Despite appearances, I am not much of a music snob. You like One Direction, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, it’s fine by me. I enjoy pop music. I like folk music. I like basically everything except sexist rap and twangy country music. But even though I liked all different kinds of music, I still think there is a genre that is the best. Music that requires more talent, more dedication, more hard work and more insight than any other genre. Music that transcends this world and touches the soul. Music that is the closest to heaven you can get in this life. Classical music.
The fact that classical music is the most phenomenal sound out there doesn’t belittle other types of music or render them obsolete. In fact, all good music stems from classical music. But there is something so special about classical music, something I think contemporary audiences have largely forgotten. Yeah, pop songs are catchy. Yes, folk songs are poetic. But classical moves the soul in a way no other genre can. Yet most people today don’t listen to it, don’t even remember it really. In a tiny attempt to bring classical music a little of the attention it deserves, here are some composers that make up a good introduction to classical music, for both the novice and the veteran of classical music.
I’ll start with my favorite, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Born in Russia, Tchaikovsky became his country’s first real international success as both a composer and a conductor. He’s best known for his ballets—of which Russia had a rich history—such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. Because Tchaikovsky composed so much of his music for ballets and operas, his music conveys stories better than any other composer (in my opinion). Even his concertos and symphonies convey stories through emotion.
Recommendations from Tchaikovsky’s work: March Slave (Op.31), Swan Theme (No. 9 from Swan Lake), March (No. 3 from The Nutcracker)
This is obvious, but the next composer I’d recommend to anyone would be Ludwig van Beethoven. Born is Germany, Beethoven is probably the most famous composer of all time, or maybe tied with Mozart. It might be cliché to name him because even the classically illiterate know about him, but his music is so special, and sometimes that gets lost in his popularity. He is probably most famous for his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, but all of his works convey more emotion than every all the other composers combined. While Tchaikovsky was a storyteller, Beethoven’s music is pure, raw emotion. I sometimes wonder if any musician ever felt his music more deeply than Beethoven. His deafness only adds to the beautiful drama of his works and his story.
Recommendations: Seventh Symphony (Second movement, Op.92), Piano Sonata No. 14 (Moonlight Sonata)
There are so many other composers I could go on and on about, but for the sake of time, I will only mention a few more. Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is most famous for his Four Season violin concertos, but he wrote so much beautiful music that is worth checking out. Less well known is French composer Gabriel Faure, who wrote one of my favorite pieces: Pavane in F. Sharp Minor (though he is probably better known for composing Clair de Lune). And as a (very mediocre) pianist, I must mention Polish composer Frederic Chopin because of his amazing piano pieces like Nocturne No. 20.
The width and depth of the classical world of music is vast. There are so many amazing composers, symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, sonatas, and so much more (all of them readily available and pretty cheap on iTunes). These are some of the composers and compositions who really got me into classical music, and I hope they can do that for you too.