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#2110071 - 06/29/13 04:52 AM Classical music for beginners  
Joined: Oct 2002
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King Norre Offline
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Hi,

After listening to jazz, blues and roots music for many years I would love to learn about classical music, and specially classical piano music. I started taking piano lessons last week and I'm sure as my skills and lessons evolve I'll get to know more about the music and the great composers. I was wondering if someone could maybe give me some advice about CD's that a classical pianist *must* own or at least know. I guess it's not simple giving advice to someone not knowing anything. I'm sure there's many styles within the classical music. Maybe something that't easy to listen to for a beginner wink I do love the cello suites of Bach. Actually I like the preludes and fugues of Bach also. But that's a far as my knowledge goes.
I prefer recordings with piano only or maybe small ensembles.


Thanks,

KN


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#2110088 - 06/29/13 06:17 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
Joined: Mar 2013
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earlofmar Offline
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Can't answer the question, I hope to develop a love of classical piano recordings down the track. Although I really lean towards classical when I select new pieces to learn, when the day is done and I switch the piano off it's back to progressive rock for me.


Problems with piano are 90% psychological, the other 10% is in your head.

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#2110095 - 06/29/13 07:01 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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zrtf90 Offline
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The major composers are best understood by listening to the major works. Opera aside, the symphony and the concerto have long been considered the main works of a composer. It is enough to study one or two of the main works but it also worthwhile having a wider knowledge of their output to build a context.

When I began studying classical music in detail I was quite surprised after dissecting a Concerto by Corelli that my tutors summed up his music and style by this one piece. Out of protestation I dissembled another concerto to try and prove a point. That's when I began to realise that you can indeed sum up a composers style and musical language based on one major work.

The first of the Great Composers is Bach. It would be misleading to consider his precursors as leading up to Bach - there was a lot going on and it is very interesting - but it was Bach that drew all the strings together and began to unite them into one homogenous whole. Corelli's Concerto Grossi and Church sonatas were a profound influence on both giants of the baroque era, Bach and Handel.

Bach and Handel's Concertos and Suites are worthy of study as orchestral music. For keyboard music Handel's suites are looser and freer than Bach's output and his body of keyboard music not as vast but a third composer, Domenico Scarlatti (all three were born in 1685), wrote over five hundred sonatas for harpsichord that represent first class writing. He, like Chopin, wrote specifically for the keyboard and wrote little that was not intended for it. It many ways he is the precursor of Chopin and his sonatas are better than anything Handel wrote for developing keyboard skills. They also transfer exceedingly well to the modern piano.

Apart from the sons of Bach, and principally CPE Bach, there was little productive music until the arrival of Haydn and Mozart in the 1770's. There was much going on but little of it reached the surface until these two greats wrought the symphony out of the suite and brought the sonata principle into being. This was to become all pervasive in music and just confined to the sonata or symphony.

Haydn and Mozart also made the piano sonata and the string quartet important chamber works. While Boccherini had written for a string quartet, Haydn established the form and made it an important genre.

Again, looking only at keyboard music, another composer, Clementi, is worthy of mention. He is the first to write specifically for the piano and and introduce new skills for the instrument. His piano sonatas drew the admiration of Beethoven, who insisted on his nephew Carl making use of them in his tuition. Brahms also rated Clementi highly.

Beethoven and Schubert are next up. Beethoven took piano technique to new heights and his 32 piano sonatas are among the greatest collections ever written with Bach's 48 and probably Chopin's 24 Preludes. The sonatas, similar to Rembrandt's series of self-portraits, tell the life story of one of the greatest creative forces in human history.

Schubert not only matched the quality of his predecessors in the major works but he also gave the Romantics an alternative to the larger forms. His Impromptus and Moments Musicaux paved the way for the smaller forms that were to dominate the next era.

Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are the four big noises of the Romantic period all produced first class keyboard music. History now begins to separate the major orchestral composers and the major keyboard composers with only a few exceptions such as Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.

The Romantics diverged geographically as well as musically. Chopin and Liszt were centered in Paris and extending keyboard virtuosity beyond normal limits while Mendelssohn and Schumann furthered the Germanic style.

Brahms continued in the neo-classical style from Schumann and took keyboard technique to another level with his Paganini Variations. He was an eclectic and discarded anything that didn't meet his high standards. His canon for piano, like that of Chopin, is small enough and important enough to be familiar in its entirety. Grieg, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and the 'Mighty Handful' of Russian composers developed Nationalistic music, Debussy and Ravel making the two sides of French Impressionism.

The next major development in art music is atonality. It can be difficult to play and difficult to listen to until you either find something you like or start to understand how and why it has come about. Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and co. are the major names at its beginning.



Richard
#2110100 - 06/29/13 07:16 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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BrainCramp Offline
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Hi King,

One way to approach it is by composer. If you already like Bach, listen to some of his music played on the piano. Then move on to another composer. Listen to a variety of that composer's "greatest hits", regardless of the instrument(s). Then listen to his piano music.

For "piano with something else", I loved Brahms' violin sonatas when I was first learning about classical music. (There are 3 of them.)

Mozart's "Kegelstatt" trio for clarinet, piano, and viola was an early favorite of mine, too.

