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An all Korngold concert in Seoul last night.

The concert ended with Sinfonietta in B Major by a 15-year-old Korngold. Not bad - for a 15 year old!

I only realized he was 15 when he wrote it when I sat down in my seat and checked out the program. I remember thinking - a 45-minute piece by a 15-year-old - this is going to be crap^. But wow, I enjoyed it. He really knew his way around an orchestra. At 15, I think I could play a few guitar chords and I could name the keys on a piano.

 

The rest of the concert was suites from Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Kings Row, which of course sounded like the orchestra was trying to play Star Wars but messing it up.  I was only vaguely familiar with his scores. I especially and kind of to my surprise really enjoyed the three-piece Robin Hood suite. It had a romantic middle piece that was especially nice. 

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2 hours ago, pete said:

I especially and kind of to my surprise really enjoyed the three-piece Robin Hood suite. It had a romantic middle piece that was especially nice. 

 

It's one of the best love themes this side of Princess Leia.

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Can anyone recommend me a decent complete Shostakovich symphonies set?

I'm happy to go for, either, a box-set by one conductor/orchestra, or to mix 'n' match.

I'm particularly interested in #5.

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21 hours ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

Can anyone recommend me a decent complete Shostakovich symphonies set?

I'm happy to go for, either, a box-set by one conductor/orchestra, or to mix 'n' match.

I'm particularly interested in #5.

Well for the 5th, my favourite version is Bernard Haitink and the Concertgebouw, although it was also the first version of that symphony I ever bought so that probably influences my feelings slightly, but I've not found a performance I've enjoyed more. It's a minor thing, but the way the repeating strings motif in the last movement is much less grating than in some other versions which seem to saw away a lot more - possibly what Shostakovich intended, but it can make it hard work! In terms of complete sets, there is a very reasonably priced box on Brilliant Classics performed by the WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rudolph Barshai in great sound which is pretty great across the board. I also have a complete set conducted by Rostropovich which is also very fine indeed. I don't think Shostakovich requires mixing and matching in quite the same way as, say Mahler, so if you just want to a complete set, you probably can't go far wrong with either of those. The Petrenko conducted set on Naxos is also worth a look, I have several from that cycle and they are uniformly excellent, the only reason I don't have the complete set is they haven't yet put it together as a single set (as far as I can see) and there are a few Shostakovich symphonies I'm less enthralled with so am happy with the versions I have.

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The Barshai set is indeed an incredibly solid survey of Shosty. If you have that and the Kondrashin cycle, I don’t know if you would need much else.

 

Maybe Bernstein’s Chicago 7th. That’s a great disc.

 

Maybe Mravinsky for authenticism and historical reference.

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Quote

"Enough of this music! Before it we are but mandolinists, dilettantes! Woe to him who gets caught by it! This tremendous music destroys one and renders one incapable of composing any more!’" - Puccini

 

 

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13 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

In terms of complete sets, there is a very reasonably priced box on Brilliant Classics performed by the WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rudolph Barshai in great sound which is pretty great across the board.

 

I was going to mention the Barshai - I have it (bought it years ago for some €20) and am generally very happy with it. But as far as I know, the general consensus is that it's a fine set for people who don't want to investigate more, but apparently without any true standout recordings - in other words, supposedly entirely invalidated if you compile your own cycle of better individual recordings.

 

I've been recommended this cycle by Kitajenko as supposedly everything you need on the subject, but I haven't heard it myself.

 

I also have a very fine 5th by Jansons (with the Wiener Philharmoniker), the 8th by Haitink (but I never remember the 8th and therefore haven't played it in ages), and a CDR of the 10th by Karajan (I recently found out that he recorded it twice; I think mine is the earlier one from the 70s(?)). Haitink has always been one of the prime recommendations for Shostakovich, and I think Jansons ranks very highly, too. Karajan's interpretation of the 10th (in an earlier performance, certainly) had reportedly received high praise by the composer himself, but I don't think Karajan ever recorded any of the other symphonies.

 

On this subject, what are everyone's recommendations for a great version of the 11th? It's become my favourite/the one I return to most often, and I figure out should have a look beyond the Barshai recording (although it seems excellent to me).

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On 22/08/2022 at 5:10 AM, Naïve Old Fart said:

Can anyone recommend me a decent complete Shostakovich symphonies set?

I'm happy to go for, either, a box-set by one conductor/orchestra, or to mix 'n' match.

I'm particularly interested in #5.

