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A few from the classical canon I've enjoyed over the years. Inspiration for a novelist and occasional short story writer who dabbles with poems too.

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Antonio Vivaldi - The Four Seasons

Easily Vivaldi's most famous work and a perennial favourite of the classical repertoire. Thoroughly baroque, it nevertheless presages the coming symphonic style and provides a template for classical concertos. The rhythmic invention allied with soaring melodies makes for a joyful and unforgettable listen. The thematic link - the seasons - provide an early example of programme music.

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J S Bach - The Brandenburg Concertos

6 thematically unrelated pieces sharing the singular dedication which gives rise to their naming. A variety of baroque chamber pieces, not all of them strictly concerti, but all exquisite ensemble pieces that are amongst the most famous and accomplished works from the baroque canon. Strident and uplifting, as sunny as the Med in mid-summer, as fresh as a sea breeze.

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Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks

A late baroque period piece, grander in concept than either The Four Seasons or The Brandenburgs, utilising - at least in modern performances - an almost full classical orchestra. (Handel himself scored it for a giant band of wind instruments only, including 24 oboes!). Like his Water Music, Handel meant this to be performed outdoors, along with a fireworks display, at least when he was trying to impress his royal patrons. Some of that pomposity undoubtedly rubs off in the piece, but it's a dazzling listen nonetheless, breath-taking, even, if you're in the mood.

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Mozart - Clarinet Concerto

I have to confess I'm not particularly fond of the clarinet; it's well enough providing a touch of tonal colour in the background, but upfront as centre-piece, generally I'd rather give it a miss. Except here. Like much of his later work - this was composed in the year of his death - it's bordering on overripe. It's brilliance and beauty is almost crippling, and for the religious minded it must sound, like so much of Wolfgang Amadeus's output, like the voice of God speaking, a sentiment echoed in the wonderful Peter Shaffer play Amadeus, later filmed splendidly by Milos Forman. For humble atheists like me, I can only marvel at the genius and wallow in the unbelievably moving soundscape Mozart creates.

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Beethoven - 9th Symphony (The choral)

Ludwig's final symphony contains 4 of the most exquisite symphonic movements ever composed. The opening movement is quite unlike anything that preceded it, the elusive themes delivered on quivering strings before a muscular reassertion of the full orchestra. The second movement is a swirling scherzo that seems capable of transporting you, literally, to some heaven somewhere. The third movement is sublime, the loveliest of lyrical musical poems, bewitching and uplifting. Everyone knows the famous finale, the magnificent chorus that joins the orchestra in a heady celebration of the joys of life, the choice, as legend has it, to add the chorus almost thrust upon Beethoven because of the power of the first 3 movements. Two hundred years later this masterpiece still ranks as one of the greats, and in many people's view the greatest ever.

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Grieg - Piano Concerto

As dramatic a piece as you'll ever hear. There's no messing about with an overture, it's straight in with a quick drum roll and an array of chords and a flourish that uses the full length of the piano keyboard. Then the orchestra is allowed a little say, with something like an overture, but it doesn't last. The orchestra is second fiddle virtually all the way through this astonishing piece, the piano insistent and dominant, in places almost toying with the orchestra. Memorable stuff.

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Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture

The opening is sombre, but it's quickly into its racing stride, hurtling toward triumph and celebration. A fitting way to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in Russia. It's a pity about the damn cannons: it's a sod to perform.

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Sibelius - Karelia Suite

The famous opening intermezzo establishes a martial quality to the suite, reinforced by the out and out uninhibited marching theme of the finale. Perhaps this reflects the military history of the oft disputed Karelia lands. But the tunes are sweet and sonorous, in keeping with the more naïve view of the suite evoking the beauty of the Karelian landscape. Whatever the truth, it's a luscious listen and well worth 15 minutes of anyone's time.

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Faure - Dolly Suite

There's not an awful lot to say beyond they are 6 light, charming, delightful pieces written for and dedicated to the little girl Dolly whose mother was a lover of Faure's. Originally scored as piano duets (four hands, one piano) but there are recorded orchestral arrangements. I prefer the intimacy of the piano duets.

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Rodrigo - Guitar Concerto

Known as The Concierto de Aranjuez, inspired by the gardens at Palacio Real de Aranjuez, so Wikipedia informs me. Perhaps the foremost Spanish composer of the 20th century, remarkably Rodrigo didn't even play the guitar. Nevertheless, this amazing piece is as Spanish as paella, a showpiece for classical guitar. I always feel better having listened to it.

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