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Walt LaForet
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Classical Music Appreciation

Below are what I feel would be good pieces to start a Classical Music CD collection with. Spanning a broad range of composers, nationalities, and musical styles, some are older classics and some are newer.  I chose them for what I felt would be there appealing nature to young people, and the young at heart.  As with all music they grow on you with repeated listening. They are not in any particular order, I like them all.   Classical music is an endangered species and I believe if we do not start teaching our kids and people in general to appreciate classical music there will be no economic future for it.  What a shame if that happens.
Camille Saint-Saens

Symphony No. 3 in C minor "Organ"

The first movement is long but give it time. If you can listen to the last movement and NOT think of pigs you are sophisticated indeed. (The movie Babe)  This is not like an organ concerto but the organ is used as a part of the orchestra. This work was dedicated to the memory of Franz Liszt who died the same year this symphony was first performed.

Paul Hindemith

Symphonic Metamorphoses

Based on themes of Carl maria von Weber. I really like this piece even though he is a very modern composer in my book. The blending can be a little discordant but are wonderful to listen to.  Great modern piece.
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov


A little lengthy (45 min) for young kids but if you know the story of Arabian Nights you can visualize all the sailing ships, Sinbad the sailor, Aladdin, Ali Baba, exotic places,  etc.  
Antonin Dvorak

Symphony No. 8 in G major

Great flute parts. He used so many different musical themes and chose to stuff them all in this one symphony. Many composers do not come up with that many in a lifetime.  How many can you count?
Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition

These were written in memory of a friend Victor Hartmann, whose drawings,  watercolors and sketches  were on exhibit.  I recommend the orchestral version over the original piano version.  Lots of variation and color here. I am still trying to find photos of any of  the pictures of Hartmann but we are not sure of the contents of the exhibition..
Aaron Copland

Billy the Kid: Ballet Suite

You can really have fun with this one, gun fight and all. An American classic.
Sergei Prokofiev

Symphony No. 1, "Classical"

Prokofiev said "I imagined how Joseph Hayden might have composed, had he lived to our day; That was the kind of symphony I wanted to write; a symphony in classical style."  It has fantastic flute parts, you must hear them.

Bela Bartok

Romanian Folk-Dances

Bartok collected 1115 dance melodies and arranged these 7 short pieces for piano then orchestra.  They are so pure, simple and beautiful.  Can you imagine if he arranged all 1115 of them!!. 
Ralph Vaughan Williams

English Folk Sing Suite
The Lark Ascending

A nice set of light English works by a great composer. The lark Ascending  usually can be found on a CD with other stuff and is beautiful.
Franz Schubert

Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished"

It is not as morbid as it sounds.  Schubert did not die in the middle of composing this symphony, he just set the work aside and never got back to it.  Many of us wish he did and you will too when you hear it.  

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral"

This symphony has 5 movements, and was complained about as being "too much of a good thing" when first rehearsed.  Even members of the orchestra gave opposition to performing it, but it was received well when it did open. Beethoven loved nature and this is a tone-painting of the country.  This piece is featured in the Disney  movie Fantasia.

Johannes Brahms

Symphony No. 1

Nice example of Brahms' work and of the Romantic period.  He was a good friend of Dvorak and it took him a long time to finally release this work. (25 years)

Gustav Holst

Wind Quintet in A flat

Flute, horn, oboe, clarinet and bassoon.  A hauntingly beautiful set of 4 movements almost lost forever. The score vanished while Holst was living but was rediscovered over 40 years after his death. Hard to find on a CD of but it is worth the effort. 

Claude Debussy

Predlude a l'Apres-midi d'un faune
(afternoon of the fawn, standard flute stuff)
Clair de lune
Petite Suite

Usually you can find at least two of these three works are on one CD and they are all worth having and knowing.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Brandenburg Concertos

Written for the Margrave of Brandenburg, it took Bach 2 1/2 years to complete. I guess he was distracted by other duties.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 7

What more needs to be said about this composer.  Get all 9 symphonies if you are inclined.

Johannes Brahms

Variations on a Theme by Haydn

Eight variations, or a little musical sketch rooted in a theme.  The first use of the triangle as an instrument is in these themes.  Listen for it. The themes, by the way, were probably NOT by Haydn.  I guess we will never know.

Felix Mendelssohn

A Midsummer Night's Dream

An outstanding work.  This is an overture to the Shakespeare play of the same name.
Gustav Holst

The Planets

His most well known piece.  The orchestra version is what I have in mind. A piece written about each planet know in Holst's time.  (No Pluto)  Nice variety.

Antonio Vivaldi

The Four Seasons

See if you and your kids can identify with the way Vivaldi portrayed the seasons with 3 movements for each season.

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