If you like piano and voice, Schubert's lieder are a joy. Bryn Terfel has a nice big selection on Deutsche Grammophon called "An Die Musik: Favorite Schubert Songs".

Most importantly, have fun. Don't feel you have to like a particular composer just because he wrote important piano music. (For me, that's a whole bunch of Russians.)

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#2110105 - 06/29/13 07:35 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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JimF Offline
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King norre,


A good start would be just about anything recorded by Vladimir Horowitz. For solo piano, I couldn't imagine a collection that didn't include Chopin's Nocturnes (take your pick, all magnificent) and Beethoven's Sonatas (Appasionata and Waldstein are my favs).

If you do searches of "best _____ recordings" (insert artist, composer, or piece), you will find many past threads here and in the pianist corner topics with plenty of opinions.

Have fun.


Tarantella, Pieczonka
Sonatine, No.2 Menuet - MRavel


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#2110115 - 06/29/13 08:37 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: JimF]  
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King Norre Offline
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Thanks for the info all smile Thanks for the list Richard thumb
Also thanks for the suggested recordings and favorite pieces.
I think I'll start with Bach and then check out the others in chronological order. A new world awaits 3hearts


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#2110385 - 06/29/13 10:22 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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Charles Cohen Offline
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For Bach, Glenn Gould recorded the "Well-Tempered Clavier". I believe he did it twice -- once as a wunderkind, the second time as a mature musician.

With those, the Mozart piano sonatas, the Beethoven piano sonatas, some Chopin, and some Brahms / Schubert / Schumann, you'll have lots of hours of listening.

I expect that there are decent versions of all of those works online, as MP3 files. Otherwise, see what the CD stores (if there are any left) can dredge up.

. Charles


. Charles
---------------------------
PX-350 / microKorg XL+ / Pianoteq / Lounge Lizard / Korg Wavedrum / EV ZXA1 speaker
#2110411 - 06/29/13 11:34 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: Charles Cohen]  
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tangleweeds Offline

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Originally Posted by Charles Cohen
For Bach, Glenn Gould recorded the "Well-Tempered Clavier". I believe he did it twice -- once as a wunderkind, the second time as a mature musician.

I think you may be confusing the WTC with the Goldberg Variations. There's now a set containing both early and late versions of the Goldberg Variations, called "A State of Wonder".

...which I had been meaning to recommend to the OP earlier in the thread, only I've been too sweaty and lazy to type.

And somebody, do please correct me if Gould actually also did two versions of the WTC... if so, I'd better check which one I already have, so I can go find the other one too laugh

Last edited by tangleweeds; 06/29/13 11:35 PM. Reason: incomplete

Please step aside. You're standing in your own way.
#2110453 - 06/30/13 04:08 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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If you really want to 'get' classical music then work your way through this free Yale course - it really is very interesting, informative and engaging. It starts off very 'basic' and works upwards from there. The course book is great too.

http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112#sessions

#2110470 - 06/30/13 05:07 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: Hammertime]  
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King Norre Offline
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Wow! Thanks for the link thumb


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#2110471 - 06/30/13 05:08 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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King Norre Offline
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I'll definitely check out Glen Gould. Thanks for the advice!


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#2110500 - 06/30/13 06:43 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: Hammertime]  
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Originally Posted by Hammertime
If you really want to 'get' classical music then work your way through this free Yale course - it really is very interesting, informative and engaging. It starts off very 'basic' and works upwards from there. The course book is great too.

http://oyc.yale.edu/music/musi-112#sessions


Amazing, thank you.


yamaha p-35. a piano neophyte since 04/13. my piano links
#2110509 - 06/30/13 07:02 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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Palmpirate Offline
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Glenn Gould is also a Beethoven hero as well as his Bach. Like tangleweeds I shall have to check which recordings I've got.
Richard's run down is a great re-cap . Thanks sftr90 I shall keep a copy ot that handy! And Thanks King Norre for asking the question. It's good to have all these composers sorted out.


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#2110514 - 06/30/13 07:14 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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The theme from Gilligan's Island is in the back of Alfred's book one. smile
Talk about classic. smile




I hope you all enjoyed this humorous interruption to your regularly scheduled classical thread.





Ron
Your brain is a sponge. Keep it wet. Mary Gae George
The focus of your personal practice is discipline. Not numbers. Scott Sonnon
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#2110632 - 06/30/13 12:56 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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Awesome post, Richard.


Zaahir

Self-taught renegade - Kawai CL-36
#2110646 - 06/30/13 01:28 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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casinitaly Offline

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Great thread!

Richard your overview was splendid!

One thing that can be helpful when trying to get exposure to a lot of music is to find a really good "classical" music station - some stations have wonderful programming with commentary that can be very informative. Then you can jot down composers who catch your fancy and explore them in greater depth!


Last edited by casinitaly; 06/30/13 01:29 PM.

