Carmina Burana by Orff (1996)
I once had a woman tell me she thought this type of music was “scary.” Well, I don’t know about scary, but this isn’t something everyone will like. With its Latin and Germanic lyrics and operatic style, it can be a little intimidating at first.
The first track, “O Fortuna,” is well-known in cinema for its epic sound, something later tracks lack. Instead, we are left with lighthearted choral melodies like “Merchant, give me paint to make my cheeks rosy” and “Round-dance,” the triumphant “If the whole world were mine,” and the despondent “Day and night are hateful to me.” I love how the cyclical nature of fate is shown when the disc culminates with “O Fortuna” instead of simply ending after the previous track.
I think this CD would be great for anyone who loves musicals, opera, or choral chanting. My recording is with the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, but there are others that may be better or worse. Listen to a few and find one you prefer.
View Orff: Carmina Burana on Amazon.
Works for Piano by Aldo Ciccolini and Gabriel Tacchino (2003)
Composed by Satie
If I remember correctly, I purchased this CD when I finally learned who composed the first track. A song without lyrics isn’t always the easiest to find information about. The first track, Gymnopédie no. 1, is quite well-known and played as background music in many movies and commercials; so I would hear it every once in a while. However, the epiphany came when I heard a friend play it on the piano. It’s not often I purchase a disc for a single song, but I would argue that the first Gymnopédie is probably one of the saddest and most beautiful pieces ever written.
The Trois Gymnopédies and Six Gnossiennes are my favorites on the disc. The remaining tracks have a few good songs, but for the most part I find them too internally discordant. Some tracks sound more like random note-playing and key-banging when I would prefer more melody. I like music to elicit some sort of emotional response or convey a sense of mood, which most of the later tracks fail to do. I would recommend this disc simply for the first nine tracks and the later tracks, while not for everyone, do have some merit for those who enjoy Satie’s style.
View Satie: Works for Piano on Amazon.
Music for Two Pianos (1995)
A Collection of Works by Rachmaninov
I first started paying more attention to Rachmaninov’s works when I heard Études-tableaux op.33 No. 4 in D minor in college. Ever since, he has become one of my favorite classical composers. His works have a grandiose sound with playful high tones and powerful low tones.
This is a two disc set and the first disc is by far my favorite. Disc one contains Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos op. 5, Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos op. 17, and Études-tableaux op. 33. I love listening to this on a lazy Saturday morning with a cup of coffee or tea. I will admit it’s not the most cheerful music, but it’s beautiful. It always conjures up imagery of overcast skies. I can almost hear the rain drops fall as thunder rumbles in the distance, yet there are times the sun tries to peek through.
I can’t comment on other recordings of the same work, but nothing about the playing style of Vladimir Ashkenazy or André Previn is terrible. The two pianists complement each other quite well; the recording is crisp, clear, and played with emotion. I would definitely recommend these discs to anyone who enjoys classical music, especially piano works.
View Rachmaninov: Music for 2 Pianos on Amazon.