 

I'm an expert on this.  As others have already stated for general approaches, Decca/Haitink and Barshai are both very excellent interpretations from start to end.  Haitink is bit more polished and refined (more European) and Barshai is slightly rawer but not anywhere near as much as the Soviet era conductors.  He's very much a European version of a Soviet conductor.  Think Yevgeny Svetlanov who spent half his career conducting Western orchestras with that sensibility.  Nothing wrong with that but some consider that like Benihana restaurant version of Japanese food - it's much more about show and what Westerners think Japanese food is about but nothing about authenticity.  If authenticity is what you want, you'll want Kondrashin or Gennady Rozhdestvensky.  These interpretations are on fire and truer to the original concept as Shostakovich premiered many of these works with them.  The downside is they suffer from inferior recording and idiomatic performance technique (Soviet era playing style which is very ugly to modern ears).   Harsh strings and trumpet vibrato was very popular in that style and not popular in Western music.  To us, it immediately sounds Soviet.  Also tempi is way faster.  You get a sense as if the performers would be killed if they slowed down.   But there is no doubt there is a sense of accuracy, but it isn't for everyone.  These are the cycles if you like Hitchcock, Lawrence Olivier, Orsen Wells, Richard Burton, etc.  To modern ears, these are over the top, melodramatic, theatrical.

 

So, what you want is a balance of the fire the original interpreters had but the maturity and wisdom of contemporary interpretations.  Shostakovich is still such a deep and rich composer that you need someone who is fully invested in his sound world.  This group of conductors are Kurt Sanderling (he's German so halfway between Soviet and Western), Mariss Jansons (Latvian so Eastern Block but refined and fiery), Vasily Petrenko (British-Russian).  These are all excellent cycles that are intense, well crafted, modern interpretations in the best sonics.  These conductors are intelligent and knowledgeable about Shostakovich, his time and place.  A separate note should be made that you won't go wrong with Bernstein, but you'll get a Germanic version.  That's not entirely bad because Shostakovich was very influenced by Mahler, but Bernstein did not make a complete cycle, but his versions are standouts though heavily colored through western eyes which was the fashion at the time.  Similarly, the composer's own son, Maxim, wasn't any more authoritative as he went through Soviet and Western phases and his conducting mirrors those phases.  They are interesting and enjoyable because of the unique perspective, but not definitive.  Like all great composers, any performance leaves you wanting more and that's absolutely the case here.

 

With all this being said, you won't be wrong with any of the names mentioned - most especially the first Haitink and Barshai, I just think it's worth understanding what exactly you would be hearing with this fascinating and multilayered composer.  After decades, I've come to learn, there is no perfect cycle but loads of great ones each with their own distinctive styles.

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@Tom Guernsey,

@Marian Schedenig,

@karelm,

@blondheim,

Thanks for all your advice, regarding the Shostakovich box.

On Amazon, I narrowed it down to two: Jansons, who has a mix 'n' max approach, and Haitink, who varies between the Concertgbouw, and the London Phil.

I'll confess that I have never heard of the other conductors, but I'll do some A/Bs.

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1 hour ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

@Tom Guernsey,

@Marian Schedenig,

@karelm,

@blondheim,

Thanks for all your advice, regarding the Shostakovich box.

On Amazon, I narrowed it down to two: Jansons, who has a mix 'n' max approach, and Haitink, who varies between the Concertgbouw, and the London Phil.

I'll confess that I have never heard of the other conductors, but I'll do some A/Bs.

I think I have some Jansons and they are very good. I would highly recommend Haitink though, I really love the couple of Shostakovich albums I have from him. I really ought to get a few more of his recordings of my favourite Shostakovich symphonies - as I say, there are a few I don’t care for so much (the second and third for instance) so am less prone to complete sets than with some composers (not mentioning no Mahler or Sibelius…!).

 

For perhaps less earthy but very nicely performed and recorded versions, the cycle on BIS conducted by Mark Wigglesworth is worth a listen as well. 

