“Symphony No. 9 “New World Symphony” — Antonin Dvorak
Begin your listening in America with Antonín Dvořák, a Czech composer who came to the United States with the intention of creating a distinct American style of music. Many elements of this symphony follow the standard European classical rules of music, but Dvořák adds folk and Afro-American melodies to make it “American.” Spiritually written by one of Dvořák’s pupils, the piece “Goin’ Home,” is one of the main themes in this work first introduced in the second movement. It is a nostalgic melody of home, wherever that may be.
(More by Dvorak: Romance for Violin and Orchestra)
“Appalachian Spring” — Aaron Copland
Stay for a while. Another American classic, “Appalachian Spring” captures landscape, beauty and emotion. Rolling green hills, pure melodies and an idealized America comes through in this composition. Similar to Dvořák’s use of folk songs, Copland incorporates the traditional tune “Simple Gifts” into his work. An intrinsically optimistic work, “Appalachian Spring” creates an idealistic vision of simple and beautiful America.[video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMaAe2aH6pw]
“An American in Paris” — George Gershwin
Take a trip to the streets of Paris. Gershwin’s composition evokes a vivid Parisian scene, hectic yet lovely. An American roaming the streets, with cafés at every corner, drunk at times and lost at others –– let your imagination run free. Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” is a charming classical work that incorporates jazz rhythms and a saxophone. Listen for street noises, jazz rhythms and the lazy melodies that set the stage for your stay in Paris.
(More by Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue)[video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU1X3Wut-k0]
“The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” — Astor Piazzolla
Continue your travels to the “Paris of the South” — Buenos Aires. Astor Piazzolla takes Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and entirely transforms them. Tango rhythms and melodies give an intensity to this work that will leave you exhausted. Written for a chamber orchestra and violin soloist along with many solos from each section leader, each movement is nuanced; see if you can hear the seasons. Listen for unique scratching sound produced by playing behind the bridge on a string instrument.
(More by Piazzolla: Libertango, Oblivion, Le Grand Tango, La Calle 92)
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 “Pathetique” — Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Do not be intimidated by the length of this piece. You are about to take one of the most devastatingly beautiful journeys of your life. 49 minutes will pass by and you will feel as though you have lived an entire lifetime –– you will be a changed person for it. One of the most well-regarded symphonies and considered by Tchaikovsky to be his best work, “Pathetique” is truly a masterpiece. Written just before he died, there has been an immense amount of speculation surrounding this work and Tchaikovsky’s mental state and romances. Whether these speculations hold any truth, it cannot be denied that this Symphony is bursting with passion and intense emotion.
“Zigeunerweisen Op. 20” — Pablo de Sarasate
You are now a Gypsy, free to wander. “Zigeunerweisen,” also known as “Gypsy Aires,” requires extreme dexterity and expertise creating a captivating performance. Advanced techniques and sexy melodies give violinists room to become showman using their own interpretations. Each recording is a new interpretation as violinists make choices in tempo, phrasing and style. Listen for the flashy harmonics, quick pizzicato and gypsy-like melodies.