Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
No music list of mine would be complete without Tchaikovsky. This amazing symphony helped spark my love for the symphony orchestra as a teenager, and I hope it does the same for you. I was captivated immediately by Tchaikovsky’s ability to express heartbreak and tragedy, passion and longing, all in a beautiful musical package that’ll whisk you away. If nothing else, I hope your heart melts a little with mine at the 6:13 mark. This particular recording displays the music so you can follow along.
blue cathedral, Jennifer Higdon
In addition to the touching story behind this composition’s genesis, I’m drawn to the sensationally intricate rhythms that float through this music, seeming to obscure pulse and eventually boiling over into an exhilarating orchestral dance party at 7:03. There are other perhaps ‘better’ recordings, but I couldn’t help recommend this one of a fabulous youth symphony.
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Claude Debussy
This music is saturated in colorful harmonies. One of my absolute favorite moments in all of symphonic music is the 40 seconds of ecstasy starting at 5:04. The blissful clashes between the soaring string melody and delicately insistent woodwind pulses have always been inspiring to me. Try conducting along with the music in your three pattern- it’s not easy! Use the strings as your gravitational guide for beat one. I’ve included a recording with the sheet music to help.
Honorable Mention: Death & Transfiguration, Richard Strauss
For the full albums below, I’ve included links that should play each track in succession.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco
On a personal level, this record has meant the world to me. Nearly each track has hit me uniquely at different moments in my life, perhaps none more than the opener.
Ok Computer - Radiohead
Similar to the Wilco above, this one has always had a direct line to my heart, especially as a teenager. In particular I’ve loved Paranoid Android, Exit Music, Climbing the Walls, and No Surprises.
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Great album or greatest album? I can’t decide.
Honorable Mention: Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
Transatlantique - Beirut
I was quite late to discovering Beirut, but have enjoyed the interesting blend of flavors in much of their music. Incidentally, their front man, Zach Condon spent lots of his life in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
Echos - Pink Floyd
More Pink Floyd, I know. I know. I’ve just always loved the different ‘worlds’ this music travels through in one song. In particular, the groove starting at the 7:00 mark.
All Blues, Miles Davis
Miles, Cannonball, Evans, Mr. PC, Jimmy C., and my favorite- Coltrane? Yes please!
Honorable Mention: Elephant Gun, Beirut