Afternoon gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! So today’s article is going to be a little different from most of my other articles. Anyone who knows me knows that I love music, which is to be expected since I’m studying the subject at San Francisco State University. As a result, I have developed a huge appreciation of classical music (and just for transparency’s sake, I’m using “classical music” as a blanket term for any music that isn’t rock ‘n roll, rap, R&B, country, pop, or jazz, not music written specifically written in the Classical period of 1730 to 1820). In any case, I thought it would be fun to share some pieces of classical music that would be good for any gentlemen to listen to, whether they’re thought-provoking, a compelling story, or anything in between. So with all of that out of the way, let’s get started!
1. Sacrae Symphoniae (1597, 1615)
Listen here (apologies to those who don’t have Spotify)
This piece is actually a collection of two major works by Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli (1556-1612), with the latter of the two symphonies being published after his death. The two pieces are a collection of works written for the church, and contain a mix of both vocal and instrumental pieces for the church liturgy. However, the link that I provided up above is of an all-instrumental cover of the Sacrae Symphoniae by the National Brass Ensemble. This piece perfectly showcases everything that defined the music of Gabrieli; his rich and resonant harmonies, and of course, his mastery of antiphony. Such glorious and resonant music can make for an exciting listen for anybody.
2. Siegfried’s Funeral March (1876)
This piece is actually just one very small highlight from Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) Götterdämmerung, the fourth and final epic music drama from the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). This scene in the opera depicts the hero of the story, Siegfried, being killed by one of his companions and being carried off in a solemn funeral procession. This piece has so much going for it that it’s almost impossible to put into words, but I will do my best. The pure, visceral emotion that Wagner is able to get out of the orchestra probably can never be matched. The mix of sorrow, joy, celebration, and remembrance is truly lightning that can only strike once. Anyone looking to hear an epic story about heroism, betrayal, and despair should absolutely give this a listen.
3. Brünnhilde’s Immolation (1876)
This is yet another scene from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. As a matter of fact, it’s the final scene of the entire cycle. In it, Brünnhilde the valkyrie takes one last stand and takes the Ring of Power (yes, Wagner’s Ring Cycle is very similar to Lord of the Rings) with her into a large funeral pyre where the ring can be cleansed of its curse. Afterward, the flame starts consuming the entire world as well as Valhalla, the domain of the gods, and the curtain falls on the Redemption leitmotif as the world is begun anew. This piece serves as a perfect conclusion to the epic tale told by Der Ring des Nibelungen. Whereas before, with Siegfried’s Funeral being about betrayal and sorrow, the opera itself ends with themes of sacrifice, cleansing, and redemption. While these two scenes are nowhere close to telling the entire story of the opera cycle, they serve as a display of its most important themes: betrayal, sorrow, temptation, sacrifice, and redemption. Even if the people listening to this don’t get that same feeling, I guarantee their lives will still be changed by listening to this.
4. Symphony No. 1 in D Major, “The Titan” (1899)
Video here (apologies for the video delay, the music is still incredible)
Fair warning, these last two pieces are substantially longer than the others, but nonetheless, they are both incredible pieces of music that deserve a lot of love. In any case, Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) first symphony is a roller coaster of sound and emotion that is an absolute pleasure to listen to. The third and fourth movements contrast so much with the first two that it often leaves listeners dumbfounded, but I feel like that’s what makes it so fascinating. There are many ways this masterpiece can be interpreted, but the way I see it, it’s about the denial, pain, and disillusionment that comes from love lost or simply being lovesick. The symphony, however, ends on a very joyous note, which many believe symbolizes the elation of finding love again, making this the perfect piece to cheer up a lonely heart. Of course, it also makes a wonderful piece to listen to if any listeners want to listen to something that will put their emotions through a blender.
5. The Planets (1918)
Video here (feel free to stop at 49:16, as Pluto was not actually composed by Holst and not part of the original suite)
For the final piece on today’s program, we have this seven-movement orchestral suite by Gustav Holst (1874-1934). This piece is interesting in the sense that instead of employing an astronomical approach to the music, Holst instead takes it from an astrological angle, basing each movement off of the planet’s corresponding astrological sign, so Mars is “The Bringer of War”, Venus is “The Bringer of Peace”, Jupiter is “The Bringer of Jollity”, and so on. It’s a wonderful piece that will definitely make the listener feel like they’re travelling through the depths of space. Fun fact, this piece is also the biggest inspiration for John Williams when he was writing the score for Star Wars (see this video if you want to hear more about that), and any listeners who have seen Star Wars will likely hear more than a few similarities to the score. Even with all that in mind, this piece is a gem that I’m sure will take its listeners on a journey through the stars.
So there it is! Classical music really is a beautiful and transcendent art form that truly deserves more recognition than it’s currently getting. To anyone reading, I hope you enjoy listening to these pieces and I hope they take you on a great journey! In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s article. Please be sure to share the article, follow the blog, follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!