements, is intended to represent moving about the exhibit. Due to the virtuosity required to perform the work, it is often used by pianists as a showpiece. However, the work is probably more well known to audiences in one of its many orchestrated versions, with the most famous orchestration done by French composer Maurice Ravel. 

Image Credit:

www.stmoroky.com

#21

Sketch of Symphony No. 6

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, Pastoral

Completed in 1808, the 6th symphony is one of the few works in Beethoven's output that has explicit references to programmatic content. In this case, references to the sights and sounds of nature. Beethoven was a lover of nature and would often take walks in the country outside of Vienna. It is from these experiences that Beethoven pulled the images; a serene brook, calling birds, and a thunderstorm, amongst others, that he uses in the Symphony. It is these references, which Beethoven described as "more the expression of feeling than painting," that has lead to the work's popularity over 200 years since its composition.

Image Credit:

en.wikipedia.org

#22

Johannes Brahms

A German Requiem, Op. 45

Unlike the typical Latin text of the Roman Catholic requiems, or masses for the dead, Johannes Brahms chose verses from the German Bible.  He sets scripture from both the Old and New Testaments that not only mourn the dead, but also provide comfort to those living.  Through his use of soloists, chorus and orchestra, Brahms highlights comfort, hope and the afterlife.

Image Credit:

kpharri.wordpress.com

#23

Palace of Aranjuez

Joaquín Rodrigo

Concierto de Aranjuez

The inspiration for the title of Rodrigo's most well known work comes from the Palace and its surrounding gardens in Aranjuez, Spain. Constructed in the 16th century by Phillip II and rebuilt in the 18th century by Ferdinand VI, the palace was meant to rival that of Versaille. In particular the spirit of courtly society is captured in the third movement's spritely dance-like rhythms and momentum. The somber Adagio, with its famous melody, is inspired by the sorrow Rodrigo felt at the loss of his wife's first pregnancy and provides the perfect contrast to the quick outer movements. Famously, the guitarist Andrés Segovia was insulted that Rodrigo had dedicated the work, not to him, but to guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. It was not until Rodrigo dedicated his guitar concerto, Fantasía para un gentilhombre (1954), to Segovia that this feud was resolved.

Image Credit:

en.wikipedia.org

#24

Portrait of Bach, aged 61, by Haussmann, 1748

Johann Sebastian Bach

Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

One of the most famous works in the reperoire of the organ, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, of J.S. Bach has remained a favorite of classical music audiences since Felix Mendelssohn worked to have the piece published in 1833. Despite the piece's iconic status and common attribution to Bach, there is some doubt amongst scholars as to the true origin of the work. These scholars point out several stylistic features of the work that are unusual for Bach. However, regardless of who may have written the piece, the work is destined to remain in the canon because, as organist and Bach scholar Hans Fagius states, there is "a fantastic drive and energy to the piece that simply make it irresistible."

Image Credit:

en.wikipedia.org

#25

Portrait of Górecki

Henryk Górecki

Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

Polish composer Henryk Górecki composed his 3rd symphony between October and December of 1976. The piece's profound emotional impact and heartbreak is best heard in the second movement, which Górecki based on a prayer written by a young Jewsih woman on the wall of the cell where she was imprisoned by the Gestapo. It is this text and the two others used by Górecki from which the symphony receives its name, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. A solo soprano sings a different Polish text on the themes of motherhood and separation through war in each movement. In the first movement, Górecki sets a 15th-century Polish lament of Mary, mother of Jesus. The prayer of the imprisoned Jewish girl follows in the second movement and a Silesian folk song of a mother searching for her son who has been killed by the Germans is heard in the third movement. We play the 1992 David Zinman/Dawn Upshaw recording that became a sensation, selling over a million copies.

Image Credit:

www.naxos.com

#26

Felix Mendelssohn

Violin Concerto in e, Op. 64

This Violin Concerto was the last major orchestral work completed by Mendelssohn and premiered in 1845.  Mendelssohn used the technique of connecting the movements together through the use of the bassoon; eliminating the potential for disruptive applause between movements, which it is reported Mendelssohn dispised. The lyricism of this piece makes it one of the most beloved of all violin concertos. 

Image Credit:

www.naxos.com

#27

Copland composing by candlelight

Aaron Copland

Fanfare for the Common Man

Copland composed the Fanfare in 1942 at the request of the Cincinnati Sympony Orchestra's conductor Eugene Goossens. The piece's title is reported to have been inspired by a famous speech given by vice president Henry A. Wallace, in which Wallace refers to the "Century of the common man." Upon receiving the score for the work, Goossens wrote to Copland saying "Its title is as original as its music, and I think it is so telling that it deserves a special occasion for its performance. If it is agreeable to you, we will premiere it 12 March 1943 at income tax time," to which Copland replied "I [am] all for honoring the common man at income tax time."

Image Credit:

1946 Victor Kraft

as seen here

#28

Tallis in an 18th-century engraving Gerard Vandergucht

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams composed the Fantasia in 1910 on the melody of the hymn, "When, rising from the bed of death," by English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585). This was common practice for Vaughan Williams, who often looked to music of the past to enrich his current musical ideas. To create the piece's powerful dynamic shifts and scope, Vaughan Williams uses three separate ensembles: a full string orchestra, a smaller string ensemble, and a string quartet. As the music passes from one ensemble to another Vaughan Williams is free to create the many rich effects, echoes, and halos of sound that create the enchanting quality of the Fantasia.

You can read more here.

