- Edward Elgar, Variations on an Original Theme for orchestra (‘Enigma’). op. 36 // Each variation is supposedly a depiction of one of Elgar’s friends, and the degree to which these extra-musical ideas and the music interact is an interesting point to consider. The ‘enigma’ is a hidden theme that Elgar said is ‘not played’, and he rejected all the suggestions for its identity put forward during his lifetime – a private joke designed to infuriate musicologists and critics?
- Frédéric Chopin, Piano Sonata no. 3 in B minor, op. 58 // One of only three pieces that Chopin decided to call a ‘sonata’, and an interesting (and beautiful) engagement with the genre.
- Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 9 in D minor op. 125 ‘Choral’ // Yes, the big bad daddies of symphonic music makes it onto the list. These days it is trotted out whenever classical music is needed at an important social or political event (c.f. the fall of the Berlin Wall, its use as the EU anthem, etc.), Richard Wagner used it as part of the aesthetic justification for his venture away from absolute music into ‘music dramas’, and it’s probably a guaranteed money-spinner for orchestras worldwide. As a sign of its status, it was the first musical score to be added to the United Nations World Heritage List. At this stage the myths surrounding the piece and its cumulative reception history are probably as significant for its aesthetic effect as many of the ‘musical’ features.
- Charles Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
- Bob Dylan, Maggie’s Farm