The Wonderful World of Classical Music (10 CD set)

This is the perfect introductory CD set to classical music. The ten CDs are entitled: Great Choral Classics, Great Piano Classics, Great Symphony Classics, Great Brass Classics, Great Opera Classics, Great Nature Classics, Great French Classics, Great Russian Classics, Great American Classics, and Great English Classics.The Wonderful World of Classical Music

This collection is highly recommended as a Music Appreciation Course for the uninitiated as well as the connoisseur!

My favorites among this outstanding collection include:

1. Carl Orff (1895-1982), German composer and educator. Selection: Carmina Burana O Fortuna (1937), secular oratorio derived from Medieval German and Latin poem (Great Choral Classics). This beautiful Neoclassical composition was use in various acts of the film, Excalibur (1981) by John Boorman; starring Nigel Terry, Cherie Lunghi, Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, Clive Swift, and many other stars.

2. Giovanni Pergolesi (1710-1736), Italian composer. Selection: Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Great Choral Classics).

3. Giuseppe Verdi (1831-1901), foremost Italian operatic composer. Selections: Requiem Mass (Great Choral Classics); Rigoletto (1851), La Traviata (1853) and Aida (1871) all in (Great Opera Classics).

4. Anton Bruckner (1824-1896), Austrian composer, organist. Selection: Sanctus Te Deum Ave Maria (Great Choral Classics).

5. Richard Wagner (1813-1883), German Romantic composer, master of theatrical compositions, operas, etc. "Music dramas," as his later works became known as, included the development of lietmotif — a brief passage of music used to characterize an episode or person. Librettos were written by him from German mythology. Culminated with German Romantic operas. Selections: Lohengrin: Bridal Chorus (Great Choral classics); The Flying Dutchman: Overture (Great Nature Classics); Gotterdammerung: Siegfried's Rhine Journey (Great Brass Classics).

6. Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1891), Russian composer and member of "The Five"; national Russian style, folk songs and operas. Selections: Boris Godunov (1874; Great Choral Classics), Pictures at an Exhibition (1874; Great Brass Classics), Night on Bald Mountain (1860-66; Great Nature Classics), Dance of the Persian Slaves (1874; Great Russian Classics).

Great Russian ClassicsNote: "The Five" were a circle of 19th century Russian composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia between 1856-1870. "The Five" included Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (whose works are included in this collection) as well as Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, and Alexander Borodin (whose works are not included in this collection).

7. Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Russian composer and pianist. Selections: Vocalise op 34 No 14 (Great Russian Classics); Bogoroditse Devo (Great Choral Classics).

8. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), Russian composer and member of "The Five"; master of orchestration; his student was Igor Stravinsky. Selections: Scheherazade: The Sea and Sinbad's Ship (1888; Great Nature Classics); The Flight of the Bumble Bee (Great Nature Classics); Tales of Tsar Saltan (Great Russian Classics); Capriccio Espagnol (Great Brass Classics).

9. Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), Armenian composer and considered a "national treasure." Selection: Sabre Dance (Great Russian Classics).

10. Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Russian composer, educated at the nascent Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Annual subsidy from a wealthy patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, allowed him to devote himself to music. Selections: 1812 Oventure (Great Russian Classics); Swan Lake: Dance Neapolitaine (Great Brass Classics).

11. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Austrian composer, prodigy. Played for King Louis XV of France and Empress Maria Theresa as a child prodigy. Played the violin, harsichord, and organ and composed in all genres. Moved to Vienna and there befriended Joseph Haydn. Succeeded Gluck as court composer for Emperor Joseph II in 1787. Worked feverishly on a Requiem for a nobleman, which proved to be his own! Died at age 35 still in poverty and was buried in a common grave. Selections: Don Giovanni (Great Opera Classics); The Magic Flute (1791; Great Opera Classics); Requiem Mass: Lux Aeterna - Cum Sanctus Tuis (Great Choral Classics).

12. Georg Fredrich Handel (1685-1759), German-born, British composer, celebrated for his oratorios, Master of Baroque. Selection: Messiah: For Unto Us a Child is Born (Great Choral Classics).

13. Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Austrian composer, Classical period, a friend of Mozart's andGreat Choral Classics a teacher of Beethoven. Selections: The Creation (Great Choral Classics); Symphony No. 89 Surprise: Menuet (Great Symphony Classics).

14. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), German composer and organist of Baroque period. Selection: Mass in B Minor: Sanctus (Great Choral Classics).

15. Giocomo Puccini (1858-1924), Italian composer and operalist of the late-Romantic period. Often called "the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi." Selections: Madame Butterfly: Humming Chorus (Great Choral Classics); O Mio Babbino Caro (Great Opera Classics).

16. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer and pianist, begins Romantic era in music, acknowledged Mozart and Haydn. Selections: Symphony No. 9 Choral (Great Choral Classics); Symphony No. 5 Pastoral (Great Symphony Classics); Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor Pathetique (Great Piano Classics); Fur Elise (Great Piano Classics). Fur Elise (Great Piano Classics), a beautiful sonata easily recognizable in popular adaptations.

17. Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Austrian composer of early Romantic period. Selections: Piano Sonata in B-flat major, D 960: Andante sostenuto (Great Piano Classics); Symphony No. 9 in C major The Great: Finale. Allegro vivace (Great Symphony Classics). The Piano Sonata in B major was used very effectively in the dramatic horror film, The Hunger (1981) starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and Cliff De Young.

18. Frederic Chopin (1810-1849), Franco-Polish composer and pianist of the Romantic era. Settled in Paris, had a liaison with writer George Sand. Selection: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor Funeral March (Great Piano Classics).

Great Symphony Classics19. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), Austrian composer and conductor. Viennese symphonic tradition. Selection: Symphony No. 1 in D major (Great Symphony Classics).

20. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), German composer of the Romantic era, was a child prodigy. Selection: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Great Brass Classics).

21. Franz von Suppé (1819-1895), Austrian composer of the Romantic period. Selection: Light Cavalry: Overture (Great Brass Classics).

22. Georges Bizet (1838-1875), French operatic composer of the Romantic era. Selections: Carmen: Overture (Great Opera Classics); The Pearl Fishers (Great Opera Classics).

23. Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), Italian composer of operas, including the Italian comedies "Opera buffa." His comic masterpiece, The Barber of Seville (1816). Selection: The Barber of Seville (Great Opera Classics).

24. Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893), Italian operatic composer. He is best known for his opera La Wally (1892), based on Germanic folklore or legend about a girl named Wally who steals a vulture's egg, but later throws herself into an avalanche. The opera is rarely performed due to the difficulty of staging the death scene. Wilhelmenia Fernandez, the American soprano, more recently popularized the Aria from La Wally when she performed it in the 1981 cult movie Diva. Selection: La Wally: Aria, Act I (Great Opera Classics).

25. Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), German operatic composer of spectacular grand operas. Selection: Coronation March (Great Opera Classics).

26. Richard Strauss (1864-1949), German composer/conductor (not to be confused with the line of Viennese musicians), who composed dramatic operas influenced by Wagner's leitmotif concept. His work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, has been consistently performed since its first performance in 1896. The opening fanfare, named "Sunrise" in the composer's notes, became well-known after its use in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Selection: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Great Nature Classics).Great Nature Classics

27. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Russian-American composer, considered an important and one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Selection: The Rite of Spring (Great Nature Classics).

28. Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884), Czech composer. Often called the founding father of Czech music. Selection: Má vlast. Vltava (Great Nature Classics).

29. Claude Debussy (1862-1919), French composer associated with musical impressionism. Selection: La Mer (Great French Classics).

30. Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), French composer who left medical school for music. Selection: La Damnation de Faust (1846; Great French Classics).

31. Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), German-born French composer. Selections: Orpheus in the Underworld: Overture (Great French Classics); Tales of Hoffmann: Barcarolle (Great French Classics).

32. Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921), French composer. Selection: Dance Macabre (Great French Classics).

33. George Gershwin (1898-1937), American composer. Selections: Variations on "I Got Rhythm" (Great American Classics); Rhapsody in Blue (Great American Classics).

34. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), American composer/conductor. Selections: Candide: Overture (Great American Classics); West Side Story: Medley (Great American Classics).

35. Edward Elgar (1857-1934), English composer. Selection: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 (Great English Classics).

36. Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958), English composer. Selection: Greensleeves (Great English Classics).

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria Jr. M.D. is a neurosurgeon and the author of the book, Cuba in Revolution — Escape from a Lost Paradise (2002) author of many articles on science, politics, medicine, and classical history.

Copyright ©2015 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

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Comments on this post

Sergei Rachmaninov's odd power

I forgot to mention it. People might know this, but I had to say.

It is known that a gramophone recording of Rachmaninov would bring Beria to tears. Now isn't that the oddest thing? He was enraptured by the music. This, at the very least, indicates the complexity of all human minds. --ARB

Baroque Favorites and more trivia!

I could never take the pleasure in classical music that I take in Baroque. I think one major element is the harpsichord. Its perfectly orderly emission with no decay is so typical of the general world view of that period, which seems to have been based on the Newtonian view of the universe. I hope that makes sense, as I am no philosopher. When I listen to my favorite Baroque composers, I can almost feel the universe as Newton thought it. He did say that with his mathematical descriptions of it, that God would have to give it a kick once in a while to keep it going.