 

13 hours ago, karelm said:

 

I'm an expert on this.  As others have already stated for general approaches, Decca/Haitink and Barshai are both very excellent interpretations from start to end.  Haitink is bit more polished and refined (more European) and Barshai is slightly rawer but not anywhere near as much as the Soviet era conductors.  He's very much a European version of a Soviet conductor.  Think Yevgeny Svetlanov who spent half his career conducting Western orchestras with that sensibility.  Nothing wrong with that but some consider that like Benihana restaurant version of Japanese food - it's much more about show and what Westerners think Japanese food is about but nothing about authenticity.  If authenticity is what you want, you'll want Konrashin or Gennady Rozhdestvensky.  These interpretations are on fire and truer to the original concept as Shostakovich premiered many of these works with them.  The downside is they suffer from inferior recording and idiomatic performance technique (Soviet era playing style which is very ugly to modern ears).   Harsh strings and trumpet vibrato was very popular in that style and not popular in Western music.  To us, it immediately sounds Soviet.  Also tempi is way faster.  You get a sense as if the performers would be killed if they slowed down.   But there is no doubt there is a sense of accuracy, but it isn't for everyone.  These are the cycles if you like Hitchcock, Lawrence Olivier, Orsen Wells, Richard Burton, etc.  To modern ears, these are over the top.  

 

So, what you want is a balance of the fire the original interpreters had but the maturity and wisdom of contemporary interpretations.  Shostakovich is still such a deep and rich composer that you need someone who is fully invested in his sound world.  This group of conductors are Kurt Sanderling (he's German so halfway between Soviet and Western), Mariss Jansons (Latvian so Eastern Block but refined and fiery), Vasily Petrenko (British-Russian).  These are all excellent cycles that are intense, well crafted, modern interpretations in the best sonics.  These conductors are intelligent and knowledgeable about Shostakovich, his time and place.  A separate note should be made that you won't go wrong with Bernstein, but you'll get a Germanic version.  That's not entirely bad because Shostakovich was very influenced by Mahler, but Bernstein did not make a complete cycle, but his versions are standouts though heavily colored through western eyes which was the fashion at the time.  Similarly, the composer's own son, Maxim, wasn't any more authoritative as he went through Soviet and Western phases and his conducting mirrors those phases.  They are interesting and enjoyable because of the unique perspective, but not definitive.  Like all great composers, any performance leaves you wanting more and that's absolutely the case here.

 

With all this being said, you won't be wrong with any of the names mentioned - most especially the first Haitink and Barshai, I just think it's worth understanding what exactly you would be hearing with this fascinating and multilayered composer.  After decades, I've come to learn, there is no perfect cycle but loads of great ones each with their own distinctive styles.

Some really interesting comments. I’m definitely not an expert but I really do love Shostakovich’s music. Out of interest, what are your thoughts on the Rostropovich cycle?

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1 hour ago, Tom Guernsey said:

I think I have some Jansons and they are very good. I would highly recommend Haitink though, I really love the couple of Shostakovich albums I have from him. I really ought to get a few more of his recordings of my favourite Shostakovich symphonies - as I say, there are a few I don’t care for so much (the second and third for instance) so am less prone to complete sets than with some composers (not mentioning no Mahler or Sibelius…!).

 

For perhaps less earthy but very nicely performed and recorded versions, the cycle on BIS conducted by Mark Wigglesworth is worth a listen as well. 

 

Some really interesting comments. I’m definitely not an expert but I really do love Shostakovich’s music. Out of interest, what are your thoughts on the Rostropovich cycle?

Rostropovich is a professional cellist, not a conductor.  His interpretations are generally not very highly regarded musically speaking.  A major part of why he has a reputation with Shostakovich is because he parallels Shostakovich's life as a dissident in some ways even speaking out publicly against the Soviet government, which put him in the crosshair of the Soviet party.  He was eventually exiled from USSR the year before Shostakovich died, therefore is sort of a parallel artist BUT as a cellist, not as a conductor.   Of the many recordings I've heard of his, my favorite is his LSO recording of Shostakovich's No. 11, but the others he recorded weren't as successful.  The problem with him is he's basically an amateur conductor working with world class orchestras in very good and complex music.  Great orchestras can probably perform this music just fine without him but his personal ties to Shostakovich (both of Shostakovich's Cello Concertos were written for and premiered by Rostropovich) is the selling point.  Keep in mind the list of conductors who take on Shostakovich include some of the very finest we have on record, and these are conductors who are obsessed with the details of conducting music, something an amateur just won't be able to pull off as successfully.  Again, with a great orchestra, great music can and does still result but his contribution to the mix is less than significant.  In a conducting masterclass, a point was made to have us not conduct the orchestra at all.  The music sounded great, arguably better than when we conducted it.  When we conducted it, there was a sense of confusion, hesitancy, and uncertainty that is completely gone when we stood aside.  It really took a very good conductor to improve on what the top-level orchestra could already do without us.   It's important a conductor does not get in the way of excellent musicians but in fact elevates them.  That's what great conductors can do, and I don't think that's what Rostropovich did.  

