Which Classical Music Recordings Do You Listen to The Most?


In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, crossposted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. Also check out Monday’s question “How Did Your Music Tastes Change As You Grew Older?,” yesterday’s provocation  “What Are the Most Overrated Beatles Songs?,” and last week’s writing prompts: 5 Geek Questions To Provoke Debates About the Future of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.


David P. Goldman: Why Does Classical Music Make You Smarter?

What pop culture questions do you want to debate and discuss? Leave your suggestions for upcoming Pop Culture debates also.


Roger Kimball: Not Only My Favorite Interpreter of Bach, But Also My Favorite Pianist


image via shutterstock /  Artem Furman

Updated May 16, 2014: A thoughtful response from Don Sucher who previously had some great things to say about pop music here:

One of the wonders of classical music is how far beyond the written score it can move while still staying entirely true to it.  This is so, not just in the many “styles” of interpreting that score — things that commonly change with time, culture and place — but even in the performances of individual interpreters as they go through life’s experiences.

Probably nowhere can such a change be heard as clearly as when listening to Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Indeed it was his 1955 recording of this then still fairly obscure set of variations that first brought Gould to the world’s attention. And it was with this same series of related pieces, done in a style that at times appears to be a complete repudiation of those early, famed, recordings, that Gould ended his recording career in 1981.

Sony’s remastered 3 CD release of both sets in 2002 (A State of Wonder: The Complete Goldberg Variations 1955 & 1981) gives a listener the opportunity to hear this musical change and growth for themselves, and to hear how youthful vigour can lead to one ‘take’ on the music while years of thoughtful meditation — the living of life — can eventually lead to quite another.

In Gould’s case, at least for this listener, the question “which interpretation is better?” can lead to a different answer from one day to the next. But so engrossing is this music in both performances, that simply asking the question (and using that as an excuse for one more careful listening to each!) is reward enough for asking it even if no definitive answer is found.

Large symphonic pieces, too, are open to such changes of interpretation.

This listener has spent endless hours over the better part of his lifetime trying to make the same judgment regarding just two of the many, many available recordings of Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Eroica. And as was the case with the Gould Bach recordings these two favorites are early and later recordings by a single great artist — the Austrian conductor Karl Böhm.

His now hard to find 1962 recording of the Eroica — probably my favorite of all time — with the Berlin Philharmonic, is measured but exuberant. To call it “youthful” would be an exaggeration. (Böhm was 68 years old when it was recorded!), but vigorous it certainly is. Yet when one compares that performance with the more commonly available one he recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic just 10 years later (available on Deutsche Grammophon) it is a revelation. Here vigour, while by no means absent, is modified and restrained by a sense of thoughtfulness and deliberation.  -Changes not uncommon in an artist as he or she ages and grows.

I suppose that to the uninitiated the thought of listening to, much less owning, several recorded versions of any one particular piece of classical music may sound odd. But few would feel the same way about someone having numerous portraits of a single person they love, realizing that each can, and often does, reveal a unique aspect of that loved one’s character — aspects possible hidden in the rest.

Such is the power of love. And such, too, is the power of great art.



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