Monthly Archives: January 2022

Classic Hits: The Updated Classical Music Lists

I’ve added two more lists to the classical music meta-lists.  This has added more than a dozen new pieces of music and three new-to-the-list composers:

  • Henryk Wieniawski (Poland, 1835-1880)
  • Umberto Giordano (Italy, 1867-1948)
  • Henri Dutilleux (France, 1916-2013)

The links to the updated lists are here:
Best Classical Music – Ranked
Best Classical Music – Chronological
Best Classical Music – By Composer
Best Classical Music – By Type of Composition

The full meta-list contains 656 pieces of music (659 if you count Wagner’s Ring cycle as 4 instead of 1.)  That’s a lot of music.  For those who may be intimidated by such a large list, I’ve created a miniature version that contains fewer than 70 compositions (see below).  This list includes only those pieces of music on at least 10 of the original source lists.  It is an odd and fairly conservative list.  The Germans and Austrians dominate. Most of the music is symphonic, with a number of operas, but there is very little chamber music and only one piece of solo piano music.  The vast majority of the music comes from the Classical and Romantic periods (roughly 1750-1900), with nothing from the Renaissance and nothing from any composers born in the 20th Century.  There in no Chopin (!?!), no Liszt, no Shostakovich, and only one work by an American composer.  But it is an interesting list nonetheless, and contains some of the best known, most popular, and most highly-regarded pieces of classical music ever written.  I’ve organized it by composer, with the composers listed in chronological order by date of birth.  For composers with more than one piece on the list, I’ve listed the compositions in chronological order. Enjoy.

Best Classical Music: Works on 10 or More of the Original Source Lists

Antonio Vivaldi (Italy, 1678-1741)

  • The Four Seasons (1725)

Johann Sebastian Bach (Germany, 1685-1750)

  • Cello Suites (approx. 1717-1723)
  • Brandenburg Concertos (1721)
  • St. Matthew Passion (1727)
  • Goldberg Variations (1741)
  • Mass in B minor (1749)

George Frideric Handel (Germany, 1685-1759)

  • The Water Music (1717)
  • Messiah (1741)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Austria, 1756-1791)

  • Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (1785)
  • Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (1785)
  • The Marriage of Figaro (1786)
  • Serenade No. 13 in G major “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” (1787)
  • Symphony No. 40 in G minor (1788)
  • Symphony No. 41 in C major “Jupiter” (1788)
  • The Magic Flute (1791)
  • Clarinet Concerto in A major (1791)
  • Requiem (1792)

Ludwig van Beethoven (Germany, 1770-1827)

  • Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# minor “Moonlight” (1801)
  • Symphony No. 3 in Eb major “Eroica” (1804)
  • Violin Concerto in D major (1806)
  • Symphony No. 5 in C minor (1808)
  • Symphony No. 6 in F major “Pastoral” (1808)
  • Symphony No. 7 in A major (1812)
  • Symphony No. 9 in D minor “Choral” (1824)
  • String Quartet No. 14 in C# minor (1826)

Gioachino Rossini (Italy, 1792-1868)

  • The Barber of Seville (1816)

Franz Schubert (Austria, 1797-1828)

  • Piano Quintet in A major “The Trout” (1819)
  • Symphony No. 8 in B minor “Unfinished” (1822)
  • String Quintet in C major (1828)

Hector Berlioz (France, 1803-1869)

  • Symphonie Fantastique (1829)

Felix Mendelssohn (Germany, 1809-1847)

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture (1826)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Incidental Music (1842)

Robert Schumann (Germany, 1810-1856)

  • Piano Concerto in A minor (1845)

Richard Wagner (Germany, 1813-1883)

  • Der Ring des Nibelungen: 1. Das Rheingold (1854)
  • Der Ring des Nibelungen: 2. Die Walküre (1856)
  • Der Ring des Nibelungen: 3. Siegfried (1871)
  • Der Ring des Nibelungen: 4. Götterdämmerung (1874)

Giuseppe Verdi (Italy, 1813-1901)

  • La Traviata (1853)
  • Requiem (1874)

Anton Bruckner (Austria, 1824-1896)

  • Symphony No. 7 in E major (1881-1883, revised 1885)

Johannes Brahms (Germany, 1833-1897)