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On 24/08/2022 at 10:35 PM, Marian Schedenig said:

I also have a very fine 5th by Jansons (with the Wiener Philharmoniker)

 

I might add that the Jansons also includes the Chamber Symphony, which (not being a "proper" symphony) is absent from the Barshai set, although it was Barshai who arranged it from Shostakovich's original string quartet. The 5th was recorded live at the Musikverein in 1997, a concert I actually attended (or almost - I went to the dress rehearsal; it was (maybe still is) easy for students to get a subscription for a cycle of Philharmoniker rehearsals). Probably the first Shostakovich I heard live. The other piece on the programme was Debussy's La mer, but I don't think that performance has ever been released (I do believe the full concert was broadcast on radio though).

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13 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

I might add that the Jansons also includes the Chamber Symphony, which (not being a "proper" symphony) is absent from the Barshai set, although it was Barshai who arranged it from Shostakovich's original string quartet. The 5th was recorded live at the Musikverein in 1997, a concert I actually attended (or almost - I went to the dress rehearsal; it was (maybe still is) easy for students to get a subscription for a cycle of Philharmoniker rehearsals). Probably the first Shostakovich I heard live. The other piece on the programme was Debussy's La mer, but I don't think that performance has ever been released (I do believe the full concert was broadcast on radio though).

 There is an additional set of Barshai conducting his arrangements of all the “Chamber” symphonies and that’s a nice set to have.
 

I envy you your experience: Jansons was a very talented conductor who I still believe doesn’t get enough praise. I would have loved to have seen him conduct in Pittsburgh when I was young but alas, I am the only one truly interested in classical music in my family and I would have been to young to get them to attend with me.

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2 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

New Michael Torke piece just dropped:


https://www.michaeltorke.com/recordings/time

 

I might have to check this out. Have enjoyed Torke’s work since Javelin appeared on the Summon the Heroes album (easily my favourite non-JW work on that album). His fairly recent piano concerto Three Manhattan Bridges is great. I was lucky enough to see the premiere (I think) of his percussion concerto although having got the recording of it on Naxos, I found it a bit monotonous after a while (and much less interesting than Danny Elfman’s recent work) but his short orchestral works are great fun. Probably the sort of ideal classical music for people who like film music and want to explore.   

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One of my personal favorite Haydn movements from across his work: the finale from his Trio in A (#18).

 

Superb!

 

 

 

I love the trios in general as recorded by this Van Swieten Trio.

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All this recent talk of Shostakovich out me in a mind to hear his no. 7. It’s not normally one I feel an urge to pull out so I jumped on the chance and spun the Bernstein.

 

What a performance. Honestly, the end is so loud and overbearing as to be anxiety-inducing. An effect that Shostakovich would have probably loved very much. Now I am listening to the Barshai to compare.

 

It’s that longer than normal second movement where Bernstein really pushes you. I think he manages to keep it together and delivers a truly idiosyncratic view of that movement. Barshai’s has to be more like it’s intended. Both of the orchestras give amazing performances. You can’t go wrong with either. I read a review of the Bernstein once on Musicweb and it was described as “‘not a must-have but a can’t-live-without” and that’s as true a statement as I’ve ever heard.

 

I’ve always heard good things about the Berglund, but I need to listen to more of the ones I have before I get my hands on anymore :lol:

 

I easily have 14 recorded performances of this symphony

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17 minutes ago, blondheim said:

I easily have 14 recorded performances of this symphony

 

That's quite a lot for one you don't normally feel an urge to pull out.

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5 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

That's quite a lot for one you don't normally feel an urge to pull out.

The other day I realized I have a hoarding problem with music. I actually have 33 recordings of Bruckner 8. It’s getting out of control. Now, in my defense, I often download things just to have them to listen to later if I need them but still, some pruning needs to be done before this becomes a complex and I can’t bring myself to click delete anymore :lol:

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1 hour ago, Disco Stu said:

The famous oboe solo from Swan Lake is playing.  My 8yo daughter, across the room doing homework: “Sounds like Harry Potter.” :lol:

She's not wrong!  I literally told a friend yesterday that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone expanded (box) release is so gorgeous and of such quality minute by minute that it could stand up right next to any Tchaikovsky ballet.   My favorite and reference ballet is Swan Lake.  Your 8 yo daughter is a genius.  

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38 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

Music written the last time a Charles sat on the English throne :) 

 

Ten years ago, we did a choir concert based on and around Purcell's funeral music for Queen Mary (mostly Purcell, with some other bits, e.g by Bennet and Byrd). Sadly we don't seem to have videos of it, or at least none on YouTube (not that they could compare with a brilliant performance like the one above), but it's all amazing music.

