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Favorite "Moments" in Classical Music


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So I get this might be an obscure topic, but I want to explain what I mean. There are a bunch pieces that I don't really like as a whole but have really spectacular moments in them. For example, one is (that's not on my list), the Myers violin concerto, 2nd movement, is an alright piece, but the very end with the accelerando is a really great moment. I was wondering if anyone else felt the same way. Also, if this was already a topic somewhere, I apologize.

10. Shostakovich, Symphony 15, IV, the very end, starting from the mallet duet.

9. Britten, Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, the fugue to the very end, especially the 2 vs. 3 part.

8. Mahler, Das Lied Von Der Erde, VI: Der Abschied, A' section to the soloist.

7. Schnittke, Concerto Grosso No. 1, V: Rondo, where the amplified piano solo comes back in, this time with strings.

6. Barber, Violin Concerto, III: Allegro con moto perpetuo, the end where the violin solo goes into 16th notes, instead of triplets.

5. Respighi, The Pines of Rome, III, The Bird Calls.

4. Rautavaara, Piano Concerto No. 1, I: Con grandezza, the end of the first movement ends on a glorius DM7 chord.

3. Strauss, Death and Transfiguration, after the last heart palpitation and the contrabassoon comes in.

2. Borodin, Polovetsian Dances, the last chord. 

1. Respighi, The Pines of Rome, IV: The Pines of the Appian Way, the crescendo Italian augmented 6th chord after the huge dropdown in volume, to the tonic chord after.

 

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Hehe, I used to collect these. I was going to do a score video but I never seemed to stop collecting them and it ended with me abandoning the idea. I don't know if I will ever do the video because I have come to the realization that moments are meaningless without the whole context. I find that people often will not understand what makes them great when you show them. Anyway, there's a lot of Bartók, as you can see.

This is probably my favorite moment from the quartets (I don't know why I didn't include it in the list below):

I'd rather not make a top 10 list because I would literally stay awake all night and would end up with a list that I didn't agree with. Too many moments out there!

moments.jpg

Edited by Gylfi
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12 minutes ago, Gylfi said:

I have come to the realization that moments are meaningless without the whole context. I find that people often will not understand what makes them great when you show them.

That's exactly my sentiment. When I made my thread about the "top ten greatest movements ever composed", I already thought I was eliminating the context of the whole work without which an individual movement might lose much of its meaning. But talking about "moment" does this de-contextualization on a totally different - and to me rather unacceptable level. The concept sounds like some of the CD-s, perhaps aimed at popularizing classical music to new audiences, that are titled like "Beethoven's greatest hits". Or CD-s of excerpts from movements that come with classical music magazines.

However, having said all of the above, I think that the idea might still be valuable - if we don't isolate the "moments" from the context of the whole work in which they occur. However, the way you explain it:

2 hours ago, Monarcheon said:

There are a bunch pieces that I don't really like as a whole but have really spectacular moments in them.

It seems you are doing exactly that. A piece of music is expected to have coherence. If it lacks that, then a lot of its value would be lost. It would be reduced into a patchwork. Thus, the moments you mentioned above, do not inspire me to listen to them, if, as you are implying, the rest of the piece is relatively bad or totally unrelated to their greatness. It would be like trying to tempt someone with a bar of chocolate in which only one square was tasty and the rest tasted bland. But this material analogy does not even begin to do justice to the spiritual and intellectual realm in which (at least great) music resides and operates. A great moment in a piece would have to be great thanks to what has passed before, or at least in relation to it (music is composed in time). At least in the composer's mind it was like that. You cannot put into question the composer's judgement at one moment and yet celebrate it at the next!

