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Feb. 5th, 2008 | 09:17 am
posted by: jesuspic in classical_music

hello everyone,

i am just starting to get into classical music and was hoping for some recommendations. i've heard some of the big names, beethoven, mozart, etc. but am hoping too find something dark and complex. contemplative or avant-garde maybe. and if it's from france, that's a major plus. 

thank and ANY suggestions are greatly appreciated! john

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Comments {39}

Joe Shelby

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from: acroyear70
date: Feb. 5th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)

dark, complex, and specifically French tends to lead to some Ravel (La Valse, Ma Mere L'Oye, Piano Concerto for the Left Hand), then later Messiaen (his non-vocal/non-religious works) and most especially his one-time student (and one-time critic) Pierre Boulez. I would note that aside from being "French", these three composers actually sound almost nothing alike.

"complex" is relative. there's the overt tonal and structural complexity in a Mahler, Strauss, Debussy, Shostakovich, or early Stravinsky work, but then there's the complexity of harmony inherent in the small gems produced by serial composers like Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez, and Stravinsky post-1951 (mostly religious works). Webern's 5 Pieces for Orchestra seemingly has very little going on, with tiny orchestrations and short segments (some no more than 45 seconds), but harmonically there's enough going on in there to warrant a thesis of analysis.

Somewhere in between those two is Alban Berg's Violin Concerto - a 12-tone work whose row is full of tonal harmonic implications and potentials.

then there's the insane complexity of Stockhausen's Gruppen.

diving from Beethoven into the 20th century is not something I'd recommend at first.

my top orchestral recommendations when i think "dark/complex":
Stravinsky - Rite of Spring, Symphony of Psalms, Variations (Aldous Huxley in memoriam)
Mahler - Symphony 6 and Symphony 7
Liszt - Faust Symphony
William Schuman - Symphony 5 (for Strings)
Ives - Central Park in the Dark
Shostakovich - Symphony 4
Bartok - Music for Strings Percussions and Celesta
Berg - Violin Concerto

at least half of those would give a typical 18th century "classical" listener a heart-attack, of course. even something as (to our ears) genteel as Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun had people streaming out of the Boston concert hall complaining about "crazy modern music" in 1896. nevermind the riot that greeted the Rite of Spring's 1913 premiere...

dark is also a relative term - the complexity in some of those pieces doesn't lend itself to a one-word image like "dark"...

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from: cibeles
date: Feb. 5th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)

I'm seconding the Liszt Faust Symphony. Hungarian, but what can you do? Utterly fantastic. I like Liszt quite a lot and am too lazy to break out the massive list.

So, in summary - what was said above.

And what's said below - why does it have to be French?

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from: jesuspic
date: Feb. 5th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)

oh my god thank you

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from: purgatoryreject
date: Feb. 5th, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC)

Ives is the fuckin' man! *Three Places in New England* and the 4th sym might also be up the OP's alley.

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