Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – Honorable Mention – Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

I need to give Shostakovich an honorable mention for his Suite for Variety Orchestra. Hardly anyone today knows it by that name. This is one of those pieces that got lost in the mix. For the longest time it was misidentified as Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2, or Jazz Suite No. 2. And that’s how I’ve always known it since I first heard the CD for this amazing music back in the 1990s. 

Shostakovich was a prolific and diverse composer, composing for a wide variety of styles and his music was always full of frenetic life. Such is also the case with this suite which really isn’t jazz, but because it has saxophones and trumpets and trombones and other unconventional orchestra members, it doesn’t fit in traditionally. There are eight pieces in the suite, from a fantastic March to dances, waltzes, and polkas. 

Each piece has an interesting melody, well formed and memorable. The Lyric Waltz is probably the most famous. Kubrick used it at the beginning of Eyes Wide Shut, and it has been in other media over the years. My favorite is definitely that first March, a five part rondo. 

The history of these pieces is interesting too, because several pieces actually come from previous larger works Shostakovich composed and he added them in here. Shostakovich was really taken in with jazz and wanted to write jazz music. But the Soviets in charge had a big distrust of jazz music and would not allow it. He still incorporated jazz into his music when he could. 

I have loved listening to these eight pieces over the last 25 some odd years and think everyone should at least give them a listen, too. This is a good version of the Suite for Variety Orchestra. 

Now, about the REAL Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2…Shostakovich composed two Suites for Jazz Orchestra. The first is really good. The 2nd suite was actually lost during World War II and was discovered in the late 90s. Irina Shostakovich, Dmitri’s wife, asked Gerard McBurney, a British composer, to orchestrate the suite, which he did. Here is the video for the world premiere, at least since the original was lost. Enjoy. This is actually my first time listening to the actual Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 2 because I’ve always thought it was the Suite for Variety Orchestra. Such luck we have to find new Shostakovich music. 

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Shostakovich Suite for Variety Orchestra

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

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