My Favorites: Mahler's Third and the Goldbergs

By Brian McCreath

For the week of Valentine's Day, we'll be playing the music you love most, and in that spirit, here is the first in a series of what a few of us here at 99.5 All Classical love most. 

Please submit your favorites here!

Feb. 7

A few weeks ago, as we began gearing up to ask you what your favorite classical pieces are, our crack pledge drive producer, Amanda Goodwin, asked me, along with others around here, what my favorites are.  I was stumped.  It seemed impossible to take all the remarkable, meaningful pieces of music I love and come up with one, or even three that I'd say are favorites.

But after a while of mulling it over, it really did come down to two pieces, the two that ground me and that never really get old.

One is the Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 3.  Famously massive and all-encompassing (maybe, amongst all of Mahler's symphonies, the best reflection of his philosophy that "a symphony must be like the world;  it must contain everything"), its trajectory is an incredible journey from earthy mystery to glowing transcendence, with so much in between. 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, continues to be the recording I return to, with a natural, unforced pace and exquisite, nuanced execution from the players of that incredible orchestra.

And another piece also rose to the top in mulling over the question.  Bach's Goldberg Variations also offer an amazing journey, but its journey, unlike the Mahler, brings you back to the place where it started.  It's just that, when hearing the opening aria again after all that's happened over the course of the 32 variations, you simply can't be the same person as when that aria opened the piece.

There are plenty of incredible recordings of this piece (including the phenomenal 1955 performance by Glenn Gould), but my reference point remains Murray Perahia's.

I hope you'll take the opportunity to let us know what your favorites are.  We're hoping to play as many of them as we can on the air during the week of Valentine's Day.  If you're like me, the question of "favorite classical music" might seem overwhelming at first, but I bet there are a couple of pieces that, after you think it over, really stand out. 

Submit your entries here.

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