 

E.g. this (not our recording):

 

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3 hours ago, BB-8 said:

Ives/Brant "A Concord Symphony"

 

(orchestration of Ives' Piano Sonata No. 2 by Henry Brant)

 

San Francisco Symphony, MTT

 

A wonderful recording of a difficult but rewarding work.

 

I of course am also very partial to the recording of Copland's Organ Symphony this was paired with for the album release (although my preferred recording of that work remains the Bernstein).

 

16 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

Ten years ago, we did a choir concert based on and around Purcell's funeral music for Queen Mary (mostly Purcell, with some other bits, e.g by Bennet and Byrd). Sadly we don't seem to have videos of it, or at least none on YouTube (not that they could compare with a brilliant performance like the one above), but it's all amazing music.

 

 

I just go nuts for Purcell.  It's very correct to me that Britten will always have a connection to him via the Young Person's Guide. They're my two favorite English composers and both are highly individual, perhaps even quirky, composers who are at their best when writing for chorus/voice.

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BAM. The complete Karajan/DG set. All 240 CDs. Spread over almost an entire year. I’m really happy (and proud) for having completed this cultural journey. And it was a way better investment of time than that stupid Bach cantata crusade I embarked upon in 2020: Suzuki is an astoundingly amazing conductor with a choir unmatched by anyone, but my patience proved to be no match for that kind of crap. I’ll do Karajan’s EMI sets in a while, but am taking a break now, I think. The Dubliners have appeared on my radar.

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I really enjoyed this piece written by Omar Thomas performed by the President's Own.

 

Highly recommended if you enjoy extended orchestral/band compositions that are based in American folk idioms like blues/gospel/jazz.

 

 

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Mozart 40, Harnoncourt. Nothing beats H being H with the CMW. Somebody please tell me they did 38 too! I can find loads of early stuff on Presto and 39 and 41, but not the Prague with the CMW.

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Mozart Piano Concertos 21-24. I'm slowly buying the complete set of concertos with Gardiner and Malcolm Bilson.

 

It took me a long time to warm up to Mozart, but I think my mistake was looking too hard at the symphonies. The piano concertos really feel like his most personal and interesting works. I'm not knocking the symphonies, a number of them are truly great, but they often feel as though they have been written for someone instead of by someone, if that makes any sense.

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I think he probably considered the operas his most important output, but most people don't have a taste for opera any longer.

 

Anyhow, the 21 is my personal favorite of the piano concertos.

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Yeah I’m also buying up all of Gardiner’s (I like Gardiner lol) Mozart opera recordings. I can get in to opera, but it is a commitment with the libretto and all. Not a fan of Wagner, though.

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Well, we're currently singing Robert Burns in German in the choir (I guess Schumann didn't speak English), so I shouldn't complain…

 

Hagegård has a quite Dieskau-creamy voice.

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3 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

Hagegård has a quite Dieskau-creamy voice.

 

If you've never seen Bergman's Magic Flute film, Hagegård is so wonderful as Papageno

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Dvorak's 5th Symphony in F.  One of my favorites of his.  I actually quite like the Naxos Dvorak series from the early 90s.  I keep trying other recordings and keep coming back to this one.

 

 

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On 30/10/2022 at 10:05 AM, Bespin said:

Classical Halloween to get into the mood.

 

image.png

Thumbs down for not including Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice or Franck's Accursed Huntsman about a hunter condemned to be pursued by demons for eternity. 

 

Why not Goldsmith's Omen but Jaws is there?

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After listening to the new Reich album this morning, this afternoon I revisited my favorite Reich album: Different Trains.

 

The use of the spoken word/sound effects in combination with the live instruments is my favorite mode of Reich.  Language is an ingredient that feels like anchor for me moving through his music, something to grab on to (see also other favorites like The Cave, Daniel Variations, WTC 9/11).

 

From Chicago…

 

From Chicago…

 

From Chicago to New York…

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Just listened to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (my favorite composition of any composer ever).  Featuring full orchestra, choir, fugues galore, violin solo, drama, the great Amen on the Gloria surpassing even Handel's Hallelujeh Chorus.  I mean the following as a compliment: I think this is the closest thing we get to a film score from the 1800s.  There is something about its arc (or maybe just the execution) that is more dramatic than his or other's operas.  

 

If you have 80 minutes, sit back, relax, and let this piece kick your musical ass. 

 

 

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