People today like to say that Einstein solved that problem Newton had, but I think differently. I think because it is now generally accepted that the universe is at some point going to physically end(although we don't seem to have much idea as to what happens next), Newton was correct, except God is not kicking it. By leaving it alone, his calculus tells the correct story. It does wind down if it receives no kick.

So my personal favorites are JS Bach and son CPE Bach, GF Handel, Antonio "The Red Priest" Vivaldi, and GP Telemann.

Now there is that question of Beethoven's syphilis! But here again, like with Lenin, I waver in my views. I think the story is a good one, but I will have to refresh myself on why that became the the popular explanation for his deafness. At present, I only recall that both temporal bones were resected at his autopsy for further examination, but they were both lost! We have never found them, so the best evidence we have to make any conclusions is gone.

I never cared for Mozart. I found 1985's Amadeus watchable only because of the delightful Elizabeth Berridge, who played Mozart's wife.

The film was terribly flawed historically, but it was accurate in depicting his burial in a pauper's grave. It had long been suspected that during one of his long bouts of chronic illnesses, he fell down a flight of stars (if I recall it correctly) and developed symptoms of a chronic subdural hematoma. The mass pauper's grave was exhumed not too long ago, and a skull with evidence of fracture and erosion of the inner table was found (again, I think this was it but I will have to check the paper). This is now generally accepted as being the skull of Mozart. If the hematoma had calcified, I think they would have presented a stronger case to me.

But now mentioning Beethoven, you remind me of another well know neurosyphilitic - Al Capone. I do not know if you ever watched the series "Boardwalk Empire" on HBO, but it is one of the few programs that really had me addicted. Capone was portrayed as a small man, but in reality he was quite large and muscular, which is why he started out doing petty jobs for the nascent mob in the early 1910's when still a youth, most of them requiring marked physical coercion. However, as entertaining as I found the series, it was grossly inaccurate in many historical aspects, and one of the inaccuracies was portraying Capone's son as being completely deaf from juvenile syphilis. He did indeed contract it, but I will write a later comment on exactly what it did do, and also the true story of Capone's GPI, which many do not know.

I find it amusing to ask liberals who want to make every drug legal what their reasoning is and hear them give the Volstead act of 1919-1933 (with Canada joining us in prohibition at the same time - and my ancestors there had dealings with Capone, at least I am told, as they knew how to make good Vodka and he appreciated that. A friend of mine here in Lexington with just a tiny slice of Polish in her tells me precisely the same story of her ancestors.) as proof that prohibition never works. Though perhaps the Volstead act is a good example, the era, morals, and drug prohibited were not the same as those to which they are comparing, so I am not sure if that comparison is the best one. Even more to the point, if banning a thing only makes the situation worse (as they constantly assert) why do they never including banning guns in that notion? When I say that, I get the "You are a stupid conservative, so let me do the thinking." look that I think all conservatives who have tried to debate a liberal know very well. --ARB
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Dear Adam, you may call this trivia, but fascinating historic trivia it is, both entertaining and worth cogitating. Thanks!--- MAF

Musician series: Beethoven

OK... as promised (but not yet the Lithuania trip!), we will give a quick look at Beethoven as our first musician to diagnose.

The notion that syphilis caused his deafness either by a central lesion in both temporal lobes (it couldn't be one, as then the victim would still hear), or syphilitic neuropathy of the 8th nerve is popular but false.

This is a photo of Beethoven's skull taken in 1863. NOW, itBeethoven's Skull
looks quite a bit like Paget's disease, and in the past when the etiology was unknown (although described by Paget in the 1860's) it was not uncommon to have to decompress several of the cranial nerves as the osteoclastic phase narrowed and distorted one or more foramen.

Paget's disease of the skull is so gross in its manifestations that it could be diagnosed by x-ray as early as 1896, but even earlier than that an enlarging head and/or hat size associated with primary optic atrophy or deafness was all the surgeon needed to realize the problem. There would likely also be headache, which Beethoven had.

The findings at autopsy on 26 March 1827 (here, limited to the head) were:

"The calvarium exhibited throughout great density and a thickness amounting to about half an inch. The facial nerves were of unusual thickness, the auditory nerves, on the contrary, were shriveled and destitute of neurina: the accompanying arteries were dilated to more than the size of a crow quill and cartilaginous. The Eustachian tube was much thickened...and somewhat contracted about the osseous portion of the tube."

It would appear Beethoven had Paget's, and with a typical course when it severely distorts and thickens the skull. OK---next up...Mozart's epidural hematoma.--ARB
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Adam, I think your deduction is correct!---MAF

Great list of classical music!

A good list of classical music you have shared with us. I really enjoyed it.