- L’Ormindo – An Evening of Comic, Candlelit Perfection - 3 April, 2014
- Classical Music – Blurring Lines - 29 March, 2014
- The Proms – The World’s Greatest Classical Musical Festival - 17 August, 2013
‘So…’ he says, leaning towards me over the assortment of glasses that litter the wobbly table in the corner of the bar ‘what kind of music do you sing?’ *deep breath* ‘…I do mainly classical’ comes my faltering reply ‘…Wow… O.k.’ he utters, his face etched with disappointment. I begin to ask if I should stop dating outside of the classical music world in which I am so immersed. I can’t help but wonder what people don’t get from this music. Why do they find it so boring?
One of the problems facing classical music is that of misconception and the dreaded stereotype. Fed on a diet of classical crossover and ‘popera’ albums, mainstream audiences are not exposed to the sheer diversity that lies within classical music. Whilst crossover artists have their place amongst the middle aged, cardigan wearing masses, they often fail to demonstrate the kind of depth and subtlety intended by composers in the pieces that they perform. This subtlety can only be brought out by a truly skilled pair of hands. Crossover artists also seem to choose a bafflingly limited range of repertoire which perhaps suggests a greater commitment to their bank balances than to music itself.
Furthermore, there is nothing in the history of western classical music to suggest this tediousness. Classical composers and performers have been some of the most iconic and notorious figures of their times. Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ caused riots in Paris, Niccolo Paganini was rumoured to have sold his soul to the devil and the original Divas were operatic sopranos such as Maria Callas and Leontyne Price. The tales of sex, scandal, rivalry and intrigue that run throughout the story of classical music are numberless.
Another issue that I should attempt to address is the image that springs to mind when picturing a typical classical music lover. The elderly, lavender fragranced woman with bouffant hair, more money than sense, an attitude problem and a handbag full of Murray Mints that I used to imagine before experiencing my first classical concert. She does exist, but she is a minority. The vast majority of classical music audiences are ordinary people living on ordinary budgets who are there for one reason alone, to sit and listen to music that they love. Surely they can’t all be wrong. It is a fact that all genres of music suffer from this kind of stereotyping, none more so than classical. Whether you’re a hipster, a queen or a single mum you’ll be expected to fit a certain musical mould. There’s nothing, however, to stop an aging librarian from listening to gangsta rap, or you from trying classical music
The path of classical music stretches back through the centuries travelling alongside the developments of art and society. With this vast back catalogue of music and countless new classical works still being written, many of which take inspiration from other genres such as electronic music, I find it hard to believe that anyone could fail to find at least something that they like. ‘If there’s that much music, where do I start?’ I hear you ask and I fully understand your concern. Society has, after all, tried to squeeze over half a millennium’s worth of music into one cramped and unhelpfully labelled genre.
My advice would be simply to dive in headfirst. I have provided links to a range of pieces below in reverse chronological order to serve as a starting point on your new found quest. I urge you to take some time out to listen to these recordings with a cup of tea (or other hot beverage) and a comfortable pair of headphones. You should make full use of the ‘suggested’ functions of YouTube and Spotify etc. You never know where they might take you or what you might discover.
A very good place to start:
Spring 0 and 1 recomposed by Max Richter.
The Protecting Veil by John Tavener. Performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Six Marimbas by Steve Reich. Performed by the nief-norf project.
Hymn to St. Cecilia by Benjamin Britten. Performed by the Cambridge Singers.
O Sacrum Convivium by Olivier Messiaen. Performed by the Cambridge singers.
Cello Concerto 1st Movement by Edward Elgar. Performed by Jaqueline du Pre conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit from Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms. Performed by Arleen Auger and the Münchener Philharmoniker & Chorus.
Symphony 7, 2nd Movement by Luwig van Beethoven. Performed by the Wiener Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Die Holle Rache from Die Zauberflote by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Performed by Diana Damrau.
Canon in D by Johannes Pachelbel. Performed on period instruments by Voices of Music.
Beatus Vir by Claudio Monteverdi. Performed by the Sixteen.
O pastor animarum by Hildegard von Bingen. Performed by the Oxford Camerata.