Classical music: what's good and interesting?

as discussed in the What Don’t You Get Thread, I have no ear or feel for classical* music… not yet, anyway. Maybe this will change that.

What are your favourite pieces/performances? What makes them good? How did you get into them?

(*classical music is a very vague concept in itself, isn’t it?)


I have pretty shallow, canonical knowledge.
I like the way some classical music expresses ineffable, un-nameable human thoughts and feelings.
The beginning of 2nd movement.
All this conjured from the ether.


This one…good is a big understatement.


Some all-time mind-blowers:

These are all early Modern pieces that pretty much represent the height of what Western music had been developing towards since Bach. They’re all extremely polyphonic, very chromatic (especially the Berg piece, which is on the precipice of abandoning tonality altogether), and full of rich development and variation.

And best of all you don’t need to actually understand what any of that shit means because the music speaks for itself.


I could really go on and on with classical recs (OK as a performer I’m biased lol), some great ones above. I do think the baroque era gets maligned due to the adjective signifying all kinds of aristocratic frippery, but there really is some extraordinary music, some of it rather modern harmonically.
Last year Trevor Pinnock released this harpsichord Well-Tempered Clavier and it’s extraordinary–a record worth picking up

Clara Haskil’s Scarlatti Sonatas are gorgeous little miniatures

Zelenka Trio Sonatas–just bonkers harmonically

Bach again

Debussy was mentioned earlier in another thread and the String Quartet is a lovely piece of music-- is there any better way to while away a hot summer afternoon than listen to the 3rd movement slowly unfurl?

Stravinsky - Rite of Spring (the Pina Basuch choreo is something)

Steve Reich - Octet - great chill-out or music to work to

Lizst - Nuages Gris quite modern and far-reaching (Kubrick used this in EWS)

Ligeti - Etudes - extraordinary


Olafur Arnalds take on Chopin is very listenable (not sure if that counts)

Also listen to symphony of sorrowful songs by gorecki pretty regularly

Sure these are the classical equivalent of pop though!


nothing wrong with pop and populism!

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always wondered what this was!

Henryk Górecki. Symphony No. 3 is a good place to start. Also his compositions for choirs are well worth givning a listen.


Thanks for the recommendation, I tried some other stuff from gorecki but found it too hard work so will give that a try

Love me a bit of Gorecki

Yeah he can be a bit of a challenge initially. But No. 3 is quite accessible and if you are into his choir stuff Miserere is also a good place to start.

Nottingham has quite a good scene for live music so lucky to have attended many good concerts over the years. I particularly enjoy Indian classical music, don’t know much about the structure but live it takes off and Hariprasad Chaurasia must be one of greatest musicians alive. I think Howard Skempton does some interesting stuff,. He arranged some Viking poems that was a fascinating performance.

Also recommend the Machester Collective if they tour near you, their debut EP Recreation is very good and was thrilling live.

Like nearly all of other recommendations, think good way to listen would be to pop on Radio 3 for the day, if anything takes your fancy make a note and investigate further.

I met Steve Reich after a performance at Nottingham University in 90s. interesting guy.

Love organ music as well and though Im not a regular at mass I do enjoy the organist at Nottingham Cathedral when they improvise at the end.


Yeah classical is a weird but interesting one, even just a phrase to describe a type of music.

I think classical music as a term is a very strictly defined one due to it’s closeness to academia. the prestige and elements of elitism that has come with it (not saying it is inherently elitist by default, but you can’t deny the relationship that classical music has with class or social stature, especially in the UK) make it quite difficult for any real conversation to be had about what actually can be considered within the conversation of what it is or what it consists of. And then one step further from that, what can be considered to be a modern interpretation of it or relation to it.

An example would be when a Neutral Milk Hotel track was played on Classic FM or a BBC classical show (I forget which). I’m not trying to say that neutral milk hotel are classical music, but similarly to more commonly discussed styles on this forum there’s a lot of crossover between genres and their foundation or structure.

Without getting into the semantics of classical being pre 1900 or whatever and if we talk about the parallels of the popular understanding of the genre term “classical music”, and composition as a form; there’s a lot of really interesting stuff you can bring into the conversation.

For instance, there’s a lot of similarities between Jazz and Classical, especially some of the more left field post war stuff.

MODUL 5 - YouTube & MODUL 12 - YouTube

Nik describes what he does as ‘zen funk’, and there’s a lot of closeness to Jazz in other bits of his music, perhaps even a much more comfortable proximity than to classical or contemporary forms for sure. But I think this is a great track, and certainly one of his which has a more traditional contemporary/classical style to it than others.

There’s also a lot of parallels between ambient and contemporary music - Murail is from the french music school IRCAM and did some really wonderful stuff there with spectral composition. Worth a read on if you have the time and the interest. Xenakis is great too if you liked Murail’s style.

Gibson played with Glass and that’s how he’s more commonly remembered, but the composition on Cycles is a perfect example of texture and timbre as composition. Very easy to see the similarities between Eno etc. with this Gibson piece here.

I’m procrastinating from helping with the gardening here so I’ll just summarise that to me what classical is as a form is composition; but then it’s evolved into contemporary with a more nuanced and thoughtful approach to composition.

You can also talk about the western centric ideas in classical music too, such as world music and it’s composition, and the way that classical is a juxtaposition of folk, the semantics of the term classical music and a few other things but fuck it.

And I’m aware I’ll look like a massive twat too if I’ve wrote an essay on contemporary music and you want something that fits the bill perfectly of classical music, so here’s Shaham playing Dvorak.

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I’m quite partial to some of the more contemporary pieces. Especially anything piano related.

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I don’t really have anything to contribute but classical music records go for serious coin. Eye watering prices.


Very interesting, more of this please.

I like Xenakis too, to listen to La légende d’Eer is always an experience. Also recommend Sofia Gubaidulina - In Tempus Praesens.

Hate to be Mr Populist, but this is always a good way to get people ‘into’ classical…Max Richters take on the The Four Seasons Recomposed by Max Richter - Vivaldi - The Four Seasons, 1. Spring (Official Video) - YouTube

The Machester Collective’s Recreation I mentioned further up thread uses Four Seasons as well.

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