A Little List

Catching up with what’s going on over at kottke.org (and wondering just who Joel Turnipseed is), I came across a little list of the “50 essential classical music CDs.” Ted Libbey, whose NPR work I’ve discussed before, is still at it, hyping his bird’s nest of manly masterpieces (he begins with Beethoven’s Fifth), accessibilia (West Side Story), and tough nuts (the Goldberg Variations). Only the most sophisticated music lover could possibly be comfortable with this particular mix of music, and that’s possibly what Mr Libbey has in mind. In the nature of things, however, his prescription is far more likely to be taken for a shopping list by folks who don’t know much about serious music and are looking for a little direction. I expect that many of them will not make it past Entry Nº 3: Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, not because there’s anything wrong with the music per se, but because it does not belong in the third slot on a beginner’s list.

Outrageously – but not at all surprisingly – Mozart doesn’t appear until Nº 20, with The Magic Flute, of all things. And then not again until 44 (piano concertos) and 50 (symphonies). Although there are plenty of solo piano recordings (and a Dowland CD for the lute), the chamber music is for strings only: Schubert’s Quintet (15) and Beethoven’s Quartets (24) – all of ’em! Speaking of Schubert, Mr Libbey has included Winterreise (46). That’s very noble, but wouldn’t Die schöne Mülllerin been a sounder choice? And why, come to think of it, doesn’t Dvorak’s beloved “New World” Symphony figure at Nº 3, instead of at Nº 40?

I’d say, “Don’t get me started,” but it’s too late for that. I’ll be back for more.

3 Responses to “A Little List”

  1. Father Tony says:

    I’ve tried to like Mozart, but I don’t. It’s nervous and without passion. I didn’t like Salzburg or Vienna either. They were slow and cold.

  2. Tom says:

    I can sort of see why Winterreise is there instead of Die schöne Müllerin. Winterreise grabbed me the first time I heard it (it was one of the first pieces of classical music I ever heard), but it took me many years to get into DSM, whose protagonist I always found whiney and pathetic (the Winterreise dude is angry and insane and much more dramatic). I identified more with the Winterreise character (even though in reality I probably had more in common with the DSM youth). Now I like both cycles equally, and can even imagine being more and more drawn to DSM as I get older.

  3. Ellen says:

    Jim would know what you’re talking about better than I. I am a Mozart lover and have heard with him _Wintereisse_. I hope your collection includes the four last songs.

    I did answer you on my blog and also my friend Judy. And I added four stills from Episode 1.

    Today is a day of relative rest and my weekend looks like it will be in beautiful weather.

    Warm regards to Kathleen — what a lucky lady she is,