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1 minute ago, luderart said:

It seems you are doing exactly that. A piece of music is expected to have coherence. If it lacks that, then a lot of its value would be lost. It would be reduced into a patchwork. Thus, the moments you mentioned above, do not inspire me to listen to them, if, as you are implying, the rest of the piece is relatively bad or totally unrelated to their greatness. It would be like trying to tempt someone with a bar of chocolate in which only one square was tasty and the rest tasted bland. But this material analogy does not even begin to do justice to the spiritual and intellectual realm in which (at least great) music resides and operates. A great moment in a piece would have to be great thanks to what has passed before, or at least in relation to it (music is composed in time). At least in the composer's mind it was like that. You cannot put into question the composer's judgement at one moment and yet celebrate it at the next!

Well. Maybe? I love the Pines of Rome and the Rautavaara Piano Concerto. Perhaps I framed it incorrectly, but the rest of the piece isn't bad necessarily for liking a great moment in a certain movement. Once one begins to listen to music as chords and notes rather than an entire piece, how it operates both in and out of context is really important, I feel. I can't disagree that what came before or what comes after makes a difference, but analytically, I can't say it makes all the difference. That's how I was taught anyway.

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Well, I'd say this is a pretty valid question: that very moment where you almost want to stop the music and go back at once to listen again. And (as usual), I have too many answers. This time, however, I'll try to restrain myself into just the top ten (hopefully, with workable links to the actual moment):

 

10) Beethoven, 5th Symphony, III mov. - the statement of the main theme in bassoon and pizzicato strings.

9) Rachmaninov, 2nd Symphony, III mov. - the introduction.

8) Prokofiev, 1st Piano Concerto, I mov. - the main theme

7) Saint-Säens, 3rd Symphony (Organ), II mov. - this downward figure with strings and organ.

6) Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance N° 1 (Land of Hope and Glory). I couldn't get more goosebumps if I were British.

5) Ravel, this trombone glissando from Boléro (a piece which I find way overrated as a whole, yet this effect always coaxes a smile out of me).

4) Tchaikovsky, The Maid of Orleans, Act I: Hymn - this particular downward figure.

3) Tchaikovsky, 4th Symphony, I mov. - this build-up lasting over a minute.

2) Stravinsky, The Fairy's Kiss, Divertimento, II mov - every single time the horns play together.

1) Tchaikovsky, 6th Symphony (Pathetique), III mov - the most epic build-up I can think of.

Honorable mentions:

I could go on and on, but I wouldn't ever be done posting, so I'll leave it just like this (for now).

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5 hours ago, Austenite said:

Well, I'd say this is a pretty valid question: that very moment where you almost want to stop the music and go back at once to listen again.

But is it really? I would say that the moment's importance as a "moment" is illusory. Take for example this famous painting, what's the most striking part of it?

The_Scream.jpg

This, right?
dvhlaa.jpg

But once you've seen the painting you cannot unsee everything that surrounds this central image. The fact that it is located very dissonantly off center, the fact that it is the only thing reasonably in focus and also the only thing with somewhat correct proportions, the fact that how even though you don't know a single reason for the anguish it is the only thing that makes any sense at all. I mean, the face is totally iconic and also brilliantly captures the tone of the entire painting, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. If you show this to someone not familiar with the painting, it will be basically meaningless, they might even interpret it as a joke…

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1 hour ago, Gylfi said:

But is it really? I would say that the moment's importance as a "moment" is illusory. Take for example this famous painting, what's the most striking part of it?

I think like you do.

I 've always been inclined to consider works as a whole, even if it is a 5 hours Tristan and Isolde. I understand there are "highlights" in academic music, but focusing in a fragment makes me feel it is incomplete.

In fact, when I have not time enough, I listen to CDs of aria (opera) compilations.

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4 hours ago, Gylfi said:

But is it really? I would say that the moment's importance as a "moment" is illusory. Take for example this famous painting, what's the most striking part of it?

