Classical 91.5

Classical 91.5's 40 for 40

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of WXXI-FM Classical 91.5 (in 2014), we asked you to help us celebrate. Beginning Tuesday, April 15th, we played your top 40 favorite classical works on air throughout the day, and posted more information about your favorites right here on this page. Learn more about each work that you chose as your top 40 favorites on Classical 91.5.

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For the last two weeks on the WXXI-FM Mystery Piece, we’ve been counting down the Top Ten greatest symphonies ever written, according to a survey of 151 leading conductors by BBC Music magazine.  Here's the list:

The BBC Music Magazine top 10

#1 Ludwig van Beethoven

Aug 28, 2016

Symphony No. 5

Beethoven's 5th Symphony barely made the list five years ago, coming in at #35.  But you spoke loud and clear this year; returning it to the #1 spot.  The familiar four note motif that trumpets its beginning are probably the most well-known four notes in history; even to the classical novice.  This symphony, wrote ETA Hoffman (a contemporary of Beethoven), "sets in motion the machinery of awe, of fear, of terror, of pain, and awakens that infinite yearning which is the essence of romanticism".  http://www.theguardian.com/music/tomserviceblog/2013/sep/16/symphony-guide-beethoven-fifth-tom-service

#2 Ludwig van Beethoven

Aug 28, 2016

Symphony No. 7

Although Beethoven was one of the most recognized composers of his time, he was not always the most popular or beloved.  His 7th symphony however, was welcomed by Viennese audiences at its premiere on December 8, 1813, with Beethoven conducting.  Audiences noted its energy, beauty and hopefulness of a victory over Napoleon.  Dedicated to both Count Moritz von Fries and Russian Empress Elisabeth Aleksiev, it was performed three times in the 10 weeks following its successful premiere.

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#3 Antonín Dvořák

Aug 28, 2016

Symphony No. 9, From the New World

Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, nicknamed From the New World, was written in the 1890s while Dvořák was living and working as the director for the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. The work premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893.  As a skilled as seasoned composer and professor at the Prague Conservatory, Dvořák had a great deal of experience and expertise to bring to eager young musicians in the United States, where classical music was just beginning to establish itself. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/220717/New-World-Symphony

#4 Samuel Barber

Aug 28, 2016

Adagio for Strings

The  Adagio for Strings by American composer Samuel Barber, made its debut in 1938 when it was performed on the radio by the NBC Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.  It evolved as an arrangement of the second movement of Barber's String Quartet. The deep emotion of this work, which has been described as passionate, tender, dramatic, powerful, and gentle, has made it popular for use in television, movies and at times of tragedy like the events of 9/11, when American's were searching for comfort and unity.

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#5 Ludwig van Beethoven

Aug 28, 2016

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral"

Considered one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, Beethoven's 9th Symphony is one of the most widely heard pieces in the repertoire of classical music. The Symphony is known as the Choral Symphony from the choir and soloists who sing text from the poem "Ode to Joy" by Freiderich Schiller, in the fourth movement. Beethoven's decision to include voices in the Symphony, a traditionally instrumental genre, mark the first time a major composer had ever done so. Perhaps it was this choice that lead to some critics responding poorly to the work's premiere saying that it was "cryptic and eccentric, the product of a deaf and aging composer." However, the reception the Symphony continues to recieve from audiences around the world continues to show the popularity of the work, including your votes placing the 9th at #5 in our 40 for 40. Whatever the reason audiences adore this work, be it the sublime first movement, lively Shcerzo, or joyous fourth movement, Beethoven's Ninth shows no sign of losing its foothold in the canon of classical music.

#6 Ralph Vaughan Williams

Aug 28, 2016

The Lark Ascending 

This gorgeousness comes from the visionary 20th century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose musical language was profoundly influenced in 1904 when he was asked to edit the English Hymnal.  What was to take two months instead took two years, and in completing the project, Vaughan Williams came to love the modal, polyphonic beauty of Tudor composers.  He also drew inspiration from poets.  In writing The Lark Ascending, the composer quoted a poem by George Meredith which includes these lines:

For singing till his heaven fills,

#7 J. S. Bach

Aug 28, 2016

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

The set of six concerti, presented by Johann Sebastian Bach to Christian Ludwig, the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721, remain some of the most frequently performed and beloved compositions of the Baroque era.  Written during a happy period in Bach's life, while serving as the Music Director (or Kapellmeister) of Coethen and writing music for the Court, the concerti show the light side of Bach's genius.  Interestingly, each of the six concerti require a different combination of instruments and different featured instruments; all requiring virtuosos.  Although Classical 91.5 listeners requested all of the six concerti during our 40 for 40 celebration, numbers 2 and 3 were mentioned most often; so today we hear No. 3.

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