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#2110699 - 06/30/13 03:33 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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Go to Pandora (pandora.com) and listen to their "Classical Solo Piano Radio" station as a start. They have a very decent amount variety, and is a good place to be introduced to things you won't necessarily know about or go for. Right now, the station is playing "Album Leaf No. 2 for Piano in F" by Dvorak, performed by Stefan Veselka. I've not heard Dvorak piano music before, and not something I would necessary choose to listen to. I find Pandora a good source of new / unknown music to me.


Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci
#2110767 - 06/30/13 05:16 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: zrtf90]  
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Originally Posted by zrtf90
The major composers are best understood by listening to the major works. Opera aside, the symphony and the concerto have long been considered the main works of a composer. It is enough to study one or two of the main works but it also worthwhile having a wider knowledge of their output to build a context.





I know that yours is not a unique opinion but I really do not agree with it at all. If you want to learn about classical piano, I think for the most part listening to solo piano pieces is the best way to go probably starting with Chopin as his music more than any other composer is unique and more exclusive to the piano.

What you are saying is akin to saying if you want to learn about classical music than just concentrate on opera because they are the most important and complex works. While true, it is a very narrow view.

If I wanted to just expose myself to piano I would start with Chopin Nocturnes and then move to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Just my thoughts. But I would start with Chopins Nocturnes. No reason not to start with the best and most accessible piano music ever.

#2110811 - 06/30/13 06:16 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: johnnysd]  
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adultpianist Offline
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http://youtu.be/wWKTkByq2eE

I really like this 3hearts


Please do not ever attempt to play this at home, unless you want your neigbours to call the police and complain about the noise. It contains lots of STRONG forte.

Last edited by adultpianist; 06/30/13 06:23 PM.
#2111258 - 07/01/13 02:19 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
Joined: Feb 2012
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by johnnysd
What you are saying is akin to saying if you want to learn about classical music than just concentrate on opera because they are the most important and complex works. While true, it is a very narrow view.
This is a very mistaken interpretation.

Whilst opera is a major genre it does not necessarily represent a composer's best work. It is frequently considered a separate study but symphonies and concertos are more commonly considered the summit of a composers achievements, opera specialists such as Wagner and Verdi aside. Bach and Beethoven are considered among the greatest of the great composers and Beethoven's operatic output is woefully small and not comparable, artistically, to his greatest symphonies.

A composer puts his best efforts into his most major works. For the majority of the classical composers that is the symphony and concerto. If you want to compare the musical language of a composer then his best works provide his best examples. Comparing Beethoven's language to Wagner's needs to compare orchestral music with vocal. This is an awkward means of comparison because orchestral music is not necessarily to entertain and does not need to progress a story. It is more freely creative and can be more abstract, a deeper philosophical purpose, perhaps.

To understand classical music is really to understand the development of tonality and its forms from the modal music of the Renaissance to the atonality of the twentieth century. It does not need to be restricted to the solo piano genre. I wouldn't have chosen a composer who was unique as an introduction to classical music, but someone more representative. Using Chopin's Nocturnes as a starting point is tantamount to studying the Greeks or the Wild West as a summit of human existence or Rembrandt's sketches as the best of art history. You may have a preference for his music but, unfortunately, this is not about personal preference or popularity. It is about the amount of change brought to the musical language, the creative input, the influence on contemporaries and successors and the overall high quality of output. Few would contend that the Nocturnes are Chopin's best output and their influence on what followed is very small.

Some of today's popular song forms date back to the Renaissance and before but with the ability of music to change key, after the development of equal temperament, the idea of tonality became a significant tool in the composers arsenal and it was the ability to change key that showed one of the qualities as a composer.

The precursors of Bach changed key one accidental at a time and returned to tonic after each trip away, e.g. from C to G or E minor but then returning to C or A minor before venturing off to F or D minor. Bach extended this by making the new key a basecamp for further wanderings moving from what might be considered orbital tonality to satellite tonality. He could move from C to G major but then continued on to D or B minor before returning to C.

Haydn and Mozart established the sonata principle by using tonality to define the form of the music instead of architectural means and introduced drama by contrasting keys and themes. The first movement of a sonata followed this principle but the remainder of the symphony was less intellectually involving.

Beethoven turned that metaphor on its head and the last movement became the most important. In the Eroica symphony he changed key by three accidentals in one chord. While still earning his living from royalty and aristocracy, they had to dance to his tune not he to theirs and the status of a composer changed. The scale of a symphony reached new heights and it's import became newly defined. Where Haydn produced over 100 symphonies and Mozart in a shorter lifetime wrote over forty, Beethoven only completed nine. No composer since has written them as prolifically as his precursors and few can match his mastery of scale especially while also matching his ability with miniatures. His last five sonatas test even the greatest virtuosi yet his bagatelles are common fare for beginner pianists. How many of the great composers have since written more than one violin concerto? Compare the number of concerted works of Haydn and Mozart with the successors of Beethoven.

The lyricism of Schubert and his understanding of form are unmatched. Not only do his greatest works compete on many levels with Beethoven's, his smaller works had enormous impact on his immediate successors.

Trying to match or surpass the acheivements of Beethoven was a daunting task and the expression of more personal emotion in smaller works was more appealing. The Romantics moved away from large scale works but added greater chromaticism, more diverse rhythms and new forms. Liszt and Wagner pressed this chromaticism so far that the next logical step was atonality. Tonality had within itself the seeds of its own destruction and Berg, Schoenberg et al brought it about.

