Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What’s Your Favorite Classical Music?

This goes out to everyone as a challenge, no, I’m not going to start playing "tag" with this one. I happened to be listening to the music I have stored away on my computer’s hard drive; which by comparison, MP3 cannot hold a candle to the quality that comes off a CD. It will do for going down the freeway or even at 30,000 feet when there is enough distracting background noise; not so in my office where the acoustics are excellent.

I will get to my list of favorite pieces of classical music momentarily. I had to turn off “iTunes” and walk around to my real stereo machine to put the same music on, only this time from the original CD. Since I am hard of hearing I can crank it up and enjoy it anywhere in the house, that is, until Lucy gets home and reminds me that the volume knob should never pass 70, kind of like having a traffic cop for loud music. The good thing is I only get warning tickets for passing 70, and my radar is pretty good about picking her up when she starts up the driveway.

I will start with “Midori’s Encore” CD, the first cut is by far what sold me on purchasing the rest. If you never listen to any of the rest on that album then enjoy, “Kreisler: Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani)”, for 5 minutes and 53 seconds you won’t find a better selection. I like that, I could get a job working the PBS station except I couldn’t pronounce most of what I just typed. Speaking of PBS radio announcers; I was going down the road one day and at the end of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, they actually had some fun by tossing in the line, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”. ( I double checked the spelling and if there are any errors they are duplicated on the back of the CD folder.)

Next on my list would have to be Yo Yo Ma’s recording, "Variations on a Rococo Theme, Opus 33", by Tchaikovsky. I happen to have this on Laser Disk. For you young folks, Laser Disk was the precursor of DVD format. I have the "Tchaikovsky Gala in Leningrad, the 150th Birthday Gala". I had seen it on a PBS broadcast and jumped on it when I saw this on a clearance table at the movie store when they were abandoning all of their Laser stock. If I happen to see it in either DVD or CD format I will add them to my collection. Also on that recording are Itzhak Perlman doing the Violin Concerto and then Boris Berezovsky with the Piano Concerto. I always skip Jessye Norman’s opera gig, not my style. I have found that I appreciate Yo Yo Ma’s work even more while observing him perform as opposed to simply listening to it on a CD. This may hold true to the rest of my selections; watching a performance is almost always better. Being in attendance may be the only thing better; but that only lasts for the one memory while having the recording makes it possible to enjoy again and again.

"Horowitz in Moscow", once again in Laser Disc format, although I have seen it on DVD and CD. I sent the latter to my folks as a Christmas present one year. There is some interview time, a waste of my time, I bought it for the music. Side Two is my favorite, his interpretation of Liszt’s, "Sonetto del Petrarca No. 104 in E major", is awesome.
Pianos are not supposed to be able to respond in such a way, at least mechanically the sounds Horowitz manufactured are supposed to be impossible to generate. There are some very short pieces that are treasures also.

No collection would be complete without some Gershwin. I have several recordings of his work; my favorite at one time had been on a “Dollar table” where I picked up an archived 33rpm of Gershwin playing his own music. I eventually gave it as a gift to an old musician who happened to see it in my collection. I figure he needed it more than I did. In its place I have “Gershwin Plays Gershwin –The Piano Rolls”. These are all cuts taken from old Player Piano Rolls that George Gershwin had originated at his own hand. The exception to that is found on the last cut, "An American in Paris", where some engineering magic was used to accomplish the trick of having 4 handed piano recording by one man. All of the cuts were re-recorded onto CD and fed into a Yamaha Disklavier grand piano which was able to capture the individual style. The recording then became a close rendering, as if George Gershwin had given the concert live on stage.

In case you are wondering what parameters I have set when I mention my classical collection; my last entry of favorites would have to be the Beatles, "Abby Road", more specifically, the compilation beginning with “Here Comes the Sun” on to the end where it sounds as one piece of continuous music. As my grandson would say, “It Rocks!”.

I would not say that this is the “be all end all” of my classical collection; it covers a little ground and I wish I had a percentage of the take when I say to you, go buy these now and thank me later. Some of the music that didn’t make this list would include; the Beethoven Violin Concerto, either by Perlman or Stern, Tchaikovsky’s collection to include Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Violin and Piano concertos, and the Nutcracker. Sousa marches, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto’s 2 and 3, Dvorak’s New World and his Slavic Dances, and Scott Joplin’s Rags.

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