If I had a lot more time, and the licenses to reproduce extended excerpts from tons of recorded music, the ideal versions of my beginner’s guides to modern classical music and art jazz would actually be audiobooks, with me talking for a bit, and then playing 30 seconds of some piece, and then explaining how it’s different from some other piece, and then playing that piece, and so on.
Below are some examples, with Spotify links when available:
- Siepmann, Instruments of the Orchestra
- Naxos’ Classics Explained series: Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 4 & 5, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, Ravel’s Bolero an Ma Mere l’oye, Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
- Naxos’ Opera Explained series: Beethoven’s Fidelio, Bellini’s La sonnambula, Bizet’s Carmen, Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande, Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, and many more (choose one, then search Spotify for it).
- Robert Greenberg’s courses for The Great Courses, e.g. How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, How to Listen to and Understand Opera, The Symphony, The String Quartets of Beethoven, and Stravinsky: His Life and Music.
- The Great Courses‘ other music courses: Elements of Jazz, Broadway Musicals, and How Music and Mathematics Relate (maybe? I haven’t heard it).1
- Britten, A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (with narration, e.g. this version)
- Schiff, Beethoven Lecture-Recitals
Do you know of others?