Category Archives: Friday Classical Music

Classical Music Friday: Bach's Cello Suites

There’s a lot of baroque music I’m not terribly interested in. It just sounds to me like so many seconds ticking on a clock, just a bunch of sounds marking time until they come to an ucermonious conclusion. Bach, however, is an exception. His music seems to always move to, to be infused with a deep beauty that I can’t help but love. The Cello Suites are, in my opinion, among the best his vast library of compositions. Here part of the second one, and there’s plenty more where this came from on YouTube. Check it out, and if you do decide to purchase a recording, I recommend Rostropovich’s. Of course, there are as many versions of the Cello Suites as there are grains of sand on the beach, so if you know of one that you think is better, please do let me know.

Classical Music Friday: Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2

Still, years after I first heard it, Brahms second Piano Concerto remains one of my favorite pieces of classical music. It’s truly amazing. There are so many memorable passages in this composition, and I think Brams does a fine job of balancing between the piano and the orchestra.

The selection I’ve found covers the second movement (movement 3 is also available via YouTube). From the very first bars, the second movement is passionate and stirring. I particularly like the interplay between the paino and orchestra right around the 3:20 mark (and for about a minute after that).

If you’d like to purchase this piece, I recommend this recording. It’s an excellent recording, and you get both the first and second concertos (the first is also an amazing concerto–Brahams could really write piano concertos!).

Classical Music Friday: Beethoven's Fifth

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony isn’t the least known piece of work in the world, but it’s certainly still worth listening to. There’s video available for movements 1 and 2, but I’ve chosen the one for 3 and 4, because the first movement has been played so many times that everyone knows it. So instead, revel in the beauty of Beethoven’s funeral march and his spectacular, triuphant conclusion.

This version of the Fifth is being conducted by the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. For a CD recommendation, I’ll go to Carlos Kleiber’s famous recording. It comes with the 7th, and it’s certainly a great disc, but maybe some of the more musically astute readers out there can point us to some other recordings.

Friday Classical Music: Shostakovich Opus 110

Via the magic of YouTube and other internet classical music sites, I’m going to try and post a new piece of classical music up here every Friday. The playing may be so-so, but it’s free, and you’ll get to hear what the music sounds like. All music used in this column will be copyright-free, 100% legit.

First up is Shostakovich’s unparalleled Eighth String Quartet. This one Shostakovich dedicated to the victims of war and fascism, and once you listen to it you’ll know why. It’s an incredibly dolorous, mournsome piece of music. The excerpt I’ve found includes the first and second movements, which is good because it’s in the second movement that this thing really starts to fly. You simply must hear this to believe it.

It’s best to let the music speak for itself, but a few words. The first movement is slow, opening with foreboding sounds. It’s contemplative, as though you’re standing amidst a blackened field surveying the destruction. Shostakovich uses long strips of sound, and only occasionally do the strings exert enough energy to hop around from note to note.

The first movement ends with an extended, drawn out chord which also provides the entrance into the second movement. I can only describe movement two as demonic. Each instument does its shrill little own thing (and here the video is actually an asset–it’s something to watch each performer playing independent of her counterparts, yet to hear the sound fuse together so thoroughly). After about a minute they all come together in a climax and then things just lose all sense.

If you like what you hear, than I absolutely recommend the recording made by the Borodin Quartet. Hands down, this is the best recording I’ve ever heard ofShostakovich’s Eighth Quartet. Plus, you get the 2nd, 12th, 7th, and 3rd, and it even comes in at a low price (this double CD costs less than many singles). Don’t let the price fool you, though, it’d be a value at twice the price.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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