If you want to restrict yourself to solo piano music Chopin may well be a good start, though his Nocturnes are not his most characteristic output nor musically his best. His Preludes are widely considered his greatest achievement while his Mazurkas are more personal and intimate. But to understand his musical language in the context of tonal music demands a knowledge of all that went before him and had most influence on him and that means a comprehensive study of Bach and Mozart as well as his nearest contemporary, Liszt. From there a wider knowledge can grow.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal book is as good a summary of early keyboard music as any.
The high Baroque can be studied using Bach's Inventions, Sinfonias, Suites & Partitas, the WTC, and the Goldberg Variations, Handel's 8 Great Suites, and Scarlatti's 15 volumes of Sonatas.

There might be merit in studying CPE Bach as a bridge between Bach and the Classical age of Haydn and Mozart. His Versuch was influential.

Haydn's Sonatas are his best keyboard output and Mozart's are also accompanied by miscellaneous Fantasies, Adagios and Rondos. Both offer worthwhile sets of variations. Clementi's sonatas are as good and are perhaps more pianistic technically though demanding of thirds. His sonatinas are regular fare for beginners.

Beethoven's sonatas are unparalleled and his bagatelles are fertile ground for study. Schubert's sonatas are not all finished but make ideal study of the form and are much more lyrical. His Impromptus and Musical Moments are the foundation for the lyrical forms of the Romantic era such as Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and Grieg's Lyric pieces that have recently been studied en masse in this forum.

The works of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are, perhaps, the best known of solo 'classical' piano works and their successors are perhaps more widely divergent and probably more esoteric but Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Rachmaninov are popular and deserve more than a passing acquaintance.



Richard
#2111276 - 07/01/13 11:02 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: zrtf90]  
Joined: Apr 2013
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johnnysd Offline
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johnnysd  Offline
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San Diego CA
Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by johnnysd
What you are saying is akin to saying if you want to learn about classical music than just concentrate on opera because they are the most important and complex works. While true, it is a very narrow view.
This is a very mistaken interpretation.

Whilst opera is a major genre it does not necessarily represent a composer's best work. It is frequently considered a separate study but symphonies and concertos are more commonly considered the summit of a composers achievements, opera specialists such as Wagner and Verdi aside. Bach and Beethoven are considered among the greatest of the great composers and Beethoven's operatic output is woefully small and not comparable, artistically, to his greatest symphonies.

A composer puts his best efforts into his most major works. For the majority of the classical composers that is the symphony and concerto. If you want to compare the musical language of a composer then his best works provide his best examples. Comparing Beethoven's language to Wagner's needs to compare orchestral music with vocal. This is an awkward means of comparison because orchestral music is not necessarily to entertain and does not need to progress a story. It is more freely creative and can be more abstract, a deeper philosophical purpose, perhaps.

To understand classical music is really to understand the development of tonality and its forms from the modal music of the Renaissance to the atonality of the twentieth century. It does not need to be restricted to the solo piano genre. I wouldn't have chosen a composer who was unique as an introduction to classical music, but someone more representative. Using Chopin's Nocturnes as a starting point is tantamount to studying the Greeks or the Wild West as a summit of human existence or Rembrandt's sketches as the best of art history. You may have a preference for his music but, unfortunately, this is not about personal preference or popularity. It is about the amount of change brought to the musical language, the creative input, the influence on contemporaries and successors and the overall high quality of output. Few would contend that the Nocturnes are Chopin's best output and their influence on what followed is very small.

Some of today's popular song forms date back to the Renaissance and before but with the ability of music to change key, after the development of equal temperament, the idea of tonality became a significant tool in the composers arsenal and it was the ability to change key that showed one of the qualities as a composer.

The precursors of Bach changed key one accidental at a time and returned to tonic after each trip away, e.g. from C to G or E minor but then returning to C or A minor before venturing off to F or D minor. Bach extended this by making the new key a basecamp for further wanderings moving from what might be considered orbital tonality to satellite tonality. He could move from C to G major but then continued on to D or B minor before returning to C.

Haydn and Mozart established the sonata principle by using tonality to define the form of the music instead of architectural means and introduced drama by contrasting keys and themes. The first movement of a sonata followed this principle but the remainder of the symphony was less intellectually involving.

Beethoven turned that metaphor on its head and the last movement became the most important. In the Eroica symphony he changed key by three accidentals in one chord. While still earning his living from royalty and aristocracy, they had to dance to his tune not he to theirs and the status of a composer changed. The scale of a symphony reached new heights and it's import became newly defined. Where Haydn produced over 100 symphonies and Mozart in a shorter lifetime wrote over forty, Beethoven only completed nine. No composer since has written them as prolifically as his precursors and few can match his mastery of scale especially while also matching his ability with miniatures. His last five sonatas test even the greatest virtuosi yet his bagatelles are common fare for beginner pianists. How many of the great composers have since written more than one violin concerto? Compare the number of concerted works of Haydn and Mozart with the successors of Beethoven.