 

2 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

I 've always been inclined to consider works as a whole, even if it is a 5 hours Tristan and Isolde

I"m gonna be honest, I didn't really mean for this to be a philosophical question, so sorry if I come off as pretentious or pedantic; I don't mean for that, this is just how I look at music.
Maybe it's just a part of being a relatively avid performer as well, where rehearsal includes a lot of stopping and starting, and I appreciate everything that leads to or comes out of a certain moment as well, but that one time something hits you super hard is a feeling a really love. Is it so hard to believe that the composer intended for that moment to stand out, especially if there's some sort of resolved dissonance.
For me, too, I look at my own pieces and can clearly identify parts of it I like a lot better, just in terms of development and the execution of the moment. As an analyst to other people's works, I'd imagine that same logic applies.
As any artist or photographer would tell you, clearly everything in the picture contributes, but "foreground" and "background" exist for a reason... to give the viewer something specific to be focused on, enhanced by the surroundings. I think of it the same in music... the moment itself is spectacular, but of course, it is that way from development. 

@Austenite Do you feel the same way, or am I alone in this? hahaha

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8 minutes ago, Monarcheon said:

 

@Austenite Do you feel the same way, or am I alone in this? hahaha

 

I do, to an extent. Of course I dislike "abridged" versions of classical pieces, where entire sections are left out. But I find nothing that troubling in pinpointing a particular moment of a given musical work (in fact, the expectation of such a moment might be the very thing that gives sense to the whole piece). I like to give the whole thing a shot - but I have no qualms about stopping it outright and going back to that section which just stunned me (hey, re-listening is what recordings are made for, right?).

While I get the philosophical point behind the painting analogy, I'd say it's fallacious. Art analysts can (and do) pinpoint a certain corner or section of the painting as the "big draw" (no pun intended) that brings the whole thing together. They even look at the "composition", i.e., the way things are placed in the painting. For instance, look at Picasso's famed Guernica, and you'll see that most figures are placed as a kind of triangle with the apex at the broken sword. Yet most people will remember the angry look of the bull, which is slightly out from this triangle. Anyways, as a painting has to do with space, whilst music decomposes time, I can validly pinpoint a moment of the composition as the most memorable (just as a given figure, or a given stanza in poetry or a given aphorism or paragraph in a novel, for that matter), without feeling any guilt that this is not a way to appreciate art as a whole. It would be ridiculous for me to imply that some one is mutilating Shakespeare by quoting an isolated sentence from, say, Hamlet.

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3 minutes ago, Austenite said:

I do, to an extent. Of course I dislike "abridged" versions of classical pieces, where entire sections are left out. But I find nothing that troubling in pinpointing a particular moment of a given musical work (in fact, the expectation of such a moment might be the very thing that gives sense to the whole piece). I like to give the whole thing a shot - but I have no qualms about stopping it outright and going back to that section which just stunned me (hey, re-listening is what recordings are made for, right?).

Right, so we're on the same page. *phew*

I'm no art analyst so I can't purport to be one, but what I said about focus is probably one of the only things relevant to the argument, especially, as Austenite put it, the "staticness"or space aspect of the painting makes it a bit of a weird argument.

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I wasn't trying to guilt trip anyone. I myself have a long mental list of moments I cherish and frequently point out, but I think it is important to realize that they have no strength on their own. Ever try to listen to somebody's favorite soundtrack to that movie or game they go on and on about? I can almost guarantee you will not find it very interesting or at the very least are not listening to the same thing they are. The reason why it's possible to listen to scores to movies or games that you have seen as if they were absolute music is because they have been given context through the works, the exact same thing that happens with "the big draw" or that great moment.

After all, Neapolitan sixth chords are just major chords.

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  • 2 months later...

Well, I like Barber's Violin Concerto. But only the opening with the oboe solo which is quite beautiful. Then the violin takes the melody and it flirts with major and minor cadences until a dissonance comes in and ruins it all. It's gratuitous and puzzling. After that I turn it off. It's such a shame he didn't stay with it. It is so natural and organic. But then he tried to be "modern" and it seems forced.

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37 minutes ago, Ken320 said:

Well, I like Barber's Violin Concerto. But only the opening with the oboe solo which is quite beautiful. Then the violin takes the melody and it flirts with major and minor cadences until a dissonance comes in and ruins it all. It's gratuitous and puzzling. After that I turn it off. It's such a shame he didn't stay with it. It is so natural and organic. But then he tried to be "modern" and it seems forced.

