Afternoon gents, it’s Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide here! So I’m on a bit of a time crunch for this article, and there is one that I have drafted right now that will require quite a bit more research and will have to go up at a later date. So today, I wanted to write something a bit more simple and lighthearted. This will essentially be an extension of my first article pertaining to this subject, so be sure to check that one out before continuing on. If you’ve already read that first article, then feel free to continue on with this one. This article will highlight just two more pieces of classical music that every gentleman should take the time to listen to, but since there are just two pieces to be highlighted, I will go into a bit more detail about them. So without any more delay, let’s started!
1. Symphony No. 1: “The Lord of the Rings” (1988)
To start off, we’re actually going to start with the most recently composed piece I’m going to mention on either of these lists. Also, it’s the only one I’ve mentioned so far that was written for a concert band, though one of my all-time favorite recordings of it has it transcribed for a full orchestra. In any case, this piece is a fascinating piece to look at considering the fact that its composer, Johan De Meij (1953-present) actually based the symphony off of the first Lord of the Rings book, The Fellowship of the Ring, and the movements reflect this. The movements break down as follows:
- Gandalf (The Wizard)
- Lothlórien (The Elvenwood)
- Gollum (Sméagol)
- Journey in the Dark (a. The Mines of Moria and b. The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm)
As you can see, each movement of the symphony is based on a certain character, setting, or situation from the book, and each movement encapsulates that particular moment perfectly. Gandalf sounds very sage and wise, but also embarks on a frantic journey to research the Ring; Lothlórien is ancient and mysterious, with the instruments mimicking natural forest sounds; Gollum, represented by a soprano saxophone solo, is slimy and conniving, but may still have some good in him as represented by the accompanying orchestra; Journey Through the Dark is long, treacherous, and mysterious, with the showdown with the Balrog near the end being grand and epic; Hobbits have a simple march-like tune as their theme, with a solemn, hymn-like variation of that theme following it, showing the simplicity of the Hobbits’ way of living. It’s even speculated that Howard Shore took at least some inspiration from this symphony when writing the score for the Lord of the Rings films directed by Peter Jackson. It’s hard to deny after listening to the symphony, but whether or not it’s actually true remains up to debate.
2. Symphony No. 5 in D minor (1937)
Dmitri Shostakovich’s (1906-1975) fifth symphony is one of his most well known and commonly performed symphonies, and for good reason. It’s one of his most emotional and epic works, but what makes it even more fascinating is its place in both musical and political history. Shostakovich wrote most of his music in the 1930s and 1940s, when Joseph Stalin had completely tightened his grip on Soviet Russia. As a result of the musical tastes of Stalin and other Communist Party members, the music of many modernist composers like Shostakovich was being passed off as niche and avant garde, and composers at the time were advised to write music that stuck more to traditional musical standards as a way to make it more accessible to the public. After a scathing review of one of Shostakovich’s operas was published in Pravda, the official newspaper of the Soviet Union, Shostakovich began work on his fifth symphony. After its premiere in 1937, the symphony supposedly received an ovation lasting over 30 minutes, and very well could have the piece of music that saved Shostakovich’s life (all of this information and more can be found in this video by Odd Quartet on YouTube). Though there are certainly elements of Shostakovich’s modernist practices throughout the symphony, it was very well-received by the public as well as Communist Party leaders, with many stating that the symphony was Shostakovich quelling his modernist tendencies to make his music more accessible. This piece is worthy to listen to simply as a lesson in musical and political history, but I promise that you will get a lot more out of it than that.
So there we have it! Apologies if this list was substantially shorter than my last article on the subject, but like I said, I was on a bit of a time crunch for this one. Let me know what you think of these pieces by leaving a comment, and if there are any other pieces that you think are worthy of mentioning, be sure to let me know! 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!