We start the year with some big names (Bach, Beethoven) and some unknown ones for me at least, since I’m not exactly a big connoisseur in this domain.

At number 4, we have a new find for me: “O virtus sapientiae” by Hildegard of Bingen. I have to admit I’d never heard of this name before and it turns out this was a very intelligent and notable lady of the 12th century (a nun, a composer, a scientist and many other things – more details can be found in the book). I didn’t particularly enjoy the song that much when first listening to it, but I liked its lyrics, a praise to wisdom “circling, circled, enclosing all in one life-giving path” (full translated lyrics here) so I searched a bit more and I found this version of it, by the contralto Karen Clark and her voice transformed the song into something wonderful.

“O Virtus Sapientiae”, by Hildegard of Bingen, contralto Karen Clark

Number 3 is “Mass in B minor, BWV 232 3: Sanctus” by Johann Sebastian Bach. This is an uplifting and powerful piece of the full Mass by Bach and this made me actually research the entire thing more and look for some good recordings of it (some recommendations here – they are all available on Spotify).

“Mass in B minor, BWV 232 3: Sanctus” by Johann Sebastian Bach, dir. Eugen Jochum, 1982, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra , Bavarian Radio Chorus .

Number 2 was a surprise for me because I was conflicted about it at first. This violin concert, which is for the most part wonderful and lyrical, spans nearly the whole range of the instrument, however there are some bits that scratch my years – “Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor, op 26 1: Allegro moderato” by Max Bruch. After listening to this several times,  I couldn’t get past how much I loved everything overall so I decided to ignore the “controversial” bits and place it at number 2. Gramophone can help with some great recommendations for the full recording of the concert here.

“Violin Concerto no. 1 in G minor, op. 26” by Max Bruch, Maxim Vengerov

And at number 1, I have no words to describe it, it’s just an achingly beautiful work, rightly to have a place on the Voyager Golden Record – “String Quartet no. 13 in B flat major, op. 130 5: Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

“String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 – 5. Cavatina” by Beethoven, Lindsay String Quartet

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list of all the works curated by Clemency Burton-Hill in the book “Year of Wonder: Classical music for every day”. To enjoy the full catalogue of pieces proposed by the author along with her comments on the composers and the music itself, feel free to pick up her awesome book here (not affiliated, nor sponsored).

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