A TBT post of my favorite classical music pieces from my past just seems like the most accurate TBT music post I could possibly post. I mean, it’s throwing back in two different ways!
I grew up listening to only classical music and Taiwanese folk songs/oldies. Also, I used to play piano and viola and by extension, played in a youth symphony. Of the many songs I’ve heard/played in the past, there are a couple that really stood out (I managed to narrow it down to ten pieces). The videos are the versions that I prefer listening to.
1. Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor From the New World, Op. 95, B. 178 (aka “New World Symphony”) (composed 1893)
One of the most fun pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. It’s also one of the more famous symphonies out there and I really wish I could go see I live performance of this. Every movement is just so good. I feel like it’s one of those pieces that also sounds like a movie score (second movement reminds me specifically of Bambi for some reason and the fourth movement reminds me of anything with pirates/the sea) which is a compliment. While listening to this symphony, it seems like this symphony ihas influenced more contemporary pieces. Also, gotta love anything in minor. The best word to describe this piece is “epic” (brass and horns all the way).
2. Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 (composed 1919)
The piece that made me really fall head over heels in love with the sound of cellos/celli. I first heard it during a rehearsal while I was playing in my youth symphony, and while the soloist was no Jacqueline du Pré (22-23 years old in the recordings!) on a Stradivarius, it was still amazing. Possibly the most famous/popular solo cello piece and recording(s)? I love this piece so much and it’s just beautiful and really showcases how a cello can really sound. This piece also always makes me incredibly sad because du Pré’s performances were cut short at an early age due to MS. Also, e minor.
This piece barely beats Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 49 (faster version, but I prefer the former) (1948). But Elgar wins because it’s my go-to cello piece… but you should also listen to Kabalevsky’s because it’s also amazing.
3. Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, Op. 5 (composed 1931)
When I first played this, I found it just really weird. Like when you’re practicing just one of the parts by your self, the sounds you’re making are really strange and haphazard. But once the whole symphony comes together, it’s just really beautiful in a contemporary/unusual way. I love the shifts in tempo and themes and cacophony. You’re always kept on your toes, and again, it reminds me of a movie score. And apparently, Barber was 21 when he composed this. What were you doing with your life at 21? What was I doing with my life at 21? Not creating amazing music, that’s still being listened to almost 100 years later, that’s for sure.
4. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-Flat, BWV 1051 I: Allegro and III: Allegro (I prefer the first movement but both are great) (composed early 1700s)
I realized a lot of pieces I was mentioning were from the Romantic time period so, BAM let’s revisit the 1700s Baroque period, people. I played the viola and I remember playing a simplified-something version of this piece back in elementary school and our section got to play solo for the first time (and for me, like the last time ever lol). How badass is this piece anyway? A fucking harpsichord and viols/viola de gambas (not to be confused with violas/viola da braccio). Everything is in the lower sound range and it’s a refreshing change from violins. I love canon and the way it gives voices to instruments and makes pieces sound like a conversation. This concerto sounds like the instruments are dancing, if that makes sense.
5. Camille Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor, Op. 28 (composed 1863)
Nothing to really say about this one except it is my go to violin-solo piece for some reason. It’s just really gorgeous. I really love the melody of this one and how the solo violin and symphony play off each other. Description for this one is elegant tempest.
6. Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango (original composed 1974 / cello arrangement below) and Milonga del Angel (original released 1993 / piano arrangement below)
I first heard the piano version of Milonga del Angel (another piano version but I don’t like it as much) and liked it so much that I searched and stumbled upon Libertango (the Yo-Yo Ma cello version is my favorite). Both songs are so good but for very different reason and I had to include both. Milonga del Angel sounds so pretty and so sad, and Libertango doesn’t really emote to me but is an intense, straightforward piece of tango music. I don’t know much about tango music, but this one sounds particularly fun. Piazzolla also played the bandoneon which is what the songs were originally written for, but I seriously love these arrangements.
7. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (composed 1924)
I love, love, love the piano in this and love the blend of classical music and jazz. Also, dat clarinet. And come on, who doesn’t like this piece? Perfect word to describe it is snazzy. Or maybe swagger. You pick. And the slowed down parts make me swoon lol. This song hits all of my musical buttons.
He composed other things and not-just-piano pieces but I’m too lazy to search for them all. But Chopin all the time, any time.
Also see: Felix Mendelssohn. These two composers always make me wonder what would’ve happened if they had lived longer (born and died within a few years of each other and both died in their thirties).
9. Franz Schubert’s 4 Impromptus, Impromptu No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 90/2, D. 899 (composed 1827)
Love the change from major to minor and back and the melody. Love the ending. Of all the piano pieces I’ve played, this is my favorite. (Schubert also died early at age 31. This post is now really depressing.)
10. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 (composed 1888)
Saved the best for last. Another symphony in e minor. I never realized I liked this key so much. Went through a few Youtube videos before finding one that fit how I like to listen to it. This one sounds so amazing and clear and the acoustics sound great. It would’ve been an amazing concert to attend.
This symphony is probably my favorite Tchaikovsky one. Love how grand it sounds. It goes from intimidating and intense and grim to soft and sweet and cheerful. Has great build up moments; the one starts around 26:33-27:05 and onward gets to me every time. Wikipedia states how the theme of this symphony repeats throughout the movements and transforms from sounding funereal to sounding like a “triumphant march,” which is pretty accurate. This symphony is like a musical journey with great ups and downs, not to mention it’s ridiculously fun to play (especially the dramatic last few minutes). It’s just really, really beautiful.
Hope you found at least one thing you liked listening to! Also, this marks my fiftieth post. Crazy.