Here’s a tiny list for those wishing to branch out in a new direction, or add just a few items to a collection. All music listed here comes with my highest recommendation. It’s not all for everyone, of course, and some of it may require a lot of growing into for most people.
Asterisks are my subjective rating of accessibility (not quality) for the uninitiated:
* = most accessible
***** out of the ordinary; less accessible (but worth it!!)
Warning: this list is highly subjective and absurdly incomplete. It’s here just for those who might want a little input. If it comes in handy to even one or two people, then great! As the song goes, just take what you need and leave the rest. . .
The Kick Inside *
the two bars after the guitar solo of “Come Together” (Abbey Road)
What If * pyrotechnic playing and more interesting composition than most of its genre. high testosterone level
In a Glass House & Free Hand ***
Stand Your Ground (Warner 9 25155-1) S. African pop *
Life at the Pyramids (Shanachie 64001) traditional Moroccan through a rock/funk prism **
Giant Steps Atlantic 1311-2 awe-inspiring musicianship!
any of the solo recordings of this piano giant! *
(Giants of Jazz [?] PLPJT 51 B) *
Suddenly it’s the Hi-Lo’s (Columbia PC 36980) *
Guy Van Duser
Stride Guitar (Rounder 3059) Yep. Imagine stride piano on a nylon string guitar. Okay. Now imagine it being done really really well. *
Greene String Quartet
The String Machine From swing to nasty. (Virgin 2-91632) *
Turtle Island String Quartet
sweeter than the Greene quartet, but who’s comparing? *
Josh Roseman Unit
Cherry Well, cousin Josh has finally gone and dun it. And it’s groovy, funny, sometimes nasty, other times smooth. (I’m so proud!) This is a really fine album, all cousinhood aside. Music samples are on his site.
Sunday in the Park with George *
Sweeney Todd *** gruesome, challenging and moving. The first time I saw this show live, my knees were knocking together when I stood for the (standing, oddly enough) ovation. On the other hand, there were people leaving, shaking their heads within ten minutes of the beginning of the show.
West Side Story *
Ute Lemper sings Kurt Weill – London D 115163 *
Klezmer Conservatory Band
Yiddishe Renaissance (Vanguard VSD 79450) **
How to Change a Flat Tire
Traditional Music of Ireland & Shetland (Front Hall FHR-018) * probably out of print, & therefore only for the dedicated LP(!) seeker, but definitely worth the search!
(Green Linnet SIF 3008) and Stony Steps *
Irish instrumental music at its “sublimely good”. (what is “at its best”, anyway?)
Fedoga Stain (sp?) Green Linnet *
Mary plays a hot pennywhistle. I love this album.
Little Sisters of the Grassland, etc.
(Hong Kong 6.340073) wonderful Chinese classical; western influence **
E. Koestyara & Group Gapura
Sankala – (ICON 5501) ***
Kaccheri *** [excellent intro to S. Indian vocal] (NONESUCH H-72040) and
Vidwan **** (NONESUCH 9 72023-2) [a more in depth venture]
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (any or all of the three) ***
Africa on Mango (a sampler) *
[contemporary pop from all over Africa] I challenge you not to love a number of these winners!!
Adventures in Afropea 1
The most exciting acappela vocal group I’ve heard in a while! **
Ruth Barrett & Cyntia Smith
beautiful singing and mountain dulcimer playing.
Jean Redpath/Serge Hovey
Songs of Robert Burns series*
Jean’s pure and lovely voice is complemented and contrasted by Serge Hovey’s quirky, clever, and unique arrangements. The result is compelling and utterly convincing.
Willie & Lobo
Gypsy Boogaloo (Mesa R2 79056)
Less pyrotechnic than Strunz & Farah (see elsewhere), this makes them even more accessible. Pull up an espresso and relax with a friend. Thanx to JC for the turn-on!
Naftule’s Dream **
incredibly right-on traditionally-based Klezmer with a great modern edge.
New Yiddish Music *** (?)
Naftule’s Dream is made up of mostly the same folks as Shirim, but the band has a different focus entirely. This is contemporary jazz, hard-edged and driving, with a Klezmer antecedent. The question mark is there because how accessible this great album is or isn’t totally depends on your taste and listening experience, but I guess that could be said for most music. So what the hey?
Stanley Jordan frets an electric with both hands, tap-style-no plucking. Through this technique he is able to accompany himself something like a pianist. Excellent jazz guitar.
Michael Hedges is another highly original tap-style player who successfully shed his Windham Hill wallpaper veneer. Also an excellent singer. BIG guitar sound. Aerial Boundaries is instrumental, expansive, and doubles gracefully as passive/active listening. Live on the Double Planet is indeed live and is much more varied.
Eliot Fisk is a particularly pyrotechnically oriented classical guitarist. You can’t go wrong with any of the other big name classical guitarists including Bream, Lorimer, Boyd, Yamashita, Williams, and of course, Segovia.
Joe Pass has been playing fab jazz guitar for more years than I’ve been alive. Love ya’, Joe!
Guy Van Duser plays what he calls Stride Guitar, and it is-on a nylon string, no less. Guy swings with grace and ease. The Stride Guitar album is my favorite.
Leo Kottke: Intricate folk picking. Greenhouse is my favorite.
Strunz & Farah: Any album. Theses guys are so good, they’re ridiculawsome!! Contemporary flamenco influlenced world-guitar madness. Just try and not like it!! Fast & furious. * (Okay, I don’t love the Americas album dispite its flamingly lively instrumental work. Oh well.)
