The Necessary 100: The game is on as submissions start coming in
It's fun to start something on the spur of the moment. It's another to make it work. The submissions and suggestions for my list of The Necessary 100 pieces of music (thanks to Daniel Shapiro for the title) are coming in -- see the comments at the bottom of yesterdays post, plus more below.
I'm going to keep posting your submissions, and provide one suggestion a day. Then, when it feels like we're reaching some sort of critical mass, I'll start getting this little beast of a list organized.
I was thinking it would be fun to try to convince a music downloading service to offer a Necessary 100 package at an attractive price. But let's see how things go, first...
SUBMISSIONS VIA EMAIL:
From Daniel Shapiro:
The challenge to choose the Necessary 100 may indeed be too challenging, at least for those of us with jobs and lives to live, but I offer the following:
1. Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, which I think is simply the most beautiful full-length classical piece. Period.
2. J.S. Bach's A Musical Offering. This isn't Bach's finest work (I've no idea how to choose that, and I'd take Bach's work alone if I could have only one composer), but it displays a command of counterpoint that never fails to astonish me. As a sometime composer, I know that trying to make a worthwhile extended contrapuntal section is tremendously difficult; in this piece, Bach does five-part counterpoint, and in one short section six-part. Having worked for a long, tortuous period to achieve three- and four-part counterpoint, I listen to this simply awestruck.
(Here are flutist Marc and harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï to give us a taste of the main theme and ricercar (a 3):)
3. Leonard Cohen's New Skin for the Old Ceremony. (If we are choosing full-length works including operas, albums of song belong here (what about The Who's Tommy?), and not just individual songs. I am not a big Schubert fan, but if someone chose the Winterreise as a group, I think we'd have to let them.) The individual songs are extraordinary pieces, but together form a kind of look into the soul, dark and light, brutal and sensitive, that seems to me unparallelled.
4. Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. The collection of songs here are the epitome of what makes this songwriter's canon so great. The extended metaphors of the title song and "Desolation Row," the harsh but empathetic attitude embodied in "Like a Rolling Stone," "Ballad of a Thin Man," and "Queen Jane Approximately," and the sheer exuberance in melody and rhyme of practically every song on the album makes this necessary.
5. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I once heard an overnight FM host object to playing some of the great "warhorses" (his word) of classical music, because we've heard them so often; I recall thinking that we listen to them over and over because they repay the time and effort. He was referring to Grieg's Piano Concerto (lower down on my own list, but surely in there somewhere), but the notion applies to this, in my opinion as in many others', simply the greatest symphony in the repertoire. Yes, the Ninth is magnificent, the Eroica is extraordinary, and I have a warm spot for the rich and surprising Seventh (and the Fourth is my pocket fave, the one I like when the others are just too much), but the Fifth rings down the centuries with a greatness unlike the others; it's on a separate plane. What is more thrilling than its opening four notes, more surprising and striking than the oboe obbligato, more satisfying as a complete orchestral meal?
6. Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Again, we listened to it too many times, but it got played so much because it's so terrific. From the traditional versions to the Nigel Kennedy and Il Giardino Armonico re-imaginings, the range and the delight of this sequence of pieces continues to enthrall new listeners. And, if you come to it without the jaded ear most of us older listeners have acquired, you'll hear anew its wonder and mastery.
7. Joni Mitchell's Blue. A series of songs so personal they'll have the hair on the back of your neck standing on end. Strong melody, instrumentation that shows the beginnings of her interest in jazz without losing the lightness of pop songs, yet songs that have real weight.
8. Hector Berlioz's Harold in Italy. Berlioz's masterpiece, I think, and so much better than the rest of his work that it belongs here. If I ever chose to learn to play the viola, it would be to play this. What melodic invention! What sheer pleasure in the sound of life!
9. Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." When I first heard this, I was simply floored. The recreation of mediaeval ballad style, complete with daring rhymes ("too rough to feed ya" and "been good to know ya" reminded me of no one so much as Geoffrey Chaucer) and the even more daring tactic of letting the simple melody take care of itself, as a ballad will. I separate it from the album it was on not because there were no other good songs (Lightfoot's catalogue of wonderful songs is second to no one's), but because it's just such an unbelievable achievement of mature songcraft, that every time I hear it I am astounded and captured by it.
I don't really have time to fill in ninety-one more items, but I would like to include more Bach, along with Brahms, Prokofiev, Schumann's string quintet, albums by the Beatles (Rubber Soul or Sergeant Pepper), Phil Ochs (Rehearsals for Retirement), Gershwin (Concerto in F and Fred Astaire's album of song stylings, perhaps), Handel, Haydn, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Randy Newman's Little Criminals, Shostakovich, something by Poulenc, and — well, you see why I have to stop now.
From Canadian Opera Company Orchestra tuba Scott Irvine:
Here's the music, as performed by our very own Penderecki String Quartet, with cellist Roman Borys, earlier this year:
MY DAILY SUBMISSION
Because of the jumble in my head over this little game, I'm going to do this chronologically, so that my eensy little brain can keep my own list straight.
Early Music: Libro Vermell de Montserrat
If nothing else, this collection of 10 devotional songs and dances compiled in the 14th century in the Catalan monastery in Montserrat (home to a shrine to the Black Virgin) serves to remind us of how dancing does not have to be confined to deafening clubs in the Entertainment District. This simple music, written in one or two parts, was not meant to be listened to but meant to be sung and enjoyed by anyone who had made the pilgrimage to Montserrat. This is music that's all about life.
Here is "Stella Splendens" and "Los Set goxs recomptarem" (The Seven Joys):