Though admittedly I only listened to a few of the dozens, I really really liked the ones I listened to. I heard some of Sviatoslav Richter’s recordings, and he is so great at executing the delicate, gorgeous melodies that Grieg wrote. Though I don’t really like some of Grieg’s compositions, this really spoke to me. I would love to hear the recordings that Grieg made of himself performing these pieces.

I’ve long been familiar with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, but never really made the connection that the piece was based on (duh) pictures at an exhibition, which totally explains the completely different scenes painted by each movement. The walking tempi make sense, I really like the use of the saxophone (so rarely heard in an orchestral setting, though maybe it shouldn’t be), and Mussorgsky does an awesome job at bringing you to a different place in each movement.

Strauss’ opening scene for the first act was a little confusing musically to me, mostly in the occasional random woodwind interjections, but in everything else too. The melodies and harmonic progressions seemed more foreign to me than even some of his other works, like his tone poems, though he makes the music interesting with almost sound-effect-like orchestral accompaniment to the singers. While I can hear some beauty in it, I can’t say I really liked this opera’s music too much, though the recording I watched (a 1982 recording from the Met) did a great job with the scenery and singing.

I used to not really understand Wagner or just thought his works were boring and slow-paced, but the more I listen to his things, the more I enjoy them. They still seem to move a bit slowly to me, but now I have more of a music context to understand his pieces in. His “Mittag” and “Du salbtest mir die Füsse from this opera are kind of completely different, but have the same solemnness and gravity to them that Wagner pulls off so well. “Mittag” was definitely successful in creeping me out, and the men’s chorus does much to add intensity to the music. “Du salbtest mir die Füsse,” with the recording I watched/listened to, did a good job of incorporating the beauty of the scenery with the music.

This piece starts off with a much different feel than Rossini (serious, in a minor key, slow), which struck me at first. It also doesn’t feel at all like it’s a gimmick in any way, like some Rossini pieces do, and instead feels like a genuine monologue of someone’s emotions. The baritone in “O Carlo, ascolta” has an impressive range that I think really brings out the internal turmoil.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard a whole piece by Clara Schumann before, but I liked these Romances. They sort of remind me of Robert Schumann’s style a bit, but more relaxed and calmer. I can’t say that, based on this piece, she makes my list of composers I’m a fan of, but she’s definitely not on the “bad composers that my ears dislike” list.

It was great listening to the famous themes played out in its entirety, something that we usually don’t get to hear from the commercials and such that feature them. I heard a recording with Karajan and Berlin that really captured the energy of the music, which I really enjoyed, and Rossini does a fantastic job capturing the respective tranquility and anxiety of the countryside scene and chase.

I enjoyed listening to La Cenerentola, but I’m not sure whether that was because I was watching a youtube video of the Met, with entertaining scenes or shots of the musicians in the pit. A couple minutes into the recording, I thought I recognized the music (like I had played it before), but then I realized I might just be confusing this with something else, since many of Rossini’s operas all sounded pretty similar, or at least with some similar themes. Also the overture is SO repetitive! Other than that, it looks like a really entertaining opera.

I remember the first time I heard this quintet – I was 17 years old, in Florida for a competition, and one of the contestants (a bassist) was playing in this piece. I remember I was really amused that Schubert (or anyone, really) would write a piece with string quartet plus bass. The more I listen to it, however, I am less amused and more impressed that Schubert wrote this piece. It’s more standard (and probably easier) to just write something only for a string quartet, but to add a bass in there (in a range that they can handle, without too many sixteenth notes, etc.) takes some innovation and some guts. I’m glad that Schubert’s “Trout” quintet is the quintessential bass chamber piece out there.

Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was very enjoyable to listen to. At first, it bugged me a little bit that it’s an old recording (even though it’s Bernstein and Concertgebouw) because a lot of the instruments sounds so different from what they do now, but by the end I was really glad I listened to it and not another recording. The music is so beautiful and rich (especially with the chorus), and the solo voices add an extra dimension to it.

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