31 May 2013


Last week saw the launch of a fabulous new website: 24Classics. It plays host to 24 playlists with different kinds of classical music, and these playlists are curated by people from the Dutch classical music scene. I'm in charge of the Heavy Symphonic aka the loud stuff, but there are a whole bunch of great lists. I particularly love the Adventure playlist, curated by Micha Hamel, Modernism, curated by Rob Overman and Sunday Morning by Petra Geresse.  

"Heavy Symphonic" isn't a self-evident genre, and I'm not able to provide a nice one-sentence definition. It isn't merely about the volume, although my list will comprise of a lot of loud music. Sometimes I consider a piece 'heavy' because of a certain darkness, a certain emotional depth, as in the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.4 that you find in this first list. I've tried to not make the music too overwhelming, and to alternate really loud things with some that are not quite so ear-splitting. For example, the piece from Schoenberg's Gurrelieder, 'Gegrusst, O Konig, an Gurres see Strand' is probably the loudest and most chaotic of the bunch (though also one of my favourites). As such, an upbeat and relatively uncomplicated movement from Prokofiev's Symphony No.5 precedes it, and the aforementioned Tchaikovksy 4 comes after Schoenberg. For me this brings out the strength in all three tracks, as they contrast really beautifully. At the same time the contrasts aren't so massive that you think you've suddenly ended up in a different playlist, it really is a balancing act. 

On 24classics there's a heavy symphonic and a Light Symphonic (curated by conductor Jan Willem de Vriend) playlist, but nothing in between and I think some of the things I put on my list, and also probably some that will appear on the Light playlist, are just simply "symphonic" works. Brahms symphonies for example, I wouldn't consider light OR heavy. And one of the great things, for me, about 24classics is that the compiling of playlist really is up to our own discretion and our own assessment of works. So maybe a movement from a Brahms symphony will show up in my playlist sometime, and even in this first one there are a few tracks that might not be traditionally considered "heavy". 

Because of licensing restrictions (that will hopefully not be around forever, I'm also trying to swap some tracks for different versions from smaller labels that aren't being difficult) you can't simply skip from one track to another so I hope you can find the time to listen to the whole playlist. There are still some issues that come with any new site, so if anything goes wrong or if you have any advice or feedback, please go to the info page, there's contact information on there (or leave me a message here, if it's about the playlist). 

I don't think it's particulary worthwhile to write something about every track on my list, also partly because I can only say "well I like it so that's why it's on my playlist" so many times. If you have any specific questions, or any feedback, please comment. Here is the full list, with a few elaborations: 

1. Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.10: II Allegro (1953)
Of course I couldn't not start with Shostakovich. It took me ages to figure out which piece to use, but I figured this movement would do the trick (it did also take me ages to figure out which performance of it I'd pick though, seeing as I have about 10 of them... but that would become a boring exposition). It's fast, loud and typical Shostakovich and it is one of my favourite pieces of music ever. If this doesn't draw people in, I don't know what will! 

2. Esa-Pekka Salonen - Foreign Bodies: III Dance (2001)
I very strongly believe that Salonen's music is hugely underappreciated and this movement from his orchestral work Foreign Bodies is the perfect illustration of how good a composer he is. I figured putting it at the beginning of my playlist would get more people listening to Salonen. 

3. Camille Saint-Saëns - Symphony in F: II Molto Vivace (1856)
This is one of those movements that some might not consider 'heavy' but just 'symphonic'. I still think it is nicely bombastic and exciting and fits in rather well with the other pieces. 

4. Benjamin Britten - Sinfonia da Requiem: II Dies Irae (1940)

5. Edouard Lalo - Symphonie Espagnole: III Intermezzo: Allegro (1874)
Slightly misleading, the Symphonie Espagnole is actually more of a violin concerto. This recording is with Christian Tetzlaff who's always phenomenal. I absolutely love this third movement, and how the violin plays so much in the lower register. 

6. Hector Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique: IV Marche au Supplice (1830)

7. Thomas Adès - The Tempest: Act 1, Scene 1 'Hell is Empty' (2004)
One of the three tracks with vocals. It's the opening of Adès's second opera The Tempest. There's a few problems with the libretto of The Tempest (i.e. it's not very poetic) but I absolutely love the music, and in particular this opening movement. 

8. Mieczyslaw Weinberg - Symphony No.4: I Allegro (1957)
Weinberg somehow gets strings to sound crazily heavy in a lot of his works. This movement from the Fourth Symphony is a perfect example of it, there's just something so raw and energetic about it and as a highly underappreciated composer I felt like it was really important to include him in this playlist (and in most of the ones to come). 

9. Modest Mussorgsky (orch. Maurice Ravel) - Pictures at an Exhibition: XIV La Cabane sur des Pattes de Poule  (1874, orch. 1922)

10. Béla Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra: IV Intermezzo (1943)
I love Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and the fact that this movement is a pardody of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony (which Bartók hated) kinda makes me love it even more. It's typica Bartók in many ways, very rhythmically powerful and full of humour, but still with a certain darkness and intensity. 

11. Gustav Mahler - Symphony No.7: III Scherzo - Schattenhaft - Trio (1905) 

12. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov  - The Tsar's Bride: Ouverture (1898)

13. Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt: In the Hall of the Mountain King (1875)
The second track with vocals. Usually people only hear/perform the Peer Gynt orchestral suite which doesn't include the troll choir and honestly, if you've never heard this with choir you'll be amazed at how much more aggressive and fantastic it is! 

14. Alban Berg  - Lulu Suite: Ostinato (1934)

15. Antonín Dvořák - Symphony No.9: IV Allegro con fuoco (1889)
I know, I know, everyone knows the Symphony No.9 but I don't care, it's a fantastic piece of music and this last movement is slightly less popular than the first so I figured people wouldn't be that bored. I've heard it about a million times and I'm still not bored. 

16. Sergei Prokofiev - Symphony No.5: II Allegro marcato (1944)

17. Arnold Schoenberg - Gurrelieder: Gegrusst, O Konig, an Gurres see Strand (1911)

18. Pjotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy - Symphony No.4: II Andantino in modo di canzona (1878)

19. Igor Stravinsky - Symphony in Three Movements: I Overture - Allegro (1945)

20. Richard Strauss - Also Sprach Zarathustra: Der Genesende (1896)

21. Matthias Pintscher - Towards Osiris (2005)
The newest piece on my playlist, Pintscher's Towards Osiris was comissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker to accompany Holst's The Planets. It is not as 'heavy' as most of the tracks on my list, but there is some really really fabulous percussion that you just have to hear. 

22. Dmitri Shostakovich - October (1967)
So because of the complete excess of Shostakovich music I have pretty much all my playlists will have two tracks of his music (I honestly think it's quite impressive that it's not more, I could easily do 24 tracks of Shostakovich!). This orchestral piece is not like the movement of the Tenth my playlist started with, it's much slower and takes a longer time to build up to something but it's wonderful to listen to and not as well-known as some other Shostakovich pieces. 

23. Leos Janáĉek - Sinfonietta: II Andante (1926)

24. César Franck  - Symphony in D Minor: I Lento, Allegro non troppo (1888)

1 comment:

  1. wat een toffe website! ik zet meteen je playlist op :)