(ordered) list of my favorite classical pieces

  1. Luke and Leia, John Williams (Return of the Jedi Soundtrack).  Yes, really.  It’s Williams at his least Williams-y, heavy on the strings and woodwinds, and when the music soars, chills go up and down my spine.
  2. Metamorphosis I, Philip Glass.  So simple, and yet it conjures up such intense emotions of longing and solitude and, somehow, hope.  I could put it on loop for hours and imagine a light, steady rain in the evening just as the sunset breaks through under the clouds.  (Or I could imagine Kara Thrace’s apartment.)
  3. Symphony No. 3,  Symfonia Piesni Zalosnych, Henryk Gorecki. Incredibly moody, diving to dark depths and then soaring to great heights.  That Dawn Upshaw recording is completely entrancing.  I first heard it in the background in a studio art class; I’ve been wracking my brains to see which piece I produced while listening to it.  Unfortunately, I think I got too caught up in the music to really make a drawing that came from the piece…
  4. Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity, Gustav Holst.  I love most of the Planets Suite, particularly Mars and Jupiter.  Jupiter is so upbeat and strong, marching forward with steadfast determination and optimism and climaxing in triumph.
  5. Adagio for Strings, Samuel Barber.  Also the choral Agnus Dei based on the Adagio.  Listening to this piece, I feel like I am looking at stately cathedrals and towers, or perhaps graceful ships and slow-moving creatures, that are almost bigger than human comprehension.  You just hang on those sustained high notes.  I would have picked this over the Blue Danube Waltz for the space scenes in 2001.

Some runners-up:

  • Mars, The Bringer of War, Gustav Holst.  It’s just so mindlessly driven.
  • Final Duel / Into the Death Star, John Williams (Return of the Jedi Sountrack).  Again, yes, really.  Partly this one is so great because of the emotional state of the movie at that point.  It just overpowers you…because if you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps…she…will…!
  • The Firebird, Igor Stravinsky.  It’s a good piece of program music and takes you to a great finish.  Like a condensed version of Beethoven’s 6th.
  • Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, From the New World, Antonin Dvorak.  Yeah, probably overplayed, but with good reason.
  • Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Ludwig von Beethoven.  Well, it’s just classic.

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