Classical Music for Beginners ... Setting the Mood

All my life I have loved classical music. It has accompanied some of the sweetest, most delicious moments of my life. Particularly, I love to hear it when

  • cooking a great meal
  • unwinding after work
  • meeting with a friend for a drink
  • roaming around the house puttering about
  • getting romantic
  • reading the newspaper
    that kind of thing … the irony is, the music always has to be someone else’s because I know NOTHING about Classical Music. I have made a few blind half-hearted attempts to buy it and have all too often ended up with frenetic soundscapes. So … if there is anyone that can help me out by naming a few pieces / composers that are known for their mellow, relaxing, serenading qualities … I will be forever grateful …

oh yes … I’m particulary turned on by piano, cello, viola, violin, soft brassy sounds (nothing too harsh! ouch!)

Perhaps a few CD compilations would be helpful, or a general description of the composers who fall into this category.

Hmm, I wont pretend to be this big Classical music fan, but I really enjoy Dvorak’s “Brave New World”, perhaps maybe you’d enjoy some opera along with that also such as Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”

Give those two a shot (try Kazaa) and let me know what you think.

For relaxing, given your stated preferences, I would suggest:

  • mostly anything by Chopin, but in particular the Nocturnes,
  • Mozart, String quartets,
  • possibly also Cello sonates (Beethoven, Brahms?),
  • Bach piano music. You might try Glenn Gould, in particular his famous recordings of the Goldberg variations, for starters. Then you might try the French and English suites, or the Partitas.
  • Debussy piano music. I can’t give you the names off the top of my head; he has written several suites of small pieces of rather nice piano music. (Childrens corner, that’s it! and something else). Actually quite a lot of late 19th century/early 20th century french chamber music and/or piano music may be right for you.

It sounds like you mostly prefer chamber music, is that right? Orchestral music is usually louder, more arousing.

If you want to check whether you like the suggested pieces, and have a good sound card, you may give Classical music archives a try. They have zillions of classical pieces in midi format, freely available.

Actually you don’t even need a very good sound card if you listen to piano music: most piano music comes out quite nicely.

I’ve always been particularly fond of classical guitar.
Andre Segovia
Chirstopher Parkening
John Williams (no, not the movie sound track composer)

I’d like to suggest that you try out different styles of music, and when you find something you like (a composer or period (like baroque, romantic, etc.)) then try to explore that “corner” for a while.
Personally I found that Bach, and in general baroque music, was easily “accessible”, esp. The Brandenburg Concertos.
Perhaps you should also read a little about classical music to help you get some basic knowledge on time periods and composers.

Good luck with your quest :slight_smile:

Pachabel’s Canon in D. On repeat. Piano or violin, preferably. Mmm…

The Four Seasons (by Verdi, possibly)

For the classical guitarists I would also suggest Julian Bream, Manuel Barueca, Pepe Romero, and William Kannengeiser. If you want a change of pace the LA Guitar Quartet is quite fabulous too.

The Four Seasons is by Vivaldi, coincidentally whose birthday was March 4th. I am not sure why I remember that one.

Claude Bolling (a classical/jazz fusionist composer) writes pieces that fall into this area specifically. Toot Suite, The picnic suite (piano, classical guitar, flute, bass, and drums), and a cello and jazz piano trio are all very nice.

Get a copy of Franz Liszt’s Totentanz.

He wrote it specifically for dancing around the house with his son on sunny Sunday afternoons, when he was little. See, the title is German for “dancing with a tot.”

Very peaceful and restful. Trust me on this one.

It’s Dvorak’s New World Symphony (No. 9)

It has nothing to do with Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”

Actually, Vivaldi. But yeah, that’s a good piece of music.

Faure, In Paradisum
Elgar, Nimrod
Borodin, Nocturne
Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto in E minor
Saint-Saens, The Swan

I hope I did this coding right–I’m new at this.:slight_smile:

Off the top of my head:
Almost anything by Mozart, but most especially Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Chopin’s Nocturnes
Handel, Water Music

From the OP’s description of “mellow, relaxing…” Debussy is the first composer that comes to mind.

His most famous pieces “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and “Claire de Lunes” are absolutely beautiful dreamy soundscapes.

There is tons of great Bach that is always a great place to start when getting into classical music. (and a great place to continue when deeply immersed in it. And actually a great place to be no matter where you are. The man did everything!!!). Get any Bach compilation.

heh MLC exactly why I included the disclaimer “wont pretend to be a huge classical music fan…” :slight_smile: sorry about that.

No prob, raizok. It is a great peice of music, isn’t it! :smiley:

If do a search in Cafe Society for “classical” in the titles, you’ll get many threads with recommendations.

If you’re in or near a major city, you can probably borrow CDs from the library.

Since you ask for specific CDs, I’ll recommend a few I have. They may be out of print. Also, I have a weakness for stereo era reissues, and I’m sure there are many more recent recordings that are just as good or better.

“Weekend Classics: Nocturne” London 436 635-2. A great introductory CD. It contains mostly relaxing pieces. Has Barber’s “Adagio”, Vaughn Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves” and “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”, Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and other popular pieces.

“Debussy: La Mer, Nocturnes, etc.” London 430 732-2. Also has “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” The first nocturne, “Nuages” (“Clouds”) is quiet. But everything on this CD is great.

“Debussy: Piano Works” Sony SBK 48 174. Performed by Philippe Entremont. Has “Claire de Lune” from “Suite Bergamesque”, “Children’s Corner Suite”, and other beautiful pieces.

“Ravel: Complete Piano Music” Sony MH2K 63316. Performed by Robert Casadesus. This 2-CD set contains recordings from the 50s, so the sound is not quite up to today’s standards. However, Ravel himself thought Casadesus’ interpretations were excellent. You would probably be most interested in these pieces: “Pavane pour une Enfant Defunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”), “Ma Mere l’Oye” (“Mother Goose Suite”) and “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales”. Ravel later orchestrated these three pieces, but I prefer the piano versions.

Here’s one I’ve mentioned so often that people may be sick of me plugging this, but what the hey: Ravel’s ballet “Daphnis and Chloe”. It has been excerpted into two suites for easier listening. Make sure you get a version that includes a chorus. The second suite is a must listen, especially the sunrise section at the beginning and the bacchanal at the end. The CD I have of the complete ballet is London 400 055-2, performed by the Montreal Symphony and Chorus. It’s one of the best performances, but it’s recorded as a single track which makes it really hard to position to favorite spots.

[sub]Cool. It looks like I’m going to get away with it.[/sub]

Not quite.

I think you’re misinformed.

It’s really about his son playing with ants.