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How to build your musical listening education
I thought it could be nice to open a new topic here similar to the "Becoming well read" in the library, but in the music room. I wasn't sure what to call it. Becoming well eared, or How to build your musical listening education.

Going on my summer concerts I met a student who studies piano in a high establishment, a University. I listened to a piece by Beethoven (not a Sonata) and was surprised to hear that the student hadn't played any of the Beethoven sonatas, nor Mozart's, but had played the Liszt Concerto. In classical music there should be a list as well of pieces and composers that one must know in priority to others. Not that Liszt concerto isn't nice to know, but it is itself based on so much that came before him, that missing the ulterior composers is in itself a handicap in playing Liszt well. I feel that this student's education was misled somewhere and find it a great pity.

The other thing I am very much interested in is to hear from people who know, what are the important stone roads from Jazz to nowadays.

So I propose this as a place to put what we might think would be a good and solid musical education for anyone in the 21st century.
It might make more sense to combine it with disc suggestions for Becoming well eared.
Dear Ms. Stern, I would say go first to Google and Wikipedia and look into History of Jazz.  This topic is fairly large so starting with the chronology of jazz development would be a good entrance to the subject.  If there is jazz that moves you that's good.  If there is jazz you don't like (and there will be!) do what I do and just analyze it to see what's happening with it technically.  (by the way, I don't make paragraphs because I'm so new to the computer and self-taught that I don't yet know how).  I think that with your high status in music your questions and perceptions would make for fascinating correspondence.  Your faithful admirer, Virgil Trahan
Becoming musically well read - how delightful, and how difficult! The first task is whether one's tastes are sufficiently broad to encompass most, or all of the best in music. This is a very trying task. There are some people who simply don't like jazz, or rock, or classical very much. It doesn't make them bad people - or even without taste. There are just some kinds of intonation that they find jarring or unpleasant. Although I flatter myself that my tastes are broad, I, too, find certain kinds of music just not to my taste. And then there are the forms of music that I like but don't know much about - Gamelan music, or Japanese do-taiko, or Chinese music. What I've heard I like, but I have no idea if it's "great" or not.
With regard to Western, Euro-African music, I would say I'm fairly, if not perfectly literate. My recommendations:

Classical - the Essentials:
J.S. Bach -
The Art of the Fugue
The St. Matthew Passion
The Mass in B-Minor
The Goldberg Variations
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor
Toccata and Fugue in D minor
The Well-Tempered Clavier

Water Music
The Organ Concertos

The Horn Concertos
The Symphony No. 40
The Magic Flute
Don Giovanni
Piano Concerto in Bb
Clarinet Concerto
The Requiem (unfinished)

"Surprise" symphony;
the twelve "London" Symphonies
"Farewell" Symphony No. 45,
the piano sonata in C minor

Lieder, especially Winterreise, and An die Musik
The "Unfinished" Symphony

Symphonies 3, 5, 7 and 9
The so-called Moonlight Sonata
the late piano sonatas, especially "les Adieux, the Sonata Characteristique"
The Pathetique sonata
The Missa Solemnis

The Symphonic Studies

The Fourth Symphony in E Minor
The two Piano Concerti
Choral preludes fur orgel
Variations on a theme of Paganini

Military Polonaise
Ab Polonaise
Prelude in C minor
Waltz in C# minor

Eugene Onegin
Swan Lake
The Fourth Symphony
The Fifth Symphony
The Piano Concerti Nos. 1&2

Piano Concerti Nos. 2 & 3
Symphonies 2 & 3
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini
Piano Etude in F# minor
Prelude in F major
Prelude in C# minor

The Ring Cycle

The Scythian Suite

The Planets

The Firebird
The Rite of Spring

Symphony No. 5

Die Verklarte Nacht
Pierrot Lunaire

Symphony No. 21

The Art Songs
Claire de Lune

The Carnival

I have left many, many composers of great beauty out of this list, but I consider the above composers and works essential listening for anyone who wants to say, "Yes, I like classical music." Of course, if you want Jazz then it's a bunch of other people like:

Bix Beiderbecke
Art Tatum
Oscar Peterson
Eddie Condon
Fats Waller
Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Anita O'Day
Peggy Lee
Bill Evans
Nina Simone
Sarah Vaughan
Miles Davis
John Coltrane
Ben Webster
Coleman Hawkins
Ornette Coleman
McCoy Tyner
Thelonious Monk
Charles Mingus
Pee Wee Russell
Johnny Griffin
Gerry Mulligan
Cannonball Adderley
Dexter Gordon
Max Roach
Glenn Miller
Benny Goodman
Tommy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
Freddie Hubbard
Chick Corea
Herbie Hancock
Joe Zawinul
Jaco Pastorius
Warren Bernhardt
John Pattitucci
Charlie Christian
Branford Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Cassandra Wilson

and many, many others.

That'll start you out and get you wise, and then cool.

In response to Dr. J. Patrick McGrail
Dr. McGrail-

I’d like to start by expressing my appreciation to Edna Stern for initiating this topic.  It is most gratifying to have a musician of her stature participating in a thread for a general audience.

 I'd like to comment on your list, realizing, of course, that we all have our personal lists and may not hold works on another person’s list in high regard.  I might note that I recently started taking piano lessons again, after a hiatus of a dozen years- I was considered a promising student in a small way until obliged to stop lessons after my father died when I was 13. Reading the comments of the initiator of this thread was instrumental in my decision to resume lessons, and practicing once again,  even at a rather low level, has given a new dimension to  my life.

 Regarding Beethoven, I hold the view that his stature would not be greatly diminished if his symphonies had been lost to history.  But his piano sonatas and his string quartets- how poorer the legacy of Western music would be without them!  I particularly am drawn to his 13th string quartet (opus 130), but all of the late quartets are stunning works that qualify Beethoven as belonging in the first ranks of composers.  [From personal experience, I would note that the Grosse Fugue of the 13th quartet tends to come through muddled on recordings I’ve heard- heard live it is a far different experience].  I hope to perform- purely for my own enjoyment- some of the early Beethoven piano sonatas, and while I wouldn’t disagree with your inclusion of the “Pathetique” or “les Adieux”, I will note a comment that the Canadian pianist Leslie Kinton made on  Mr. (Dr.?) Kinton claimed Sonata #29 (the “Hammerklavier”) was by far and away the most intellectually and technically demanding piece in the piano repertoire.

To a lessor extent, I have the same reaction to Shostakovich.   Wonderful as his Symphony No. 5 is (even if it may be a “dumbed down” work produced in response to the reaction of the most influential Soviet music critic of the day :~), in my mind the greatness of his legacy resides more in his quartets than his symphonies.  Quartet No. 8 is readily approachable and sends chills down my spine- I’d even say I find it erotic in a restrained way.  As a pianist (as in Enda and I play the piano) I am intrigued with his Preludes and Fugues, even though I doubt I’d ever be able to do them justice myself.   As for Prokofieff, try his Piano Concerto #2- the one in which Sviatislav Richter claimed he could hear the dragon eating his own children- a true journey into the heart of darkness.

Finally, I’d like to make a plug for an unjustly neglected composer of the previous century- the Englishman Robert Simpson.  Tonal, yet modern, Simpson’s string quartets are only slightly exceeded by Beethoven and Shostakovich, IMHO.  His string Quartet No. 10, “For Peace”, is a masterpiece of the genre.   A local (to me) and living composer, Benjamen Lees, also deserves a serious hearing by anyone who appreciates string quartets. 


Note to Jim: With your interest in form, you particularly might find Simpson of interest.
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