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Masterworks -- A Comprehensive, Collaborative List

Discussion in 'Score Study Resources' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. #1 Rohann van Rensburg, Jul 11, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
    What a pretentious title!

    I'd love a collaborative collection of what many people (especially the experienced among us) consider to be "musts", for transcription, study and listening purposes -- a comprehensive "Masterworks" list. You know, the Shakespeares, the Dostoevskys, the Artistotles, the Platos, the Dantes of music. What the great film composers studied that made them what they are/were, and what those people studied. Whether they simply be pulled straight out of a conservatory book, or remembered from one's college experience, this might be a good place to have that accessible for those of us that didn't go to university or a conservatory for music.

    • Well Tempered Clavier
    • Mass in B minor
    • Requiem
    • Op. 27 No. 2, Sonata Quasi una Fantasia (Moonlight Sonata)
    • 5th
    • 9th
    • Symphonie Fantastique
    • Daphnis and Chloe (full ballet)
    • Mother Goose Suite
    • Le Tombeau de Couperin
    • La Valse
    • La Mer
    • Images Pour
    • Nocturnes for Orchestra
    • Suite Bergamasque
    • Appalachian Spring (ballet for full orchestra)
    • Symphony No 3
    • Billy the Kid (ballet)
    • The Rite of Spring (full ballet)
    • Firebird (full ballet)
    • 1919 Suite
    • Scythian Suite
    • Romeo and Juliet -- Full Ballet and Suite 1 & 2
    • Scheherezade
    • Snow Maiden (suite)
    • The Golden Cockerel (suite)
    • Antar (symphonic suite)
    • Midsummer Night's Dream (Incidental Music)
    • Hebrides Overture
    • Swan Lake (ballet)
    • Sleeping Beauty (ballet)
    • Nutcracker (ballet)
    • Symphony No 4
    • Symphony No 5
    • Romeo and Juliet Overture
    • Sorcerer's Apprentice
    • Peter Grimes (Four Sea Interludes)
    • Overture to the School for Scandal
    • Medea's Meditation
    • Dance of Vengeance
    • Essay No 1 for Orchestra
    Saint Saens
    • Carnival of the Animals
    • Danse Macabre
    • Guerre-Lieder (opera)
    • Verklarte Nacht (Op.4)
    • Death and the Maiden
    • Ave Maria
    • Night on Bald Mountain
    • The Planets
    • Pines of Rome
    • Fountains of Rome
    • Roman Festivals
    • Harmonielehre
    • Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste
    • Concerto for Orchestra
    • 2nd Piano Concert
    • Symphony No. 2
    • Isle of the Dead
    • Der Ring des Nebelungen
    • Parsifal
    • Tristan und Isolde
    (Need some suggestions)
  2. Let the good times roll:

  3. I think the drummer deserves an oscar. :eek::D
  4. #4 Mike Worth, Jul 12, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
    I made a big ol' Spotify list that I called "Film Score Classical", which is pretty big (and getting bigger), but here are a couple that I recommend for students, that I think are "no brainer's" to start with. In my opinion, you can do no wrong by studying these pieces.

    Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe (full ballet), Mother Goose Suite
    Prokofiev: Scythian Suite, Romeo and Juliet (full ballet), Romeo and Juliet (Suite 1 and 2)
    Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (full ballet), Firebird (full ballet, and for me, the 1919 Suite)
    Copland: Appalachian Spring (ballet for full orchestra), Symphony No. 3, Billy the Kid (ballet)
    Rimsky Korsakov: Scheherezade, Snow Maiden (suite), The Golden Cockerel (suite), Antar (Symphonic Suite)
    Mendelsshn: Midsummer Night's Dream (Incidental Music)
    Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (ballet), Sleeping Beauty (ballet), Nutcracker (ballet), Symphony No 4, Symphony No 5

    That's like 3 years of study right there, and all public domain scores. Many of them are on IMSLP right now for free. :)

