the bach variations

I’ve seen a lot of curious people wanting to dive into classical music but don’t know where to start, so I have written out a list of pieces to listen to depending on mood. I’ve only put out a few, but please add more if you want to. hope this helps y’all out. :)

stereotypical delightful classical music:

if you need to chill:

if you need to sleep:

if you need to wake up:

if you are feeling very proud:

if you feel really excited:

if you are angry and you want to take a baseball bat and start hitting a bush:

if you want to cry for a really long time:

if you want to feel like you’re on an adventure:

if you want chills:

if you want to study:

if you really want to dance:

if you want to start bouncing in your chair:

if you’re about to pass out and you need energy:

if you want to hear suspense within music:

if you want a jazzy/classical feel:

if you want to feel emotional with no explanation:

if you want to sit back and have a nice cup of tea:

pieces that don’t really have a valid explanation:

pieces that just sound really cool:

if you feel like listening to concertos all day (I do not recommend doing that):

and if you really just hate classical music in general:

a lot of these pieces apply in multiple categories, but I sorted them by which I think they match the most. have fun exploring classical music!

also, thank you to viola-ology, iwillsavemyworld, shayshay526, eternal-cadenza, tropicalmunchakoopas, shadowraven45662, and thelonecomposer for adding on! if you would like to add on your own suggestions, please reblog and add on or message me so I can give you credit for the suggestion!


Bach - “Goldberg” Variations, BWV 988

At the top of his mountain of keyboard works is this work, one of the greatest pieces of music written in history. A set of variations on an original aria. “Composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits,” the work is one of the greatest examples of variation writing, taking the bass line, rather than the melody, to be written over. The result is, when repeats are observed, over an hour of innovative music. It’s the kind of music that feels so natural, I can’t help but think of a Spring or Summer day with the windows open, watching late afternoon sun drip in, making me smile even when I feel down. I’m really bad at reading sheet music, but I made myself learn the opening aria, and in practicing just that segment, it’s easier for me to notice exactly how the variations relate to the opening. Through these variations, we get dances, dense polyphony, sorrow, “orchestral” segments, operatic solos, and it even combines with popular drinking songs near the end. And, in a final twist of transcendence, the work ends with a repeat of the first aria, to remind us of where we started at the beginning of the journey, and how far we’ve traveled. It’s also funny to note that recently historians have discovered a manuscript page that contains 14 canons, increasing in complexity, based off of the first 8 notes of the bass line. It’s incredible how much Bach could do with so little as the foundation.

Classical Music Ask Game!

Bach - Goldberg Variations: Do you consider yourself classy and refined? Or more on the wild side?

Bach - Well-Tempered Clavier: Are you more methodical and logical or do you prefer to live based off of your intuition?

Tartini - Devil’s Trill Sonata: What’s the most terrifying experience you’ve ever had?

Vivaldi - Violin Concerto in Am: Do you enjoy the spotlight

Vivaldi - Concerto for Four Violins: Are you scatter-brained yet productive or have to focus only on one thing at a time to get stuff done?

Handel - Hallelujah Chorus: Are you religious? Explain how so

Haydn - “Farewell” Symphony: Do you do short and sweet good-byes or long, heartfelt ones?

Haydn - “Joke” Quartet: Would you ever have called yourself the class clown?

Mozart - Requiem: What do you want to be your lasting impression on this planet after you pass?

Mozart - “Jupiter” Symphony No. 41: What’s your happiest memory?

Beethoven - Symphony No. 5: Do you anger easily?

Beethoven - String Quartet No. 13: Name one thing about yourself that you wish people would appreciate more.

Schubert - Der Erlkonig: Do you have a flair for the dramatic?

Mendelssohn - String Octet in Eb: Are you a relatively optimistic and positive person by nature?

Paganini - Caprice No. 24: Would anybody ever call you a show-off? Or do you prefer the backstage?

Liszt - Liebstraum No. 3: Are you in love? 

Liszt - Totentanz: How do you feel about occult practices and necromancy? Skeletons and dark magic?

Brahms - Piano Quartet in C Minor: Do you get emotionally intimate with people easily? 

Tchaikovsky - “Pathetique” Symphony: If you’re gay, have you ever experienced internal homophobia?

Tchaikovsky - The Nutcracker Ballet: What’s your favorite holiday?

Dvorak - New World Symphony: Do you like to travel? If so, where?

Mahler - Symphony No. 9: What is your crowning achievement?

Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique: Do you ever get high? How often and how much?

Shostakovich - Symphony No. 9: What is the most rebellious, rule-breaking thing you’ve ever done?

Shostakovich - String Quartet No. 8: Is there something that helps you when you get depressed and feel like you can’t go on?

Stravinsky - Rite of Spring: Have you ever done something to create a major change in others?

Schoenberg - Verklacht Nacht: What is one situation you wish would have developed differently than the way it did?

Cage - 4′33″: Do you think you talk too much? Or not enough?

Glass - Violin Concerto: Have you ever meditated? Where is your “happy place”?

Glass - Einstein on the Beach: Would you describe yourself as a chill and easygoing person?

Reich - Clapping Music: Are you good at multitasking?


