Hello there gentlemen,

Throughout humanities courses, living with a priest this summer, and my own searching over the past few years, I've developed a sincere desire to explore classical music more deeply.

I think classical music is important for men to understand. I appreciate the nuance, the depth, and the "epic-ness" of classical music. My understanding is that classic means that whether you like it or not, it's around, and you have to know something about it.
It feels pretty good to hear one of those classical tunes playing in the background that everyone has heard, but you're the only one who can name it (ex. Vivaldi's Spring http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSw7CcAXPWk ). Part of the fun of getting into classical music is hearing the other 30 minutes or so of Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra that wasn't played in 2001 A Space Odyssey ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmuNxYLxTs ). Listening to all the all the movements in a symphony is a spiritual stretching experience. By that I mean, these composers take their audiences through a wide spectrum of thoughts and feelings, which is something we don't get in media today. I always walk away from a piece with a wider vision and a clearer head.
Some of this music has been around centuries, so while you're listening to it, you know you're experiencing something that countless gentlemen have enjoyed throughout history. Don't you want to participate in something like that?

So I want to ask you who are some of your favorite (manly) composers and how did you get into them?

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I'm no connoisseur, but there are a few works that I can think of off the top of my head (and that are pretty accessible to the ear of a brute like me). I'm sure they will to some extent or another, be familiar to most people even if the names are not:

-The Planets, by Gustav Holst
-On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Johann Strauss (also in 2001: A Space Odyssey)
-I Quattro Stagione, by Antonio Vivaldi
-Brandenburg Concertos, by J.S. Bach
-L'elisire D'amore, by Gaitano Donizetti (the entire opera)
-La Nozze de Figaro, by W.A. Mozart (entire opera)
Personally I thoroughly enjoy the Russian composers of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It was an era of stoicism and patriotism and it's about as manly as it gets.

Personally my love springs from bein a pianist. I believe you can't appreciate a piece properly until you have actually played it.

What does sadden me about classical music is the stereotype that men hate it and get dragged along by their other halves to concerts ad operas. In my experience, I have been the one dragging my lady friends along! Unfortunately the number of young women who appreciate it in today's society is dwindling.
I'm a traditionalist and like Beethoven and Dvorak. Good for you getting into the classics! You know they sound best when blasted from your car stereo at full volumn and at low speeds ;)
I suggest getting familiar with it because of the depth and history (not just the contracted composers for royalty, either).

But you brought up the pretentiousness... I was dating a girl that was a classical snob. Being a hormone-crazed teenager, I was the one that did the changing, and I learned to appreciate classical music, even though she never made an effort to appreciate my music. Anyway, she complained that classical music is an art form, and it takes years to compose a symphony. A long time after that conversation, I had something that I could have thrown back at here: Brahms composed a symphony in six weeks, hated it, carried it around with him for a couple of years before he made it public. Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin took two years to make "Physical Graffiti". Time makes it better? AGE? Neither.
Another good example for that is Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction. Appetite for Destruction is one of the most well known albums. That took roughly 5yrs to compile onto one album. Most of the music in that album you can hear in Axl's 2 bands from the early 80's (GNR started in the mid 80's, Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987), L.A. Guns (Which is still around) and Hollywood Rose.

But, as for the classical music. I think its great. Although I do have some of the genre, and listen to it often (especially when I do cardio), I don't have an extensive knowledge of it. Most of the music I have is very well known amongst society, like Bethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I still like to get more in depth with it.
Just an interesting bit of knowledge regarding Brahms. He took close to 20 years to write his first Symphony. His second he composed over 4 months.
Just because some have found that classical music is fulfilling to the individual is no reason to to sling insults at them. Nobody but you has made the claim that classical music is "superior" to anything else, the topic is about those who found the music to be satisfying and a request to share that experience.
A few "manly" classical recommendations:

1) Gustav Mahler - first one to check out is Symphony #5 if you're "new" to Mahler. Oh, it will also give your stereo system a better workout than what the kids down the street are playing. ;-) Here's a YouTube of the Philadelphia Orchestra playing Mvt. 1:


2) Anton Bruckner - I'm partial to Symphony #8 as a 'beginning' work. Here's a YouTube video of a performance by the NY Philharmonic:


3) I've always been a fan of catching the Vienna Philharmonic "New Year's Concert" for a performance of approachable classical music. (Plus the Vienna Phil. is also remains a very unique sounding ensemble in the classical world). Here's a 2008 performance of the "Sport Polka" celebrating Austria hosting a World Cup event, complete with cheesy "Yellow Card" being flashed at the viola section:


4) ... and support your local classical music scene. It's interesting to ask a date if she would like to attend the local orchestra concert... "I have season tickets". ;-)

[HINT: some orchestras host special events that are some of the most fun/interesting "gentlemanly" social events you can attend - such as after-concert New Years' parties, etc.]