  5. #5 Mike Worth, Jul 12, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
    Argh, and Dukas (Sorcerer's Apprentice), and Barber (Overture to the School for Scandal, Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengance, Essay No 1 for Orchestra), and Mendelssohn (Hebrides Overture), and Saint Saens (Carnival of the Animals), and Schoenberg (Transfigured Night)... ugh, the list is growing!!!
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  6. I'm new to Spotify and I searched for Film Music Classical with no luck. How do I find it?
  7. #7 Mike Worth, Jul 12, 2018
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  8. There are so many wonderful pieces of classical music that it seems difficult to just pick a few. Without question I would include "The Planets" by Holst, and "Rite of Spring" by Stravinsky. Both are often mentioned as sources of inspiration for John Williams. The next most obviously applicable for a media composer in my opinion would be Dukas "Sorcerers Apprentice" and "Night on Bald Mountain" by Mussorgsky. After that there are so many more that it is really hard for me to narrow the list.

    I have not done any transcription work since college in the 1970's. I know Mike recommends it very highly. I prefer to study scores. However I would think any of the above would be nearly impossible for a beginner to transcribe. I had to transcribe a short section of "Death and Transfiguration" by Strauss while in college. An excerpt of 2 minutes of music took me weeks of work to transcribe and I was still wrong about half the time.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  9. Great suggestions - also, Pines of Rome, Peter Grimes, Appalachian Spring..

    Transcribe before looking at the score or miss out. If it takes you weeks to transcribe 1 bar and it's wrong, your brain nonetheless built more powerful and analytical pathways to understanding than simple studying could have given you, ever. We learn by doing, not by reading. We reinforce by reading. Consider the number of composers who analyze scores all day and then consider how many of them are great composers. If you can't transcribe a bar of The Planets, start with Breakdown by Tom Petty and build from there.
  10. John Adams’ Harmonielehre
    Rasmus Hartvig likes this.
  11. And also the other two works in Respighi’s Roman trilogy: fountains of Rome and Roman festivals
  12. Fnatastic suggestions, thanks all. I'll add consensus suggestions to the original post as this moves along.

    I'd also love recommendations not just for full-fledged "epic" orchestra work from which one would draw direct parallels to film (i.e. The Planets, Daphnis and Chloe), but also classic examples of brilliant composition on a smaller scale (and therefore not as overwhelming to transcribe) -- i.e. Mozart's Requiem, Schubert's Death and the Maiden, etc. Would pieces like this be studied as often in more "old school" composition education?
  13. It's a very Homo Sapiens thing to tackle complex projects by breaking them up into simpler, smaller pieces. Sometimes it even works. Not in music. The more complex the conditional framework, the faster and more effectively/efficiently the brain develops relational pathways. Deep end. Doing so, if nothing else, provides our brain with the boundary conditions for simplicity and complexity within which to measure the difficultly of a given task and assign it appropriate resources. Put simply, when we know what the ultimate level is, we can measure the delta between that and our current level. This perspective physiologically changes the way neural pathways are created. Irrespective of the level of ability, creating boundary conditions contextualizes all incoming data in a way which is infinitely more effective. I just generally say, "Transcribe," but this is the simplest, most reductive distillation of an extremely robust and complex approach to recruiting maximum brain ability. More to the point, it works, and works better than anything else, because it's had a million years of evolutionary engineering to work that way.

    Anyway, transcribe. Go all in.
    Ryan Ricks likes this.
  14. I'm definitely with you there. Interestingly, the same principle applies in exercise neurophysiology -- you don't do bicep curls to build functional and widely-applicable strength.

    That said, if one wants to be able to write interesting chamber pieces, or quartet pieces, or solo pieces, etc, would transcribing similar pieces not be quite beneficial? My structural understanding of the larger compared to the smaller isn't deep enough to grasp this yet, so the answer may be obvious. I would think transcribing a Mozart sonata would teach one different things than transcribing a more impressionistic solo piano piece (i.e. Debussy), but obviously there would be overlap and the core skills of both composers would likely look quite similar.
  15. I think the simplest answer is that you can't go wrong trying to transcribe pieces similar to what you want to do, but it's ultimately through transcribing as wide a variety and varying levels of complexity that otherwise-not-obvious patterns and similarities emerge - if only for your brain.