Liszt - Variations on a theme of Bach, “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”

Since Liszt loved working on pushing the bounds of conventional harmony, it’s no surprise that of ALL the possible Bach “themes” to choose from, he picks a chromatic descending bass line from one of the early cantatas. I could extrapolate by saying the bass line in “Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing” is a purposeful recreation of the title: a downward spiral of negative thought patterns. I can’t tell if my own judgement here is too Romantic [somber emotions feeling like a pained crawl downward] or too Post-Modernist [psychological hindsight]. But that’s not really important. What is important was that, continuing the nod to Bach, this work was originally a set of organ variations, a call back to baroque passacaglias. It isn’t often played, and later Liszt transcribed as a piano fantasy version that is played even less so. Maybe because it’s excruciatingly difficult? Or maybe because it doesn’t have as much of Liszt’s trademark lyricism [hard to be when all of the variations revolve around a chromatic pattern], but I think it’s valuable because it seems to do the same type of work that the second ballade does. The heavy use of chromatics and the bass of the piano’s registers which create tension, juxtaposed with a brighter choral ending. The choral Liszt chose was the ending to a different Bach cantata, “Was Gott tut, das ist wohl getan” (What God Does, Is Done Well). This shift shows, almost, like the stages of grief, ending with acceptance, and combining the chromatic theme with the ending chorale theme creates a woven thematic transformation that makes this obscure work more transcendent than one would expect.

spiritsarealwayswithyou  asked:

do u know of any classical artists whose music goes fucking hard?

bach’s goldberg variations as well as toccata and fugue in d minor, mass in b minor, and a bunch of his other pieces, chopin’s ballade No. 4 Op. 52 (known for exhausting performers both physically and emotionally), beethoven’s waldstein sonata, Paganini’s Caprice 24


Beethoven - Diabelli Variations, op.120

In 1819, the publisher and composer Anton Diabelli started a collaborative project that invited any Austrian/German composer to participate in; a large set of variations on a short waltz he wrote specifically for the project. Being fueled by 19th century Nationalism, the project was called “Fatherland Artists Association”, and over 50 composers contributed a variation. For example, some larger names like Franz Schubert, Carl Czerny, and even from the [then] 8 year old Franz Liszt, as well as several “stars” of the day who aren’t in the standard repertoire [Moscheles, Kalkbrenner, Hummel, etc.]. Sure, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but it was for a good cause: Diabelli donated the funds to benefit orphans and widows of the Napoleanic Wars. But of all the composers that helped with the project, the largest and most important contribution comes from Beethoven. Written during his late period, the 33 Variations on Diabelli’s waltz has since been considered one of THE greatest sets of variations written in history, right next to Bach’s Goldberg. At the same time, the work is considered to be one of Beethoven’s most significant achievements because of what he does with the original waltz. It would be tedious to go through every single variation and point out what it’s doing, so at most I’ll give as quick a summary as I can. Beethoven pretty much ignores the main melody, and instead all of his variations are based on the structure of the work, the harmony, and the rhythm. For example, many variations only focus on parts of the melody, like the opening grace note, or the trill, or a single interval. In a way, it’s Beethoven showing off what he can do with very little material. The work is also full of contrasts in mood. Some variations make fun of the original waltz, with it’s banal theme and basic/limited use of the keyboard. Other variations contrast the humorous with extreme seriousness; a gorgeous choral variation, two variations that seem to be love letters to Baroque opera, one variation is a calm fughetta, a nod to Bach. One variation is in a canon, near the end is a short but epic fugue [like the fugal moments of his last sonatas], there are virtuosic variations, simplistic variations, the mood transforms as often as the music. Alfred Brendel said it best, "The theme has ceased to reign over its unruly offspring. Rather, the variations decide what the theme may have to offer them. Instead of being confirmed, adorned and glorified, it is improved, parodied, ridiculed, disclaimed, transfigured, mourned, stamped out and finally uplifted".

Aria of the Goldberg variations, 6 times slower
Aria of the Goldberg variations, 6 times slower

Bach’s Aria of the Goldberg variations, 6 times slower.

Last scene of Mizumono

Of course this isn’t as good as what Reitzell did, but it’s the closest I can give you. I used Glenn Gould’s version of 1955 and slowed it with paulstretch in audacity, which slows the track but conserves the pitch. (And I cut it at about 5 minutes otherwise it would have been too long.)

Bach’s Goldberg Variations played in my head and on the page, showing me how structural constraint—limitations on freedom—might provoke artistic creativity, individuality, resonance. To write a novel is to find many other ways of being alive. I wanted to bring to life not myself and not my mother, but the imaginary and forever incomplete world between us.
—  Madeleine Thien (The Guardian, 2016)
Bach (JS): Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - XXXI. Quodlibet
Angela Hewitt, piano
Bach (JS): Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - XXXI. Quodlibet

Bach (JS): Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 - XXXI. Quodlibet

Angela Hewitt, piano

“A quodlibet was a kind of musical joke in which popular songs, usually of opposing character, were superimposed. This could be done at a family reunion, most likely after a hearty meal and lots of beer and wine. We know that once a year the Bach clan (an enormous one and full of professional musicians) met at such gatherings, beginning their festivities religiously with a chorale, and ending in complete contrast with an improvised quodlibet, the words of which were purposely humorous and often very naughty. For this final variation Bach chose two folksongs, the words of which are:

I’ve not been with you for so long.
Come closer, closer, closer.


Cabbage and beets drove me away.
Had my mother cooked some meat then I’d have
stayed much longer.

In choosing these folksongs, Bach deftly combines his sublime thoughts with the everyday, and brings us a conclusion full of warmth and joy. For someone who was always a ‘workaholic’ and to whom discipline came naturally (even in the last days of his life he didn’t let blindness deter him, and dictated his final work to his pupil and son-in-law Altnikol), he also certainly knew how to enjoy life and to share his humanity with us.” (Excerpt from the liner notes)