From Beethoven to Bach: 10 pieces of classical music you need to hear

Royal Opera House Muscat director general Umberto Fanni shares with us his favourite picks

Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman will air pre-recorded shows on its YouTube channel in May and June 2021. Courtesy Royal Opera House Muscat
Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman will air pre-recorded shows on its YouTube channel in May and June 2021. Courtesy Royal Opera House Muscat

The Royal Opera House Muscat will host online concerts on its YouTube page. In its first batch of shows, as part of its From our Stage to your Home series, the venue staged two pre-recorded concerts featuring the best of the sultanate's classical music talent.

The first, featuring the Muscat Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Opera Choir Group, will air on Sunday, May 23, while the second, boasting the talents of the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra, can be seen on Sunday, June 20.

Both shows will begin streaming from 7.30pm UAE time.

To whet the appetite for the concerts ahead, the Royal Opera House Muscat director general Umberto Fanni shares with The National his 10 top classical music picks we need to listen to – and why.

1. ‘Symphony No.7 in A major, Op.92’ by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1813)

“An absolute masterpiece of symphonic music,” Fanni says before hailing the high-minded concept powering the work.

“With Beethoven's 7th Symphony in A major, it is all about exploring the idea of harmony and joy, which Beethoven conquers.”

2.‘Symphony No.6 in B-Minor, Op.74' by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1893)

Tchaikovsky should be remembered for more than composing popular ballets Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Fanni says the Russian composer dug deep for what would be his final symphony. “This is sort of an autobiographical confession and a tragic farewell. Tchaikovsky had undoubtedly composed one of the most beautiful and exciting pages in the history of music.”

3. ‘Symphony No.40 in G-Minor, K 550’ by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1788)

A popular yet enigmatic work, Mozart’s symphony continues to astound thanks to its focus and versatility.

“It has an extraordinary structural coherence,” Fanni says. “The thematic unity and the compositional wisdom in this piece merge into a sound that is as moving as it is beautiful.”

4. ‘Piano Concerto no.1 in E minor, Op.11’ by Frederic Chopin (1830)

More than showcasing the beauty and eloquence of the piano, Fanni says Chopin’s concertos often served as love letters to his homeland.

“Almost all his compositions reveal a melancholy derived from lyrical and sentimental meditation,” he says. “Chopin wanted to inspire us to explore the flavours and aromas of his beloved Poland.”

5) ‘Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64’ by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1845)

If you want an introduction to the violin, then you can’t go past this seminal work.

“This remains one of the ‘evergreens’ of international repertoires for the violin,” Fanni says. “Like most of the concerts of the Romantic era, this piece fully illustrates the chemistry needed between composer and performer.”

6. ‘Symphony No.5 in C-Sharp Minor’ by Gustav Mahler (1904)

Fanni describes Mahler’s symphony as equally refined and romantic, with a section of the piece dedicated to his wife.

“It is perhaps one of the most famous and performed pieces in the world."

7. ‘Romeo and Juliet, No. 13 Dance of the Knights’ by Sergei Prokofiev (1940)

Prokofiev’s musical score for the Shakespeare ballet remains one of the most performed works in the genre.

Fanni says the music perfectly captures pivotal moments in the ballet and provides evocative accompaniment to the work’s mix of “courtly and country” dance styles.

8) ‘Trio for piano, violin and cello No.2 in E-Flat Major, Op.100, D. 929’ by Franz Schubert (1828)

A bold and dramatic work from the Austrian composer, Fanni says sections of the piece are inspired by a Swedish folk song.

The eclectic approach is responsible for the composition’s sweeping range.

“It has an accompaniment in the form of a march that gives the melody a movement and a dark colour,” he says. “It has a painful and obsessive intensity and eventually explodes with great emotion.”

9) ‘The Two Arabesques for Piano (Deux Arabesques), L. 66’ by Claude Debussy (1891)

An immediate hit at the time, the two-part work remains a great distillation of Debussy’s approach of being a “musician who painted music”.

The Two Arabesques were the first solo piano works published by the young Debussy when he was still in his twenties,” Fanni says.

“Over 100,000 copies of the first Arabesque were sold during the composer’s lifetime. It was immediately popular and still remains so."

10) ‘Cello Suite No.1 in G-Major, BWV 1007’ by Johann Sebastian Bach (1723)

Fanni describes the composition as dynamic and focused, before praising Bach for his relative restraint.

“The purity of the melodic line counts more than the mass of volume,” he says. “This is a piece of intimate and passionate music.”

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Published: April 13, 2021 09:01 PM

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