  • A German Requiem (1865-1868)
  • Violin Concerto in D major (1878)
  • Symphony No. 3 in F major (1883)
  • Symphony No. 4 in E minor (1884-1885)

Georges Bizet (France, 1838-1875)

  • Carmen (1874)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russia, 1840-1893)

  • Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor (1874-1875; revised 1879 and 1888)
  • Swan Lake (1875-1876)
  • Symphony No. 5 in E minor (1888)
  • The Nutcracker (1892)
  • Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathetique” (1893)

Antonín Dvořák (Czech Republic, 1841-1904)

  • Symphony No. 9 in E minor “From the New World” (1893)
  • Cello Concerto in B minor (1894-1895)

Edvard Grieg (Norway, 1843-1907)

  • Piano Concerto in A minor (1868)
  • Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 (1888)
  • Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 (1891)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Russia, 1844-1908)

  • Scheherazade (1888)

Edward Elgar (UK, 1857-1934)

  • Cello Concerto in E minor (1919) (on 10 lists)

Gustav Mahler (Czech Republic, 1860-1911)

  • Symphony No. 5 in C# minor (1901-1902)
  • Symphony No. 9 in D major (1910)

Claude Debussy (France, 1862-1918)

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1894)
  • La Mer (1903-1905)

Richard Strauss (Germany, 1864-1949)

  • Also Sprach Zarathustra (1896)

Sergei Rachmaninoff (Russia, 1873-1943)

  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor (1900-1901)

Béla Bartók (Hungary, 1881-1945)

  • String Quartet No. 4 in C major (1927)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1943)

Igor Stravinsky (Russia, 1882-1971)

  • The Rite of Spring (1913)

George Gershwin (US, 1898-1937)

  • Rhapsody in Blue (1924)

 

My Year in Books: 2021

In 2021, I continued to work my way through the chronological “greatest books of all time” list, focusing primarily on books I already own (with occasional trips to the library).  I finished the 18th Century and moved into the 19th Century.  One of the highlights was the four volume Dream of the Red Chamber (also know as Story of the Stone), one of the four classic Chinese novels.  (I had previously read The Water Margin and Journey to the West/Monkey, two of the other classics.)  But I veered off the greatest booklist path a few times.  I read two books on recent biological discoveries – I like to keep up-to-date with science. I read some art books, as part of my recent obsession with art. And I read some history/biography.  My niece gave me a 2018 Frederick Douglass bio as a gift, so I read that and then of course I needed to read Douglass’s autobiography. And a friend raved about the first volume of Rick Atkinson’s American Revolution trilogy, so I checked that out as well.  Another friend loaned me The Pueblo Revolt, which helped provide historical context for our vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico in September/October.

Here are the books I finished in 2021 (in chronological order by publication date), with my 1-5 star rating:

  1. The Social Contract (1762). By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (4/5)
  2. The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). By Oliver Goldsmith (4/5)
  3. The Sorrows of Young Werther and Selected Writings (1774). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
  4. Dangerous Liaisons (1782) By Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (4/5)
  5. Confessions (1782). By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (4/5)
  6. Dream of the Red Chamber (Story of the Stone) (1791). By Cao Xeuqin (and Gao E) (5/5)
  7. Autobiography and Selected Writings (1791). By Benjamin Franklin (4/5)
  8. Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794). By William Blake (4/5)
  9. Kant: Selections (1770-1797). By Immanuel Kant. Edited by Theodore M. Greene (4/5)
  10. Faust: A Tragedy, Part One (1808). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
  11. Persuasion (1817). By Jane Austen (4/5)
  12. Faust, Part Two (1832). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
  13. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). By Frederick Douglass (4/5)
  14. Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (1976). By Frederick Hartt (5/5)
  15. The Pueblo Revolt (1994). By Robert Silverberg (5/5)
  16. Modern Art in the U.S.A.: Issues and Controversies of the 20th Century (2000). By Patricia Hills (4/5)
  17. Why Evolution Is True (2008). By Jerry A. Coyne (4/5)
  18. Speaking of Art: Four Decades of Art in Conversation (2010). By William Furlong (4/5)
  19. A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth (2015). By Peter D. Ward (3/5)
  20. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018). By David W. Blight (5/5)
  21. The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (2019). By Rick Atkinson (4/5)

Thank You, Next: The Best of 2021

I’ve published meta-lists of the best films, albums, TV shows, and books of 2021.  I made these lists by combining numerous “best of” lists I found online.  Here are the links:

Best Films of 2021
Best TV Shows of 2021
Best Music of 2021
Best Books of 2021

The most popular and the most critically-acclaimed rarely line up and 2021 was no exception.  There was very little overlap between the bestselling films, books and music and the critics’ favorites.  An exception was television, where the critics and audiences seemed to appreciate the same shows.

