“ Genre: Classical / Various Artists / mp3 Download / Release Date: 2010 / Label: Telos „
One of my resolutions for 2012 was to listen to more classical music. I neglected this resolution for several months until stumbling across this album on Amazon. I thought that 'The 99 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music' would be a good starting point for me and would help me figure out what kind of music I liked. Also, I hoped that the album would help me put names to familiar tunes: I'm sure I'm not the only one who recognises bits of well-known classical songs but have no idea who composed them or what they are called. It doesn't help that most songs are called things like 'Symphony in D Major' or 'Nocturne in E Flat' which makes no sense to someone like me who knows nothing about music.
As the name of the album suggests, there are 99 songs on here and I'm not even going to attempt to review or even list them all. Instead, I will record my impression of the album as a whole which will hopefully help someone decide whether it is worth purchasing.
The album is available in mp3 download only. Normally I buy CDs and rip them to my computer, but at least this way I got the album straight away. I find Amazon's mp3 download system easy to use and it was a simple matter to purchase and download the songs.
Unfortunately, I found a problem with the album straight away. The song titles were all accurate (although as pointed out above the title of a classical track alone tends to mean very little to me!). However, the 'Artist' field was populated with the performer(s) of the song, such as the singer, musician or orchestra, while the 'Composer' field was completely blank. Now I'm sure that to a music aficionado, knowing who performed a piece is pretty important, but personally I couldn't care less - I'm nowhere near skilled enough in my music listening to be able to detect subtle differences in the way different musicians perform the same piece. I care about the composers, but the information provided didn't tell me who they were.
I was able to gather this information via the relatively simple, but incredibly time consuming, process of pasting the track name into Google in order to search for the composer. Along the way I worked out that titles of tracks are more varied than I originally thought, because good old Google didn't have a problem identifying the composer even from what seemed to me to be a rather bland title. This done, I was able to get down to the important business of actually listening to the music!
This is certainly a varied collection. It contains music from well-known composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky as well as some modern composers. The tracks vary widely in length: some are as little as a minute or two long while others run to almost twenty minutes. The majority of the music is instrumental, but some opera is present too. The songs range from soft piano music to sophisticated string quartets and full orchestral anthems.
There is a huge variety of music on the album, which is great for learning more about music and sampling different styles. You can't really set the mood with the album though - a simple piano tune might be found right next to a soaring orchestral effort, which is great for variety but less so for those occasions when you want to match the music to your mood.
I was proud that I recognised at least some of the tracks on the album by name. Songs from Tchaikovsky's ballets, including themes from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, were familiar to me, as was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Other pieces, such as the Blue Danube waltz and the Flight of the Bumblebee, were tunes I recognised instantly though I hadn't previously been aware of the composers.
I recognised some songs that have made appearances in popular music. Tracks 5 and 88 have featured on albums or live shows by Muse, who are my favourite band. I'm sure number 39 was featured on a song by S Club 7 (Natural).
Listening to this album has made me inwardly curse advertisers. Several of the songs here are familiar to me through TV ads - there's that song from the Hovis (I think) advert (34) and the Peer Gynt Suite (15) was used to advertise Treasure Trolls (remember them?) years ago. Now, when I listen to them, all I can think of is bread or ugly 80s toys. It's a shame as they are very good pieces, but they have been rather spoilt for me now.
Luckily, I discovered many pieces of music on this album which I had never previously heard and which held no irritating connotations for me. Particular favourites include the aforementioned Beethoven and Tchaikovsky as well as 25 and 27, and I'm sure that as I listen to this album more and more I will discover further preferences.
I'm no music expert, but as far as I can tell the performance quality and sound quality of the songs is high. As I mentioned earlier, I don't have the knowledge of music necessary to tell the difference between different performances, but as far as I can tell the artists - which include the London Philharmonic Orchestra and several individual performers - are highly talented and able.
In conclusion, this is a top quality collection which is excellent value for money - the album is eleven hours, twenty minutes and fifteen seconds long - not bad for a collection costing just over £5! The collection was released on the 26th of January 2010 on the Telos label and there are other collections available, such as movie themes, relaxing classics and Beethoven masterpieces, which I would consider purchasing.
This album is available as an mp3 download only, which I obtained at Amazon. The link to the product is here (please remove the spaces): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Most-Essential-P​ieces-Classical-Music /dp/B0034G33WY/ref=​sr_shvl_album _1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348129173&s​r=301-1.