The lyricism of Schubert and his understanding of form are unmatched. Not only do his greatest works compete on many levels with Beethoven's, his smaller works had enormous impact on his immediate successors.

Trying to match or surpass the acheivements of Beethoven was a daunting task and the expression of more personal emotion in smaller works was more appealing. The Romantics moved away from large scale works but added greater chromaticism, more diverse rhythms and new forms. Liszt and Wagner pressed this chromaticism so far that the next logical step was atonality. Tonality had within itself the seeds of its own destruction and Berg, Schoenberg et al brought it about.

If you want to restrict yourself to solo piano music Chopin may well be a good start, though his Nocturnes are not his most characteristic output nor musically his best. His Preludes are widely considered his greatest achievement while his Mazurkas are more personal and intimate. But to understand his musical language in the context of tonal music demands a knowledge of all that went before him and had most influence on him and that means a comprehensive study of Bach and Mozart as well as his nearest contemporary, Liszt. From there a wider knowledge can grow.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal book is as good a summary of early keyboard music as any.
The high Baroque can be studied using Bach's Inventions, Sinfonias, Suites & Partitas, the WTC, and the Goldberg Variations, Handel's 8 Great Suites, and Scarlatti's 15 volumes of Sonatas.

There might be merit in studying CPE Bach as a bridge between Bach and the Classical age of Haydn and Mozart. His Versuch was influential.

Haydn's Sonatas are his best keyboard output and Mozart's are also accompanied by miscellaneous Fantasies, Adagios and Rondos. Both offer worthwhile sets of variations. Clementi's sonatas are as good and are perhaps more pianistic technically though demanding of thirds. His sonatinas are regular fare for beginners.

Beethoven's sonatas are unparalleled and his bagatelles are fertile ground for study. Schubert's sonatas are not all finished but make ideal study of the form and are much more lyrical. His Impromptus and Musical Moments are the foundation for the lyrical forms of the Romantic era such as Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and Grieg's Lyric pieces that have recently been studied en masse in this forum.

The works of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are, perhaps, the best known of solo 'classical' piano works and their successors are perhaps more widely divergent and probably more esoteric but Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Rachmaninov are popular and deserve more than a passing acquaintance.



Wow that is a lot of words and completely misses the point.

He asked to learn and get a feel for classical piano music and he even stated:


Maybe something that't easy to listen to for a beginner

Concertos don't really fit that. He already likes Bach so exposing him to Bach piano does not really fit the above request but listening to Chopin Nocturnes (which despite what you think have the widest appeal) is a terrific place to start.

Everything else you stated is completely irrelevant. It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.

