Classical music – where do I start?

One of the things on my 40 list for this year is to learn about classical music.

I don’t really know where to begin. And that’s where you come in (I hope).

Where should I start? What should I listen to?


10 thoughts on “Classical music – where do I start?

  1. Get onto iTunes and buy yourself 24 Hours of Classical Music (Naxos) for a tenner (or something) Loads to listen to. I just put it on in the background for reading/writing and when I hear something I like or is familiar I check my iTunes to see what it is and who wrote it. That’s where I started. Also, try finding out the names of more popular pieces of classical music (Vivaldi’s Four Season, Swan Lake etc) and listen to them to familiarise yourself with the composer’s style.

    You know, just as a suggestion.

  2. As well as Stella’s suggestion, I’d suggest having Radio 3 on when you’re doing other things: that way you get comfortable in the classical sound-world, if that makes any sense. Mainstream stuff daytime and evenings in the week, odder corners late evenings and at weekends… Very soon, there’ll be a live Prom every evening…

    If you actually want to find out a bit about how a piece works, you could try 5pm on Sundays, when Discovering Music takes apart a piece, using a real orchestra (so, for example, it can talk about, then play, just the flute line) and then plays the whole thing at the end. Last week’s programme on Brahms’ 4th Symphony was very good, about one of the world’s most gorgeous-ever pieces.

  3. Classic FM is also quite repetitive… ask my poor husband, whose car stereo is stuck on it!!! He can’t even play a CD for a change. He’s become really into it.

  4. Yes, I listeen to MC Klassic on Swiss radio too which has a limited playlist buts means I become familiarised with certain pieces and composers before they move onto something new.

  5. Classic FM is great if you don’t know what you like. I’d also recommend downloading something like a compilation of opera arias – many of them will be things you know which I think always helps and opera is fabulous. I think, anyway.

  6. Didn’t Stephen Fry write a book about it? That’s probably where I’d start, but then again I do like to read about everything before I actually do it… 😉 My Dad always used to listen to the classical music album chart or top 40 or something on the radio on Saturdays. (I think… I’m guessing it was Classic FM.) It’s surprising how much stuff I recognised, even with my limited knowledge (lots from films and TV).

  7. I love most music, classical included. I started (yonks ago) with (Pyotr Ilyich) Tchaikovsky. Absolutely fabulous (one of the ‘romance’ composers). He did Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, 1812 overture etc. and his Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor sends shivers up and down my spine. So does Beethoven’s Emperor (Piano Concerto No. 5). Try going to a classical concert – listening to a whole orchestra live is something really special, I think. Tchaikovsky and Beethoven wrote some absolutely wonderful stuff and also another fave of mine is Shostakovich. All really easy listening. If you like piano solo type stuff, Chopin is best, imo. Another, more modern composer I love is Ennio Morricone (lots of spaghetti western themes). Especially the voiceless singing. Breathtaking, I think. Oh I do hope you like classical!!

  8. I love Elgar – especially the Enigma Variations, and the Cello Concerto. Also Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending is beautiful. My dad is a huge classical music fan and spends most of the time listening to Radio 3, so that’s a good place to start. Classic FM is good for beginners but has annoying presenters and ads. One of my dad’s favourite composers is Sibelius, and I like what I’ve heard of his but can’t remember any titles, sorry.

  9. Oooh, I love a challenge like this. Not being a systematic person, I’d recommend trying an eclectic mix, but at least a couple from each time period/area so you have some sense of comparison.

    Heartily recommend:

    -Wagner (if you’re a geek anyway… dwarves! Gods! Magic rings!)
    -Mark Anthony Turnage (if you’d like to try something weird and contemporary)
    – Shimanovsky (impressionist who’s NOT debussy… but also debussy)

  10. This is the playlist that I was sent by a twitter buddy when I was musing on the same thing.

    Also, I have bought myself a couple of the Classic FM books: their Friendly Guide to Music, the Quiz book, and “The Incredible Story of Classical Music for Children” 😉

    I also downloaded one of those giant classical compilation cd’s and have that on while I’m playing WoW or ptootling about online, then I do as Stella does and check the title if I recognise it.
    One day I shall conquer the classical music round on University Challenge!

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