This time around in my Classical Music Picks I'll share some works from early 20th century, an interesting period where composers were expanding tonality and searching for alternatives. In case you missed my previous entry, you can read it here.
Again, this won't be the typical top 10 list of "name the best-known works by the best-known composers", but rather my recommendations for classical music works and performances I have enjoyed or found fascinating. If you have any recommendations to share, please let me know in the comments.
Gustav Holst: The Planets, op. 32 (Herbert von Karajan & Berlin Philharmonic)
Do you hear John Williams, some Star Wars maybe? I bet this orchestral suite has been a source of inspiration for many film composers. Although Holst didn't consider The Planets to be his best work, it sure is his most popular one.
Here's the playlist for the complete work.
Olivier Messiaen: O Sacrum Convivium (John Rutter & The Cambridge Singers)
I would argue Messiaen's ear for harmony is one of the best of its kind. What's more impressive, is how he can create such harmonies with limited resources; there are only 4 voices in this choral piece, but it still sounds so rich and vibrant. Somehow I get strong Christmas vibes from this, I don't know why, but it's beautiful regardless.
Leo Ornstein: Wild Men's Dance (Mark-André Hamelin)
A good example of early experimental music in the United States: an extremely brutal piano piece which incorporates very violent tone clusters. No wonder why Ornstein became (in)famous for a short while when he was at his prime.
Alexander Scriabin: Vers la flamme, op. 72 (Vladimir Horowitz)
I'm not a huge fan of Scriabin to be honest, but I find his mystical Vers la flamme (Toward the flame) very appealing.
Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (Valery Gergiev & Vienna Philharmonic)
I must say that Gergiev looks pretty funny (and sweaty) when he's conducting, but fortunately this doesn't affect his ability to lead an orchestra and shape music brilliantly. I have listened The Firebird many times, but this take is my favorite mainly for its right tempos.
If you don't have the time to listen the whole work, skip to 42:55 and enjoy the splendid ending, which Gergiev underlines magnificently. It's awesome.