#2111277 - 07/01/13 11:02 PM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: zrtf90]  
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johnnysd Offline
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[quote=zrtf90][quote=johnnysd]What you are saying is akin to saying if you want to learn about classical music than just concentrate on opera because they are the most important and complex works. While true, it is a very narrow view.[/quote]This is a very mistaken interpretation. Whilst opera is a major genre it does not necessarily represent a composer's best work. It is frequently considered a separate study but symphonies and concertos are more commonly considered the summit of a composers achievements, opera specialists such as Wagner and Verdi aside. Bach and Beethoven are considered among the greatest of the great composers and Beethoven's operatic output is woefully small and not comparable, artistically, to his greatest symphonies. A composer puts his best efforts into his most major works. For the majority of the classical composers that is the symphony and concerto. If you want to compare the musical language of a composer then his best works provide his best examples. Comparing Beethoven's language to Wagner's needs to compare orchestral music with vocal. This is an awkward means of comparison because orchestral music is not necessarily to entertain and does not need to progress a story. It is more freely creative and can be more abstract, a deeper philosophical purpose, perhaps. To understand classical music is really to understand the development of tonality and its forms from the modal music of the Renaissance to the atonality of the twentieth century. It does not need to be restricted to the solo piano genre. I wouldn't have chosen a composer who was unique as an introduction to classical music, but someone more representative. Using Chopin's Nocturnes as a starting point is tantamount to studying the Greeks or the Wild West as a summit of human existence or Rembrandt's sketches as the best of art history. You may have a preference for his music but, unfortunately, this is not about personal preference or popularity. It is about the amount of change brought to the musical language, the creative input, the influence on contemporaries and successors and the overall high quality of output. Few would contend that the Nocturnes are Chopin's best output and their influence on what followed is very small. Some of today's popular song forms date back to the Renaissance and before but with the ability of music to change key, after the development of equal temperament, the idea of tonality became a significant tool in the composers arsenal and it was the ability to change key that showed one of the qualities as a composer. The precursors of Bach changed key one accidental at a time and returned to tonic after each trip away, e.g. from C to G or E minor but then returning to C or A minor before venturing off to F or D minor. Bach extended this by making the new key a basecamp for further wanderings moving from what might be considered orbital tonality to satellite tonality. He could move from C to G major but then continued on to D or B minor before returning to C. Haydn and Mozart established the sonata principle by using tonality to define the form of the music instead of architectural means and introduced drama by contrasting keys and themes. The first movement of a sonata followed this principle but the remainder of the symphony was less intellectually involving. Beethoven turned that metaphor on its head and the last movement became the most important. In the Eroica symphony he changed key by three accidentals in one chord. While still earning his living from royalty and aristocracy, they had to dance to his tune not he to theirs and the status of a composer changed. The scale of a symphony reached new heights and it's import became newly defined. Where Haydn produced over 100 symphonies and Mozart in a shorter lifetime wrote over forty, Beethoven only completed nine. No composer since has written them as prolifically as his precursors and few can match his mastery of scale especially while also matching his ability with miniatures. His last five sonatas test even the greatest virtuosi yet his bagatelles are common fare for beginner pianists. How many of the great composers have since written more than one violin concerto? Compare the number of concerted works of Haydn and Mozart with the successors of Beethoven. The lyricism of Schubert and his understanding of form are unmatched. Not only do his greatest works compete on many levels with Beethoven's, his smaller works had enormous impact on his immediate successors. Trying to match or surpass the acheivements of Beethoven was a daunting task and the expression of more personal emotion in smaller works was more appealing. The Romantics moved away from large scale works but added greater chromaticism, more diverse rhythms and new forms. Liszt and Wagner pressed this chromaticism so far that the next logical step was atonality. Tonality had within itself the seeds of its own destruction and Berg, Schoenberg et al brought it about. If you want to restrict yourself to solo piano music Chopin may well be a good start, though his Nocturnes are not his most characteristic output nor musically his best. His Preludes are widely considered his greatest achievement while his Mazurkas are more personal and intimate. But to understand his musical language in the context of tonal music demands a knowledge of all that went before him and had most influence on him and that means a comprehensive study of Bach and Mozart as well as his nearest contemporary, Liszt. From there a wider knowledge can grow. The Fitzwilliam Virginal book is as good a summary of early keyboard music as any. The high Baroque can be studied using Bach's Inventions, Sinfonias, Suites & Partitas, the WTC, and the Goldberg Variations, Handel's 8 Great Suites, and Scarlatti's 15 volumes of Sonatas. There might be merit in studying CPE Bach as a bridge between Bach and the Classical age of Haydn and Mozart. His Versuch was influential. Haydn's Sonatas are his best keyboard output and Mozart's are also accompanied by miscellaneous Fantasies, Adagios and Rondos. Both offer worthwhile sets of variations. Clementi's sonatas are as good and are perhaps more pianistic technically though demanding of thirds. His sonatinas are regular fare for beginners. Beethoven's sonatas are unparalleled and his bagatelles are fertile ground for study. Schubert's sonatas are not all finished but make ideal study of the form and are much more lyrical. His Impromptus and Musical Moments are the foundation for the lyrical forms of the Romantic era such as Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and Grieg's Lyric pieces that have recently been studied en masse in this forum. The works of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are, perhaps, the best known of solo 'classical' piano works and their successors are perhaps more widely divergent and probably more esoteric but Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Rachmaninov are popular and deserve more than a passing acquaintance. [/quote] Wow that is a lot of words and completely misses the point. He asked to learn and get a feel for classical piano music and he even stated: Maybe something that't easy to listen to for a beginner Concertos don't really fit that. He already likes Bach so exposing him to Bach piano does not really fit the above request but listening to Chopin Nocturnes (which despite what you think have the widest appeal) is a terrific place to start. Everything else you stated is completely irrelevant. It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.

#2111335 - 07/02/13 01:40 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
Joined: Mar 2010
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casinitaly Offline

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casinitaly  Offline


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Italy
Quote
Everything else you stated is completely irrelevant. It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.




While I could agree that you don't need to study in-depth to enjoy music, I would argue quite strongly that for many people, myself definitely included, understanding how a piece of music fits into a historical context is fascinating and brings another, richer, dimension to our enjoyment of it.

If I learn something about what Beethoven did differently than his predecessors, I can understand why he became - and remains- so popular. If I'm learning to play Schumann and learn about the lyric aspects of his works - it helps me with my playing.

It is like studying a language - you don't need to study etymology, but if you do understand the roots of words and where they come from - it is quite fascinating to see how they have evolved and to make links in concepts. Again, that's not for everyone, but many people thrive on this kind of information.

Maybe the OP isn't looking for this level of detail -- but if s/he knows nothing about "classical" , I think that this sort of detail gives a great overview and puts things in context.

And if the OP knows nothing about the genres within classical, s/he doesn't even know what s/he doesn't know.

Painting a broad picture to provide an overview of what's what, in my opinion, does a lot to help the OP think about what might be an interesting place to start.



[Linked Image]
#2111341 - 07/02/13 02:39 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
Joined: Jun 2012
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sinophilia Offline

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Italy
I totally agree with casinitaly. And thank you Richard for a wonderful overview.

Classical music is a huge and complex world to explore. Random listening here and there may be pleasing but putting things into context and trying to understand concepts, forms and frameworks is certainly more rewarding on the long term. I took the Yale online course and then went through Prof. Greenberg's course How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, and while I am no expert whatsoever, if I listen to classical radio I can figure out if it's Baroque or Romantic and maybe even the composer. Our brains just love to connect things and pick up differences and similarities.