For example, the top grossing movies globally were:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home (US, Jon Watts)
  2. The Battle at Lake Changjin (China, Chen Kaige, Tsui Hark & Dante Lam)
  3. Hi, Mom (China, Jia Ling)
  4. No Time to Die (UK/US, Cary Joji Fukunaga)
  5. F9 (US, Justin Lin)
  6. Detective Chinatown 3 (China, Chen Sicheng)
  7. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (US, Andy Serkis)
  8. Godzilla vs. Kong (US, Adam Wingard)
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (US, Destin Daniel Cretton)
  10. Eternals (US, Chloé Zhao)

But the top critically-acclaimed films were:

1. Licorice Pizza (US, Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Drive My Car (Japan, Hamaguchi Ryūsuke)
3. The Power of the Dog (UK/US/New Zealand, Jane Campion)
4. Dune (US, Denis Villeneuve)
5. The Souvenir Part II (UK, Joanna Hogg)
6. The French Dispatch
(US, Wes Anderson)
7. Summer of Soul (US, Ahmir Khalib Thompson)
8. The Worst Person in the World (Norway, Joachim Trier)
9. Petite Maman (France, Céline Sciamma)
10. The Velvet Underground
(US, Todd Haynes)
11. The Card Counter (US, Paul Schrader)
12. Annette (France, Leos Carax)
13. The Green Knight (US/Canada, David Lowery)
14. The Lost Daughter (US, Maggie Gyllenhaal)

The most popular songs of the year were:

  1. Save Your TearsThe Weeknd ft. Ariana Grande
  2. MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)Lil Nas X
  3. LevitatingDua Lipa feat. Da Baby
  4. Blinding LightsThe Weeknd 
  5. drivers license Olivia Rodrigo
  6. good 4 uOlivia Rodrigo
  7. Kiss Me MoreDoja Cat ft. Sza 
  8. StayThe Kid Laroi ft. Justin Bieber
  9. PositionsAriana Grande
  10. PeachesJustin Bieber ft. Daniel Caesar & Giveon

But the most critically-acclaimed albums were:

  1. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony OrchestraPromises
  2. Tyler, the CreatorCall Me if You Get Lost
  3. Dry CleaningNew Long Leg
  4. LowHey What
  5. Little SimzSometimes I Might Be Introvert
  6. Arlo ParksCollapsed in Sunbeams
  7. Olivia RodrigoSour
  8. The Weather StationIgnorance
  9. Japanese BreakfastJubilee
  10. TurnstileGlow On

For books, the story was similar.  Here are the year’s bestsellers (book published in 2021):

  1. Dog Man: Mothering Heights. By Dav Pilkey
  2. The Four Winds. By Kristin Hannah
  3. American Marxism. By Mark R. Levin
  4. The Last Thing He Told Me. By Laura Dave
  5. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. By Charlie Mackesy
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot. By Jeff Kinney
  7. A Court of Silver Flames. By Sarah J. Maas
  8. The Judge’s List. By John Grisham
  9. Twelve and a Half. By Gary Vaynerchuk
  10. The Real Anthony Fauci. By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The list of top critically-acclaimed books is very different:

1, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty.  By Patrick Radden Keefe
2. Harlem Shuffle. By Colson Whitehead
3. Detransition, Baby. By Torrey Peters
4. Great Circle. By Maggie Shipstead
5. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir.  By Michelle Zauner
6. How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.  By Clint Smith
7. A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance.  By Hanif Abdurraqib
8. Crossroads.  By Jonathan Franzen  
9. Hell of a Book. By Jason Mott
10. Cloud Cuckoo Land. By Anthony Doerr
11. No One Is Talking About This. By Patricia Lockwood
12. The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois.  By Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
13. Klara and the Sun.  By Kazuo Ishiguro
14. The Prophets.  By Robert Jones Jr.
15. Afterparties: Stories. By Anthony Veasna So