A YouTube Tour of Classical Music, Part One

In an effort to have a more eclectic blog, I promised to review stuff like music and movies in my Review Policies. I thought I’d start by finding out if there are any classical music lovers here. And if not, I thought I’d try to persuade some of you to give it a try. Hence the title of this post.

When I was a kid, my father listened to classical music, but it didn’t really rub off. It wasn’t exactly cool. Then, sometime in the 80s, a friend of mine brought over Amadeus to watch. I was absolutely spellbound. It lit the fire. I wanted more. But where to begin?

I bought recordings, but you have it easy. You have YouTube. This is an introduction, so I’m going to stick to major composers.

I began with Mozart. And I think you should too. You already know much of his music without even realizing it. That snappy tune that they play in the movie trailers for every romantic comedy ever released? That’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which means A Little Night Music. The opening theme to Amadeus is his Symphony 25 in C Minor, which you’ve also probably heard. His best-known piano sonata is also known as Rondo Alla Turca, or Turkish March. If you read sheet music, it’s fascinating to listen to this while following along.

Start by following the above links, and then follow the “related” video links. And you’ll get some nice exposure to Mozart. He wrote a lot of stuff, and I do mean a LOT, so you could entertain yourself for quite a while. I could do an entire blog post on Mozart, but I won’t, at least not yet.

Mozart belongs to the Classical era of Classical music. There are several eras. Here are the distinctions between the major eras.

Baroque. This is the early stuff. Bach and Handel both belonged to the Baroque period. It is often heavy organ music (Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), but also can be string ensembles. There is often a harpsichord. Here is the Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music, which is one of my favorite pieces from this period. Another huge favorite is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (here is Summer). And of course, Pachelbel’s Canon, which every musician learns, but which almost every musical snob hates. And I probably did a disservice to Bach here, who composed tons of music, from dance music to church music.

Haydn preceded Mozart in the Classical era, and he sounds much like Mozart, in my opinion. I don’t know a lot of Haydn’s work, but I do have Jacqueline DuPre playing his Cello Concerto. And here is a trumpet concerto.

But what’s a concerto? An orchestra with a soloist.

On to Beethoven. Where to begin? Start with the 5th. Just start up the video, turn out all the lights, and do nothing but listen. Especially listen to the melodies going on in the background. There’s a reason why it’s a classic.

Then, you really must give the Moonlight Sonata a listen. What’s a sonata? One or two instruments. In this case, the piano. Often, a sonata will have a star instrument with a piano as accompaniment. I think of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata as watching a moonlit lake. The second movement (or part) is very brief and light–a dance by moonlight. And the third movement? It’s like being chased by a werewolf!

Beethoven could also be playful. Try Rage Over a Lost Penny (played by a 10-year-old!).

Wow; this took a lot of time. Since I’ve given you a lot to listen to, I’m going to split this in several parts. Please let me know what you think!

14 thoughts on “A YouTube Tour of Classical Music, Part One”

  1. Pachelbel’s Canon is forever linked in my mind with a poignant scene from a Korean film I’ve watched over and over. I can’t hear it without thinking of that scene.

  2. Wow; you’re up early! I learned to play it on the violin, and it’s the only time I’ve ever played with a small ensemble. It was great fun, but I’m too out of practice to play it now.

  3. Though I don’t listen to classical music regularly or know too much about the various composers, I do like it. My introduction to classical music was in junior high and high school band. We played lots of classical stuff, some of it by current composers, and we played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, too.

    In junior high, I went on this Tchaikovsky (spell?) kick and looked up all kinds of stuff about his music, which led me to research Russian history and such. I still adore all the music from The Nutcracker. I’d love to get to the Cincinnati Ballet’s production someday.

    Oh, and why did Mozart give away all his chickens? Because they kept saying, “Bach, Bach, Bach!” Ha, ha, ha. Oh, I slay me.

  4. I love classical music. I was raised in a family with a grandmother who was a concert pianist (although no longer performing publicly by then, and giving lessons instead). We all played piano plus one other instrument.

    I love the Canon. If you want to have fun, look on YouTube for a rant by a guitar player about how Pachabel’s Canon followed him around. Of course, I can’t remember his name…and my link to the bit was on my main computer–which died a horrible death yesterday. Sigh. But I’m pretty sure you can find it if you look (and I might go see if I can, too). One of the funniest things I ever heard. (And true too–it shows where the Canon is in lots of modern music.)

  5. Tia, not up early; I was up late! 🙂

    Superwench, one of my recent regrets (well, from a few years ago) was not being proactive enough to grab tickets to the Nutcracker when it played just up the street from me. At a theater within walking distance. I’d love to see it, and you can’t beat that kind of convenience. I really wish I’d done it.

  6. Oh, man Deborah. That was hilarious. I played the Canon in a small ensemble once. We had three violins; no viola. It was my first time ever playing in an ensemble. Since we were all either adults or teenagers, we wanted our cellist to be around the same age, and we were all in the same music school so he had to be a student. We found a teenage student who could play just well enough to play those same eight notes.

    In Baroque music, the bass part is often a continuo part, which means it’s nothing but accompaniment, often the same note over and over.

  7. Thanks for this article, a rarity these days when classical music has all but disappeared from public conscience except for those who actively seek it out. As for me, classical music was my first and longest held great passion, though enjoyment these past some years is dampened by increasingly deteriorated hearing.

    I too have sought out classical music on YouTube, and am pleasantly surprised by the quantity and quality available. Most of my favorite clips are from the Romantic (or later) period, so I will not link them here.

    There are exceptions, one being a marvelous performance of the final movement of Haydn’s symphony 88 performed by the Vienna Philharmonic with Benstein conducting. His choice of encore is quite interesting and, in my opinion, totally convincing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlURvraEmeY

    As to Mozart, for me his best works are the operas: Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, and Marriage of Figaro being faves, with Cosi close behind. YouTube contains many good excerpts, this one of the Queen of the Night aria (Magic Flute) being as good as any I’ve heard, and better than most. (You have to sit through a bit of spoken German-language narrative before the music starts.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvuKxL4LOqc

    There are quite a few excellent Beethoven clips on YouTube. Sadly my first choice, Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the finale of the seventh symphony, has vanished. So rather than single out individual pieces I’ll instead link a clip from the BBC “Genius of Beethoven” series, selected because it includes part of the already discussed “Moonlight Sonata”. (The entire series, so far as I can tell, is available.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFT9ZMlSj8M&feature=related

    Lastly, I wanna mention that the Berlin Philharmonic has their own YouTube channel containing quite a few previews of recently recorded performances. Lots of good stuff here.

    http://www.youtube.com/BerlinPhil#p/u/20/xK7z2NhUrsQ

    Decrepit

  8. Thanks for all the links!! You reminded me that I wanted to seek out that group that played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, because I wanted to see if they have any recordings.

  9. I’m back with an addendum.

    I had wanted to include an link to the finale of Beethoven’s seventh symphony in my initial reply. I have long considered it one of my ultimate musical experiences. Played with an appropriate blend of savagery and joy, it pushes all the right buttons for me. But alas, as mentioned above, the YouTube rendition I favored had disappeared.

    Earlier today I chanced upon another excellent interpretation. It is quite fiery indeed. Here’s the link:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFUK1LZsmVU

    What will be tackled next? Is it, as I suspect, music from the Romantic period?

    Thanks again.
    -Decrepit

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