While I enjoy piano solo recordings, IMHO orchestral music is a different matter entirely. Going to the theatre and listening to a live performance of a Brahms or Beethoven concerto is a transcendental experience, especially if you get to listen to a really good orchestra and director.


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#2111367 - 07/02/13 04:39 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: johnnysd]  
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dire tonic Offline
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uk south
Originally Posted by johnnysd
It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.


I agree, and I believe there are many who claim to 'understand' music who really don't at all.

To the OP: my advice is to follow your instincts and your passion since it sounds like you have both. Musical analysis and history are there for those so inclined but if you have enough curiosity you’ll lead yourself into a much deeper involvement. You'll learn to ask the right questions as and when they’re relevant.

You’ll often find others will want to persuade you that there are absolute benchmarks, that some works are more worthy of your attention than others. I rail against such an idea – so much depends on whether or not you can actually ‘hear’ in the music what is there to be heard and most importantly what the music does for you. An understanding of analysis, history and context may or may not help. And while the great works are evidently grand in scale they’re by no means necessarily more beautiful or more musically satisfying than the miniatures so many of us choose to play. Think of William Blake's "To see a world in a grain of sand…”

#2111368 - 07/02/13 04:40 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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Wuffski Offline
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King Norre, maybe just enter some internet streaming service like SPOTIFY or alike and search for CDs by terms like "best piano". You will quickly find CDs called something like "the 100 most beautiful piano pieces ever", "piano essentials", etc.

You will find some music to appear repeatedly in those offers, which you could call the milestones of classical piano music for beginners in listening classical piano music.
From there you will quickly discover how wide, different, interisting and also boring piano music can be and have your start to find your personal preferences. The piano is best if it is personal, like all music and hobby.

#2111377 - 07/02/13 05:16 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: johnnysd]  
Joined: May 2012
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Bobpickle Offline

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Originally Posted by johnnysd
Everything else you stated is completely irrelevant. It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.


I would argue in listing all of the major composers of the instrument chronologically up to Debussy, as well as providing brief backgrounds, he is more than laying the groundwork from which the original poster may garner "inspiration" on further exploration of his own. Perhaps in situations such as this, spoon-feeding an answer isn't the best solution.

Regards


"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
#2111450 - 07/02/13 08:38 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: King Norre]  
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zrtf90 Offline
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Originally Posted by King Norre
I would love to learn about classical music
...
and specially classical piano music
...
I was wondering if someone could maybe give me some advice about CD's that a classical pianist *must* own or at least know.
...
I do love the cello suites of Bach...But that's a far as my knowledge goes.
Classical music is generally considered to be the period of tonal music, from the Renaissance to the advent of atonality and the most obvious path is that which covers the 'Great Composers'.

Looking specially at classical piano music we can dispense with the great operatic composers (Gluck, Weber, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi and Wagner) and those that don't write for the piano (Berlioz). But the great composers that wrote for keyboard are perhaps better understood in the context of their writing as a whole and putting an emphasis on the major works.

I would contend that no classical pianist be unfamiliar with the major orchestral works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. The development of musical style in keyboard and orchestral music went hand in hand until the advent of the modern piano at the time of Chopin and Liszt.

The composers who specialised in keyboard writing (but might not fit the 'Great Composer' title) include Scarlatti and Clementi.

From the Romantics onward piano writing became more distinct from orchestral writing and took on its own characteristics.

Knowledge of the history and breadth of classical piano music, with some of the main landmarks, was my main thrust. Understanding of the music was not.

While my posts were of inordinate length (my boss was away) and the message unclear to some (it seems) I don't think they were irrelevant.



Richard
#2111467 - 07/02/13 09:07 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: zrtf90]  
Joined: Oct 2002
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King Norre Offline
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King Norre  Offline
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Antwerp, Belgium
Quote
While my posts were of inordinate length (my boss was away) and the message unclear to some (it seems) I don't think they were irrelevant.


Nope, I really appreciate it. It's true that I'm especially interested in piano music, because the piano is my new love, but also classical music by itself interests me. Btw, I really appreciate all the comments here. And it's great that people have different opinions. Discussion, in a positive way, can be really good for learning things. Thank you all!


Be yourself - no more, no less.
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#2111504 - 07/02/13 10:02 AM Re: Classical music for beginners [Re: zrtf90]  
Joined: Apr 2013
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johnnysd Offline
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johnnysd  Offline
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San Diego CA
Originally Posted by zrtf90
Originally Posted by johnnysd
What you are saying is akin to saying if you want to learn about classical music than just concentrate on opera because they are the most important and complex works. While true, it is a very narrow view.
This is a very mistaken interpretation.

Whilst opera is a major genre it does not necessarily represent a composer's best work. It is frequently considered a separate study but symphonies and concertos are more commonly considered the summit of a composers achievements, opera specialists such as Wagner and Verdi aside. Bach and Beethoven are considered among the greatest of the great composers and Beethoven's operatic output is woefully small and not comparable, artistically, to his greatest symphonies.

A composer puts his best efforts into his most major works. For the majority of the classical composers that is the symphony and concerto. If you want to compare the musical language of a composer then his best works provide his best examples. Comparing Beethoven's language to Wagner's needs to compare orchestral music with vocal. This is an awkward means of comparison because orchestral music is not necessarily to entertain and does not need to progress a story. It is more freely creative and can be more abstract, a deeper philosophical purpose, perhaps.