 

To be fair, it was one of his earlier opuses. I love that movement too, but I can't lie when I say I like the last movement too. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Too many to mention. One that stands out though:

The end of the 1st movement of Mahler's 9th Symphony. The oboe plays the main motif (slowed), and holds on to the 2nd note, with the harp playing an arpeggiated scale. It literally feels like time has stopped, and I've entered another world. 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Ok, let me try and come up with 10 or better explained, let me try and narrow it down to 10 (which will nearly be impossible).

This ain't gonna be in any particular order cause I don't feel like I could make a ranking. At different times my reason for appreciating these things in whatever order I chose today might change. 

Actually, lets do it this way. I am an extreme fan of some of the very, very current music that is coming out right now. I love the inventive nature of it, but I love that it goes back to a time when music was considered to have to be lyrical, melodic, tonal, gorgeous, exciting, you name it. In general, in my opinion, we had about 100 years where music got too clinical and that clinical nature got us thinking that pure noise should be considered music. I am so happy that we are coming out of that fog. So, what I wanna do is two lists. I want to do the list of 10 that I am currently super jazzed about and my list of 10 moments that span over the history of classical music.

Here goes what is currently freaking awesome in my book:

10. Last movement of Adam Schoenberg's Finding Rothko (particularly when the harmonies open up even more and it gets really lush)

9. The 8 layered effect at the end of the first movement of Adam Schoenberg's American Symphony.

8. The Kandinsky movement of Adam Schoenberg's Picture Studies and also the very final movement which is the photograph of the pigeons in flight. 

7. Any of the moments of full orchestral involvement in Jennifer Higdon's On a Wire.

6. The last half of the movement of Michael Gandolfi's The Gardens of Cosmic Speculation called Symmetry Break Terrace/Black Hole Terrace and the movement called The Quark walk (that wandering piano line that just carries on forever is some of the most gorgeous stuff I have ever heard)

5. Act 1, Scene 4 from Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry Opera (Including Sharon's Aria and the big choral moment) and the Act 2 Scene 1 Duet and the Epilogue (especially the Epilogue!)

4. The big open tuned (Indian tinged) portions of Christopher Theofanidis's Rainbow Body plus the finale of the piece

3. The 2nd movement of John Adam's The Dharma at Big Sur called Sri Moonshine (especially the last 5ish minute finale)

2. John Adam's A Short Ride In a Fast Machine (I love the chaotic rhythm bouncing back and fourth constantly)

1. John Adam's Lollapalooza 

Here is for my all time favorite moments through the rest of classical music history:

10. The Finale Movement of Camille Saint Saens Organ Symphony. However, that slow and angelic 2nd movement is something else too

9. The Poem of ecstasy by Alexander Scriabin (OMG - please get me started on this one - probably the greatest piece of music ever written)

8. The finale section that is one long crescendo of Samuel Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra

7. The third Movement of Samuel Barber's 1st Symphony which leads straight into the final movement

6. Respighi's The Pines of Rome (The Pines of the Appian Way) - Jesus Lord how can music be this awesome!

5. The Tuba Mirum from Verdi's Requiem (OMG!) I know that I am saying this a lot, but God damn music can be incredible. The Lacrimosa from this requiem is a favorite too.

4. The Final gigantic choral part of the last movement of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony

3. The final movements of Prokofiev's score to the Russian propoganda film Alexander Nevsky

2. The final movement of Copland's 3rd Symphony especially the very end of it

1. Almost the entire Dvorak Requiem (Requiem Aeternam, the Confutatis Maledictis is incredible, so is the Dies Irae, Hostias et Preces, Sanctus, Agnus Dei)

Making this list is hard because it is so limiting and there is so much greatness out there. However, I think I did a good job representing what is actually the best of the best in my opinion

 

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