Honourable mention: “Symphony no. 3” by Henryk Górecki
Also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, this work got Henryk Gorecki in the attention of the wide public, being before then known only to a restricted circle of 20th century modern music connoisseurs. Despite having sold over a million copies, it remains a controversial work, being loved by the public and rather dismissed by critics. Being too long and tedious, not being too demanding in terms of instrumental playing technique or talent, regressing from his previous avant-garde style are the main complaints it received.
I find this to be the harshest critic: [are people] really listening to this symphony? How many CD buyers discover that fifty-four minutes of very slow music with a little singing in a language they don’t understand is more than they want? Is it being played as background music to Chardonnay and brie?
Now, I do agree that overall it can get tedious to actively listen to this, being over 50 minutes long, and the Polish songs aren’t helping that much, although the mother-children separation in time of war theme is interesting. I can only properly listen to the first movement and like it quite a lot: it’s mournful, repetitive, calming and beautiful all the same time. However, the two other movements fall into background music for me and I don’t feel like missing out on anything if I skip them. Considering all this, I will definitely keep only the first movement in mind for future listening.
3. “Piano Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor, op.23” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Not much can be said about the most popular piano concerto other than sit back and enjoy it.
2. “Violin Sonata no. 5 in F major, op. 24” by Ludwig van Beethoven
Despite the fact that it takes very little to ruin a piano or violin work for me (very often I find the piano to be too cold or the violin to sound too scratchy), the piano and violin duo is one of my favourite combination of instruments, especially when the composer and performers get it just right for both of them. And in this case, all the stars have aligned to give us a great composition by Beethoven and a wonderful sensitive performance by David Oistrakh (Violin), and Lev Oborin (Piano).
1. “Intermezzo in B flat minor, op. 117 no. 2” by Johannes Brahms
We’re concluding the week with a soft and intimate intermezzo by Brahms. Having been composed later in his lifetime, this solo piano work has a very introspective atmosphere to it, with a warm sound and tempered tempo that invite the listener to reflect upon one’s life in a cold solitary evening.
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).