Tuck & Patti’s Tears Of Joy album is consistently beaming! (Especially recommended for lovers) The others don’t measure up in my opinion. Tuck is my current favorite guitarist, putting together impeccable technique, singing tone, and exquisite taste. Dont’ miss these two live!!
my choice for beginners despite its tragic nature ** also, the Requiem ***
Verdi takes the highs (and lows) of Verdi, and (arguably) amplifies them to full blast. **
Gawd, I LOVE this piece! Not for the socially weak-stomached or musically tender-eared, but well worth the investment. The piece’s dissonance parallel’s the characters’ disfunctions. *****
“MUST HAVE” CLASSICAL
. . . for those who want to start building their collection of classical standards. This is a mere smattering of the important Western classical music since Bach. Enjoy!
Symphonies #4,5,7 & 9
String Quartets Opus 18
Appassionata, Pathetique, & Moonlight Sonatas
Symphonies #4, 3, 2, & 1
Piano Concerto #2
Symphony #40 in G minor
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Concerto de Aranjuez *
Cantata #140 “Wachet Auf” **
Organ Works (any)
Brandenburg Concertos (Complete) *
Scarlatti Harpsichord works
Telemann Concertos (any of ’em, esp recorder conc’s)
Tzigane – fiery gypsy music made classical
Piano Concerto #2
Piano Concerto #1
Rhapsody in Blue & Concerto in F
Rhapsody on a theme by Pagannini
Classical Symphony, Romeo & Juliet Ballet Suites
Romeo & Juliet Ballet Suite
Piano Concerto #1
New World Symphony
The Planets **
Symphony #1 & #4 ***
Not for classical novices, but intensely rewarding to the seasoned listener.
MUSIC ON VIDEO & RADIO
Okay, so there’s more to these than listening. . . all musically relevant.
Peter Schickele’s (discoverer of P.D.Q. Bach) radio show: lots o’ fun and more informative than most music appreciation books. Highly recommended (that means, don’t miss it!) On NPR (National Public Radio) Fridays at 11 AM and repeated on Sundays some time during the day where I am, anyway. Call your local public radio station and ask ’em about this fabulous show.
Being a prodigy ain’t a smooth ride. If you doubt me, watch this.
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
Dr. Suess’s only full-length nonanimated feature, about the evil piano teacher who wants to take over the world with his “Happy Fingers piano method”-and who doesn’t?!
Carmen (flamenco version)
Take a chance on this one-you’ll be rewarded
From Mao to Mozart
If you ever have the chance to see this gem, be forewarned, you are in danger of falling in love-and empathy-with Chinese music and culture. It did it for me. Thanks to P&P Reynolds and their reluctant report in college. not rentable(?)
Allegro non Troppo
Adult, animated Fantasia for cynicists. Say no more.
West Side Story
You HAVE seen the movie of WSS, haven’t you? Please say yes. If no, see you at the video store!
OK, so you’ve built your classical repertoire, and are ready to have some adventures. These reach backwards and forwards, left and right, up and down and on occassion, waaay over stretch!
The Art of Fuguing (Town Hall S-20)
A radical approach to Bach’s The Art of the Fugue *
Magnificat (Argo ZRG 505) *
Stabat Mater *
Te Deum (ECM 1505)
Transcendant & mystical *
Songs for tenor and lute (Virgin Classics VC 7 90726-2) *
A Celebration for Harp (EMI CDM-7 69070 2) exquisite!! *
Harp Recital – (Philips D125103) also exquisite!! *
Requiem et al.*
Gently beautiful; no new harmonies or techniques, just bliss beyond the Chichester Psalms.
2nd Symph. *
One of my American faves: (Koch 3-7074-2 H1)
Bandolodeon Concerto **
Colors For Brass (Summit DCD 116)
Hip, rhythmically dynamic brass writing. **
Symphonic Metamorphoses and Mathis Der Mahler ***
Noblissima Visione**** and the Four Temperments****
Octet, Music for a Large Ensemble, etc.
[excellent intro to minimalism] ****
The Rite of Spring****
Jeu des Cartes**
Symphony #1 (Chandos CHAN 8313) ****
Spartan and wonderful; the German counterpart to Thompson’s #2. The Nimbus recording is pretty good; stay away from whichever one has the drab cover-the rendition matches!
Mystical, Beautifully Aberrant Classical
Missa Umbrarum & O-Ke-Wa (New Albion NA 006)
Beautiful vocal writing, intense and other-worldly. ****
Educes Me – (TWI CD 808)
transparent, beautiful, profound, familiar yet foreign. **
New Music for Bowed Piano (New Albion NA 004) **
Direct Sounds (Intakt CD 015)
Extended Vocal Techniques for those who like it rough. Emphasis on performance rather than composition. *****
Electric Phoenix (Wergo WER 60094)
S tartlingly original, pyrotechnically composed and performed. *****
Key To Songs (New Albion NA012)
The vigor of rock ‘n’ roll with classical saavy. Mixed electronic & acoustic instruments. ****
The Planets, Snowflakes are Dancing, Bolero, etc.
Recognized as one of the world’s leading synthesists, Tomita should be better known than he is. His treatments of classical pieces are always tasteful and revelatory. **
HARD TO CLASSIFY
Le Bureau Centrale des Utopies
I first heard this in 1986 or so, and it had been out of print until its 1996 rerelease on CD. No one outside of Quebec seems to have ever heard of this group, or this most amazing album. I guess it was out of print until its recent reissued on CD. Gentle Giant lovers, among others, should appreciate this group. Much of it sounds a bit like Celtic music with all wrong notes, and shifting time. I found this, and one other Conventum disc through one of the on-line CD sellers. Good luck!
Cormack & Ross
Horse of Stone
An inspiring melding of world musics and jazz and virtuoso composition and song writing, brilliantly played and sung. I think of this album as ‘music for musicians,’ thinking that much of it would go right over the heads of lay people. But who am I to say?