Off Topic Messages

Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:11 am

We rarely, if ever, talk about classical music on here, but I'm sure there are many of us that listen and/or own a fair amount. I often land up buying classical stuff on LP from charity shops - a great way to hear something you don't already own, and occasionally you come across something you really fall in love with. And what's more the liner notes are often almost worth the price of admission by themselves.

I picked up an LP recently of the "Lenore" symphony by Raff. I have no idea who Raff is, to be perfectly honest, but according to the liner notes, this was a regular concert piece at the beginning of the 20th century but then fell out of favour for some reason. I have no idea why, as it really is a wonderful piece, not hugely dissimilar in style to Berlioz or even early Tchaikovsky.

But what classical music do you listen to, and have you ever uncovered a hidden gem that you have fallen in love with?

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:12 am

I'm sure you know that I'm a fan of classical and orchestral music, given some of our discussions in the past. I'm particularly fond of Strauss' waltzes and polkas, adore the music of George Gershwin and tremendously enjoy the works of Bach, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Liszt, Grieg, Rachmaninov and Previn. Any of the aforementioned conducted, or played, by the great Daniel Barenboim is always marvellous, whilst, I like the late Alexei Sultanov's recitals of Rachmaninov's piano concertos -- Concerto No. 2 in particular. As a conductor, next to Barenboim, I would cite Georges Pretre as a firm favourite, especially with the work of Strauss; and, like Barenboim, Pretre is accomplished as a jazz musician. Which, of course, leads me to the classical and orchestral pieces conducted by Frank Sinatra. Tone Poems in Colour is a wonderfully evocative, beautifully arranged and composed series of pieces that are captivating in their eloquence. Whilst, Sinatra's baton-handling with Alec Wilder's classical work was modern, with occasional shades if Jose Iturbi, yet indicative of Frank's increasing musical depths and the success he would come to have as a conductor. In 2012, its difficult to overlook Andre Rieu, of course, but one of the most diverse and exciting orchestras working today is John Wilson's orchestra. They specialise in Broadway tunes and the golden era of Hollywood musicals, but there's such richness and depth here that I have to give mention -- I'm frequently captivated by their interpretations of some of my favourite music.

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:20 am

Andre Rieu is certainly a force to be reckoned with, and yet something of an enigma in many ways. It is so difficult to pinpoint what it is that makes him so very popular, and what it is that makes him and his music effect so many people in a positive way. And these positive effects are something I have seen with my own eyes during my Dad's final couple of years. Very little would give him any great joy, but put a Rieu DVD in the player and you would notice his foot start tapping, and slowly but surely he would come to life. Seeing something like that on a number of occasions is what makes the cuts to funding of the arts in the UK so sad. Yes, science can often cure our ills, but for those for which a cure is not available, the arts can make such a difference to their quality of life. And yet this is something that is now seemingly unrecognised or, worse, brushed under the carpet.

But what has made Rieu such a much-loved figure is hard to detect, and what makes him connect with his public is also an enigma - Dad, for example, would never normally listen to that type of music. Yes. he is a talented musician, a good showman, and a likeable personality - but there is a magic ingredient there which is hard to figure out. The cinema was doing a live broadcast of him Maastricht show this year and I took Mum to it as a treat. The place was packed, and not just with the age group you might expect - there were plenty of young there too. Perhaps there is a link with the waltz music of Rieu and the popularity of Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars etc? I have no idea. I haven't seen many of the shows that Mum has on DVD, but did think the one this summer was rather manipulative in its editing, which I thought was a shame and unnecessary. But no doubt the vast majority of the people watching had no clue that the tear rolling down the eye of the audience member on camera probably happened in a show the year before and was just edited in. And perhaps it just doesn't matter. But it would be a shame if the Rieu shows and merchandise became such a well-oiled machine that they lost some of the spontaneity and fun that no doubt helped to make them so popular in the first place.

It's odd that you single out performers, because it's not until recently that it has bothered me when I buy a recording. But just lately I have been searching out the performances I had of certain pieces when I was kid: Cutner Solomon performing the Grieg and Schumann piano concertos, Josef Suk performing the Bruch/Mendelssohn violin concertos and (so far in vain) Ilana Vered playing the Tchaikovsky 1st and Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concertos. I was also overjoyed when EMI reissued the Rostropovich Tchaikovsky symphony cycle a few years back, which I also had as a teenager on LP. They are simply wonderful recordings.

Searching out oddities can be fun, too, and I used to take the most random things out of the library when I was around 13 or so. Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe was taken out on a whim, and has given me immense joy ever since. Finding "lost" or "forgotten" works is always a guilty pleasure - there is a sense of belonging to a secret club to which only a few people belong. Offenbach's music on the whole is often under-rated. Sadly he is remembered only for a handful of pieces, and yet him cello concerto, cello duets, piano pieces and stand-alone orchestral works are often a joy.

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:34 am

The 2001 theme.

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:38 am

I think the allure of Rieu comes partly from his own presence and personality, which adds a face and a name to the music. Music that's known and loved, of course, but in him, he becomes, quite literally, a conductor between music and listener. He's a presence that's appealing and can be related to -- and there, on stage, surrounded by wonderful musicians, he stands tall, proud and identifiable. John Wilson does something similar, looking bookish and friendly, perhaps easy to relate to, much like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey were. Rieu has an air of refined magnificence, and from that, I think he is quite magnificent. Even if some purists occasionally balk. But that's what purists do best.

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:19 am

my top 5
1.mozart (especially Reqium)
2.bach
3.strauss
4.beethoven
5.ravel

Re: Classical Music: What do you listen to?

Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:47 pm

It's nice to hear positive comments on here about Andre Rieu. I have seen his concerts six times in Australia since 2008 and have met him three times. I am also friend's with his Aussie soprano Mirusia. His concert's are just magnificent and Mr Rieu is one of the friendliest people you could meet.
At one point here in Australia he had 9 DVD's in the Top Ten Aria charts ! Amazing! Every dvd he releases here goes straight to Number 1. He truly is a freak of nature.