5) Bach's Cello Suites. A sampling:


[ASIDE: Interesting book if you want to further appreciate Bach: Gaines' "Evening in the Palace of Reason"

One Sunday evening in the spring of his seventh year as king, as his musicians were gathering for the evening concert, a courtier brought Frederick the Great his usual list of arrivals at the town gate. As he looked down the list of names, he gave a start.

"Gentlemen," he said, "old Bach is here." Those who heard him said there was "a kind of agitation" in his voice.

http://books.google.com/books?id=sEp5a6jRadMC ]
The Vienna New Year's Concert is pretty much the world's hardest ticket to get. There's a lottery to buy tickets, and I entered last year (and lost, of course) . But seeing it live is one of my life's ambitions.

I should have also added Tchaikovsky to my list. Most people will recognize at least some parts of the "Nutcracker Suite", but much of his stuff is great. Very accessible. Symphony No. 1 in g minor is worth a listen, too.
Hey Jamie, no harm no foul. Often the written word is inadequate to express the intent of the idea. Buried and forgotten.
Andrew, I'm glad you put Bach in there. I think he's perhaps the manliest composer. There's a bombastic quality and virtuosity that Bach has that I can't find elsewhere. But even his softer pieces still have an implicit strength to them. I think every man can get into Bach by way of Toccata in Fugue in D Minor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTVraVgzC9U&feature=related . If you find yourself enjoying Toccata might I suggest Carl Orff's Carmina Burana http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEllLECo4OM Also a great introduction to manly classical music that will get ones blood pumping, and that you've probably heard before.

Chad I agree with Mahler. He's been one composer I can always come back to over and over again. I mean in Symphony III I believe he described Heaven has having asparagus, what fun right?

Personally, my favorite composer is Arvo Pärt. I believe everyone should have his "Te Deum" album by the Estonian Philharmonic. Te Deum is a phenomenal piece in itself, but there is also Magnificat and Silouans Song, and . . . his Berliner Messe, which I would love to experience in liturgy one day. I appreciate his reincorporation of Mediæval tonality, sense of breath, tintinnabulation, and his sense of the sacred. Here's his Sanctus from the Berliner Messe . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIbwtzw8A7A It's great studying music, very reflective.

Also, because I'm a Catholic, my first introduction to what I would call Classical music was Gregorian Chant. I love the simple melodies, the reverence with which the words are treated, and tone of the human voice. This is one of my favorite chants (not the best quality, but its a sing-along so that was cool) and it was written by St. Thomas Aquinas . . . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74rxEWEektY I also suggest William Byrd. He typifies my idea of Mediæval sacred music and has beautiful cascading lines.

Jonathon, I've been wanting to get into Russian music, but don't know where to begin. I saw a couple Stravinsky pieces and heard of Shostakovich here and there. Do you have any important Russian pieces I should check out or any good albums I should try to track down?
I second the opinion on Bach. He is definitely what I consider to be one of the most manly of all composers.
Run with me here for a moment, but he achieved it all. He was arguably the most influential composer to ever exist, yet his life had a balance and he had awesome humility. Furthermore, he was a family man. He had many children and yet had time to individually teach and compose pieces for his children, the fact some of his children went on to become composers in their own right is a testament to that fact. You're Catholic, so you may very well also be able to appreciate the fact that Bach dedicated his talents to God, which was part of his humility.
It just seems like he had it all together. Just look at the hordes of other composers whose lives were train wrecks! Mozart was immature and a workaholic, Liszt was pompous and cocky, Schubert was a practically a beggar and lived off his friends etc. Bach is not only a great composer but also a great role model IMHO.

As for Russian composers, the majority were piano specialists so that's where I would start.
Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff (start with his Preludes, Sonatas and Concertos), Prokofiev (Piano Concertos), Shostakovich (Preludes & Fugues, Jazz Suite), and Scriabin are amongst my favourites.


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