On the music forums I visit regularly, the question “ How do I get started listening or acquiring Classical Music? “ comes up from time to time, and I’m always amazed at the answers. Music collecting, in a sense, is no different than any other form of collection: stamps, coins, trading cards… There’s a lot of it that has to do with personal taste, and the level of obsessiveness you dare to attain.
The Myth of the Basic Repertoire
Going back to the question – that is, where to start in building a music library – we invariably come to the question: why not start with the “basics”?
OK… Most households have movie collections, or book collections, or what have you. How many of us built our movie collections by looking for “the basic films”? What is it about a film that would make it a “basic” – a film everybody should own? Is it the awards it won? Is it the popularity it had? Is it the status of the actors or the director? Is there such a thing as a “basic film”, really?
So what then are the “basic repertoire” pieces? Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies? All nine, or just the Fifth?
Awhile back, I acquired a collection of 200 CDs issued as “Great Pianists of the 20th Century” (I highly recommend it.) You have there almost 100 pianists, playing everything from early music to modern masterpieces. There were some pieces that were featured several times in the lot: Chopin’s preludes, Schumann’s Carnival, several Beethoven and Mozart piano concertos and piano sonatas, some of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works for solo keyboard, and the list could go on for a page or two. If you were to list all the pieces that were programmed “more than once” in that collection, and declared those as being “the basic piano repertoire”, I could probably bring up piece after piece most of us would view as equally important that didn’t make that list!
The concept of “the basic concert repertoire” is a bit of a misnomer – if it exists, then show me the exhaustive list… Or do we not mean that there are “enduring” works and works that may endure, but probably not… There are 500 years of Western Classical Music history, and to pretend that you can build from a defined set of works “outwards” is simplistic at best.
My conclusion? Simply, collecting music should be approached primarily based on taste and affinity with certain styles of works, and build out from there. Like in anything, Classical Music is an acquired taste, and some are sweeter than others, and it is over time (and trying) that one can develop a taste for other aspects of the repertoire.
ITYWLTMT can help in this process - Did You Know That
- We have now shared 218 montages
- We have shared over 70 complete operas with our partners at OperaLively
- We have shared over 200 playlists between Once Upon the Internet and our YouTube channel
- We have 515 posts and counting (between all our platforms)
And that's the challenge I am taking on - I plan to dust-up and share old - and new - material in the context of this "one blog a day, every day" concept. We will "package" 366 playlists (call then "listener Guides"), and group them together as we always do in a thematic arrangement.
In a nut-shell that's what Project 366 is all about.
It will take me more than a year to achieve this a a coherent package - and my intention is to package these eventually as eBooks - starting with the first 122 in a set I call "A Journey of Musical Discovery", where I plan to explore the "basic" repertoire by traversing it through all musical genres.
Here is the Table of Contents for Part 1 of the Project
|Starting with the ABC’s||1-2|
|Journeys with a Purpose - Exploring Musical Genres|
|The King of Instruments||7-10|
|A few friends||11-19|
|The Orchestra - Symphonies and More||27-34|
|Sing, Sing, Sing||42-52|
|Music Takes the Stage||53-62|
|Do Not Skip This Chapter!||63-67|
|Journeys without a Purpose - Day Trips through the Repertoire|
|The Concert Experience||68-76|
|Themes and Variations||77-81|
|The World of Transcriptions||90-96|
|[More to Follow]|