    As for similarities between this and exercise neurophysiology, the brain is the brain - this stuff is mirrored in virtually every manifestation imaginable. Those of us who were labeled polymaths as children recognize right away that it isn't that we can do all sorts of different things, it's that we see how different things are really the same things. It's just pattern recognition. In nature, physics, social interaction, art, music, engineering.. it's basically all the same thing - the same patterns and relationships - mirroring each other. The set dressing changes; the manifestations appear superficially different, but if you're a great author, you can probably design a pretty good roller coaster if you put your mind to it.
  16. #16 Rohann van Rensburg, Jul 13, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    What I suspected, makes sense. And like with everything else, the more one does it the more one sees that seemingly disparate elements aren't disparate at all. What's frustrating is that despite the head knowledge being there, and this principle being manifested in every area of life, it's still awfully hard to get past the "I'll never get/be good at this". I do blame the garbage education system (to some degree) some areas of North America have been plagued with for decades: emphasizing time-orientation over task-orientation, hindering out-of-norm students, insisting on a reductionistic approach precisely the opposite of what we're discussing (breaking concepts down into parts and refusing to connect them more broadly). Some people survived unscathed, while others came out with 10 years of French education without being able to speak a meaningful paragraph and deep-seated doubts about their capabilities as individuals.

    Well said. The ability, or tendency, to understand and extract concepts from different areas of life/reality and connect them conceptually is one of the hallmarks of both IQ and the "Openness" personality category (in which intellect is contained). Neither are prerequisites for understanding one area in particular, but they're certainly categories that tend to be commonly found in polymaths (i.e. Rodney Mullen being the inventor of street skating and also giving presentations at Pop Tech, MIT and the Smithsonian institute).
    It's yet another reason why I love Aristotle's approach of "seeking out the nature of things" in life. It's a pretty fantastic feeling when you make those conceptual connections, within or between categories.


    So then: anyone for chamber, quartet or otherwise pieces?

    I would assume:
    Mozart: Requiem
    Bach: Certain preludes (counterpoint), choral arrangements for SATB writing.
    Schubert: Death and the Maiden
  17. List updated at the top (need to earn a sticky thread).

    Unsure of how to organize them -- I suppose it might actually be most helpful by structure?
  18. Great list, I'mma add these to a playlist. I'm actually quite impressed with myself that I've heard most of these so far haha.

    If your still taking suggestions I think Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste is great addition, as well as Concerto for Orchestra I studied in college.

    Also lets not forget Beethoven's 5th is a masterpiece as well as it's quite simple to follow how he develops his thematic ideas. And I didn't mean simple to write by any means, just its a strong motif you can follow easily and not lose track of. ;)

    Also I'll always be a huge fanboy of Rachmaninoff (side note I actually visited his gravestone since it was 5 mins away from my college. I'm a fanboy!)... 2nd piano concerto and Isle of the Dead are great. Even though its a piano concerto I've learned so much from that piece alone in terms of arranging, orchestrating, developing, and melody.

    Last suggestion I promise haha, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture is amazing. Being one his earlier works and comparing it to his Symphony #4 or #5 is amazing to hear and study. As well as who can't hum Juliet's theme? Still my favorite love themes of all time... unless your going for dark/painful love then Bernard Hermann's Veritgo love theme is my favorite.
  19. Of course! This is meant to be relatively exhaustive. Thanks for the additions! I hadn't heard "Isle of the Dead" before but I quite like it.
    Dillon DeRosa likes this.
  20. I generally don't like classical music but I like this a lot, I think it's a must at least to hear. In some way I feel that hearing this open my mind musically, I don't know why..

    especially from minute 2.50

    And also Beethoven's 9th


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