Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – Honorable Mention – Jobim Girl From Ipanema

I’m giving an honorable mention to Antonio Carlos Jobim in my Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical for his amazing and inventive song, The Girl From Ipanema. 

Jobim was born in Brazil and studied music with a German composer who moved to Brazil, who introduced atonality and twelve-tone techniques to Brazilian composers. Jobim was also influenced by Debussy and Ravel as well as Heitor Villa-Lobos, a Brazilian composer who also composed a lot of great pieces. Jobim’s real delight was mixing in jazz flavors from the United States, as he did with this song. 

The song is actually one of the most recorded songs of all time, which is really impressive. What makes this song so cool for me is how Jobim treats the melody in relation to the harmony. One of the things I love about jazz is extensions in harmony, the Sevenths, Ninths, Elevenths, and Thirteenths, and spice the harmonies in such beautiful ways. 

The Girl from Ipanema is in the key of Db major (one of Chopin’s favorite keys, too). The melody, however dances right around the tonic. The first measure is a Dbmaj9 with the melody starting on the 9th, the Eb, dropping to the Maj7, the C before dropping to the Bb, the 6th scale degree. The second chord, on the third measure, is an Eb13. And so it goes, not following any kind of typical progression. In fact the chord progressions are as follows: Dbmaj9, Eb13, Ebm7, A b7, Db9, D9. It’s such a smooth gliding between close by sonorities. 

The bridge is even more unique. Using a sequence, the bridge starts on Dmaj7 going to G7–a fairly common V-I progression. But the sequence then goes to Dm7 going to Bb7, which breaks the V-I of the initial sequence. Finally the sequence ends with Ebm9 going to B9, which is even wilder! The bridge ends with Fm7 – Bb7(b9) – Ebm7 – Ab b7(b9), a nice, gentle smooth ride around the circle of fifths leading back to the V of Db, the Ab, which brings us back to one last verse of the main theme. 

It’s such a lovely use of chord progression for such a plea for the unattainable. The lyrics are about a real life woman named Heloisa Pinheiro, who walked past a cafe every day, with the men in the area whistling at her. Jobim wrote the following lyrics for the song:

Tall and tan and young and lovely

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

And when she passes, each one she passes 

Goes “a-a-a-h”

When she walks she’s like a samba

That swings so cool and sways so gentle

That when she passes, each one she passes

Goes “a-a-a-h”

Oh, but I watch her so sadly

How can I tell her I love her

Yes, I would give my heart gladly

But each day as she walks to the sea

She looks straight ahead, not at me

Tall and tan and young and lovely

The girl from Ipanema goes walking

And when she passes, I smile, but she

Doesn’t see. She just doesn’t see

No, she just doesn’t see

As for good recordings, you can’t beat the original with Stan Getz on the saxophone. They made a live recording of the song, which you can see here. 

I also want to share this cover by Elise Trouw because she gets the right vibe for the song. Really nicely done. Enjoy. 

#14 – Mozart Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551

#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

Jobim Girl From Ipanema 

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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