Image Credit:

en.wikipedia.org

#29

Beethoven composing at his piano

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58

While composers premiering their own works is something of a rarity today, the practice was standard in the early 19th century. Beethoven's fourth piano concerto was no exception, with Beethoven himself sitting at the keyboard for both the private and public premieres of the work. Interestingly, the public premiere in 1808 marked Beethoven's final appearance as a soloist with orchestra in his career. The piece was well received at the time and was labeled "the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever," in an 1809 review.

You can read more here.

Image Credit:

www.musicwithease.com This was a popular 19th century print  and was based on a painting (circa 1890) by Carl Schloesser (1832-1914).

#30

Nijinsky as the Faun

Claude Debussy

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Premiered in Paris in December of 1894, Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun was inspired by L'Apres-midi d'un Faune, a poem by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. In order to reflect the veiled nature of Mallarmé's poem, Debussy used many novel musical ideas which barely retain the musical practices of his day. These musical choices lead many, including Pierre Boulez, to consider the work to be the first piece of Modern music. Debussy would later use the work as the basis for a ballet which was choreographed and performed by renowned dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.  

Image Credit:

dancelines.com.au

#31

Bedrich Smetana

The Moldau, My Country

Bedrich Smetana used the 19th century popular form of a symphonic tone poem to musically demonstrate his love of country, and the flow of the Czech Vitava River (Moldau is German for Vitava).  The Moldau is one of six parts from the larger Má Vlast (My Country).

Image Credit:

The Czech Vitava River

maestrobytumlare.com

#32

Arvo Pärt

Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror)

This music written in 1978 has a beautiful simplicity that instantly captures the attention. Pärt calls this style of writing “tintinnabuli,” evoking the ringing of bells:

“In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises - and everything that is unimportant falls away.” Read more.

#33

George Frideric Handel

Messiah

"When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.” - Mozart on Handel

Despite opera being frowned upon during Lent, people still found a way to enjoy theatrical music without breaking the rules: Oratorio. Even though they aren’t staged like an opera, Oratorio are still very dramatic. Handel’s Messiah recounts the story of Jesus’s birth and his Passion, making it popular choice for performances around Christmas and Easter. The Hallelujah Chorus still brings audiences to their feet, a tradition based on the story that King George II supposedly stood in amazement when he first heard it. 

Image Credit:

National Portrait Gallery

#34

Johann Pachelbel

Canon and Gigue in D

Could German baroque composer Johann Pachelbel have realized that such a simple little piece, one of hundreds that he wrote, would become such a cultural touchstone? It is heard at weddings, funerals, grocery stores. It has been arranged for pretty much any combination of instruments that you can imagine. And yet it is not universally loved. Check out this inspired rant [warning: the language gets a little salty at the end]. Ensembles dedicated to historically informed performance have brought back the excitement possible with this work, with lively, inventive recordings - a cure for the common Canon. 

#35

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat, Eroica

In Italian it means,”Heroic.” Beethoven was serious. It was the longest, most sweeping and confrontational symphony of its time. When he finished it in 1803, the composer dedicated it to Napoléon, a man he thought was a democratic hero of the French people. According to the story told by Beethoven's student Ferdinand Ries, when Beethoven heard the news in late 1804 that Napoléon had crowned himself Emperor of France, he was so disgusted that he violently erased Napoleon’s name from the manuscript, leaving holes in the title page. 

Image Credit:

www.raptusassociation.org

#36

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

1812 Overture

You’ve heard it on the Fourth of July with canons and fireworks. Tchaikovsky worked on his famous overture in the fall 1880 on commission to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s invading armies. Organizers planned to have it performed in Moscow with the chimes of a new cathedral and cannons fired from an electric switch panel to match the music, but this proved a bit too complicated.  The overture was premiered in a tent next to the unfinished cathedral. Tchaikovsky reportedly told a friend (with a dull lack of enthusiasm) that he found it "very loud and noisy." 

Image Credit:

Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass, 20 May 1800

en.wikipedia.org

#37

Maurice Ravel

Boléro 

Boléro is a one-movement orchestral piece by Maurice Ravel that’s remarkable for many reasons.  There’s not a single written crescendo or tempo change, yet the whole work builds to an exciting climax.  Commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, Boléro created a sensation at its premiere in 1928. Ravel was surprised by its popularity. “I have written only one masterpiece,” he reportedly said with a hint of snark. “That is Boléro.  Unfortunately, it contains no music.” 

Image Credit:

Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero in "Chilperic" 1896 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901 French)

Oil on canvas J. H. Whitney Private Collection, New York, USA 

www.flickr.com

#38

Wolfgang

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 40 in g minor, K 550

One of three symphonies composed by Mozart in 1788, No. 40 was written at a dark time in Mozart’s life, when the circumstances of his life have been described as “pitiful.”  The instrumentation is sparse and the opening theme is uneasy and agitated; quite different than Symphony No. 41, nicknamed Jupiter.

Image Credit:

Found at www.wallsave.com

#39

Jean Sibelius

Finlandia, Op. 26

Finlandia is probably one of the most widely known of all of the works by Jean Sibelius.  The original music was part of a larger work, written to accompany a series of tableaux illustrating Finland’s history.  The great patriotic finale Finland awakes deeply spoke to Finnish nationalism and was in great demand to be performed as a separate concert piece.  In the following year, Sibelius revised Finland awakes and renamed it Finlandia.

Image Credit:

National Museum of Finland

#40

Artists of Ballet West in Michel Fokine's "Polovtsian Dances"

Alexander Borodin

Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor

Borodin’s Russian epic opera Prince Igor, which was unfinished at the time of his sudden death in 1887, was edited and completed by fellow Rusians Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.  The world premiere of the completed opera was given in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.  The Polovtsian Dances are often performed in concert, with the Overture and March from Prince Igor

Image Credit:

Photo by Ryan Galbraith as found at www.betsysview.com