To understand classical music is really to understand the development of tonality and its forms from the modal music of the Renaissance to the atonality of the twentieth century. It does not need to be restricted to the solo piano genre. I wouldn't have chosen a composer who was unique as an introduction to classical music, but someone more representative. Using Chopin's Nocturnes as a starting point is tantamount to studying the Greeks or the Wild West as a summit of human existence or Rembrandt's sketches as the best of art history. You may have a preference for his music but, unfortunately, this is not about personal preference or popularity. It is about the amount of change brought to the musical language, the creative input, the influence on contemporaries and successors and the overall high quality of output. Few would contend that the Nocturnes are Chopin's best output and their influence on what followed is very small.

Some of today's popular song forms date back to the Renaissance and before but with the ability of music to change key, after the development of equal temperament, the idea of tonality became a significant tool in the composers arsenal and it was the ability to change key that showed one of the qualities as a composer.

The precursors of Bach changed key one accidental at a time and returned to tonic after each trip away, e.g. from C to G or E minor but then returning to C or A minor before venturing off to F or D minor. Bach extended this by making the new key a basecamp for further wanderings moving from what might be considered orbital tonality to satellite tonality. He could move from C to G major but then continued on to D or B minor before returning to C.

Haydn and Mozart established the sonata principle by using tonality to define the form of the music instead of architectural means and introduced drama by contrasting keys and themes. The first movement of a sonata followed this principle but the remainder of the symphony was less intellectually involving.

Beethoven turned that metaphor on its head and the last movement became the most important. In the Eroica symphony he changed key by three accidentals in one chord. While still earning his living from royalty and aristocracy, they had to dance to his tune not he to theirs and the status of a composer changed. The scale of a symphony reached new heights and it's import became newly defined. Where Haydn produced over 100 symphonies and Mozart in a shorter lifetime wrote over forty, Beethoven only completed nine. No composer since has written them as prolifically as his precursors and few can match his mastery of scale especially while also matching his ability with miniatures. His last five sonatas test even the greatest virtuosi yet his bagatelles are common fare for beginner pianists. How many of the great composers have since written more than one violin concerto? Compare the number of concerted works of Haydn and Mozart with the successors of Beethoven.

The lyricism of Schubert and his understanding of form are unmatched. Not only do his greatest works compete on many levels with Beethoven's, his smaller works had enormous impact on his immediate successors.

Trying to match or surpass the acheivements of Beethoven was a daunting task and the expression of more personal emotion in smaller works was more appealing. The Romantics moved away from large scale works but added greater chromaticism, more diverse rhythms and new forms. Liszt and Wagner pressed this chromaticism so far that the next logical step was atonality. Tonality had within itself the seeds of its own destruction and Berg, Schoenberg et al brought it about.

If you want to restrict yourself to solo piano music Chopin may well be a good start, though his Nocturnes are not his most characteristic output nor musically his best. His Preludes are widely considered his greatest achievement while his Mazurkas are more personal and intimate. But to understand his musical language in the context of tonal music demands a knowledge of all that went before him and had most influence on him and that means a comprehensive study of Bach and Mozart as well as his nearest contemporary, Liszt. From there a wider knowledge can grow.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal book is as good a summary of early keyboard music as any.
The high Baroque can be studied using Bach's Inventions, Sinfonias, Suites & Partitas, the WTC, and the Goldberg Variations, Handel's 8 Great Suites, and Scarlatti's 15 volumes of Sonatas.

There might be merit in studying CPE Bach as a bridge between Bach and the Classical age of Haydn and Mozart. His Versuch was influential.

Haydn's Sonatas are his best keyboard output and Mozart's are also accompanied by miscellaneous Fantasies, Adagios and Rondos. Both offer worthwhile sets of variations. Clementi's sonatas are as good and are perhaps more pianistic technically though demanding of thirds. His sonatinas are regular fare for beginners.

Beethoven's sonatas are unparalleled and his bagatelles are fertile ground for study. Schubert's sonatas are not all finished but make ideal study of the form and are much more lyrical. His Impromptus and Musical Moments are the foundation for the lyrical forms of the Romantic era such as Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and Grieg's Lyric pieces that have recently been studied en masse in this forum.

The works of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt are, perhaps, the best known of solo 'classical' piano works and their successors are perhaps more widely divergent and probably more esoteric but Brahms, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Rachmaninov are popular and deserve more than a passing acquaintance.



Wow that is a lot of words and completely misses the point.

He asked to learn and get a feel for classical piano music and he even stated:


Maybe something that't easy to listen to for a beginner

Concertos don't really fit that. He already likes Bach so exposing him to Bach piano does not really fit the above request but listening to Chopin Nocturnes (which despite what you think have the widest appeal) is a terrific place to start.

Everything else you stated is completely irrelevant. It does not matter the progression of composing styles and the histories of the development of piano music. He is not asking to study classical piano, he is interested in listening to something that will inspire him and something he will enjoy. He does not need to understand it at all.

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