Last week I blogged on New York violinist Philippe Quint, who hit the streets to ask folk how come you’re not listening to classical music?
In response, a commenter suggested “a top ten list for beginners.”
‘Great idea!’ I thought (suggesting there were a few I recommended in this post, which could be a good start).
But how to begin that ideal list? How to pick out of ten-thousand candidates the top ten pieces to seduce the intelligent beginner who, at best, has only ever heard classical music in movies and games and as background noise at dinner parties? How to narrow it down? So, even better idea I thought: why not write one myself, and get well-known enthusiast for classical music Lindsay Perigo to write another—the idea being that we each prepare our own top-ten list for the person I like to think I write for –a fellow I like to call The Intelligent Truckdriver--and we see if anything sticks.
So here, first up, is Lindsay’s list of Classics to seduce The Intelligent Truckdriver, something he calls ‘setruction’ . . .
Now that I have your undivided attention: Oirishman O'Cresswell of Not PC infamy has asked me for a list of ten pieces of music with which I'd attempt to seduce an intelligent truck driver. Alas, my seduction days are long over, and I never scored a truck driver anyway, intelligent or otherwise, even in my libidinous heyday—but if the object of the exercise is to awaken members of said vocation, and any uninitiated general readers, to the orgasmic joys of real music, I would regard truck drivers as much less of a challenge than university graduates dehumanised by pomowank and its corollary, headbanging caterwauling (or John Cage and his merciful but pretentious silences).
I have long argued that music of the Romantic genre and its offshoots, such as Hollywood movie scores, is unsurpassed in its capacity to ignite the spark of idealistic emotions, to excite our capacity for rapture—or, as I put it in my essay, Music of the Gods, to generate "value-swoon." For this to happen, though, the relevant receptors must be present, and alive, even if dormant. Nowadays, in the case of most entities that look human, these sensibilities have been killed off by decades of headbanging caterwauling, government schooling and the ethos of nihilism. Grandeur and glory stand little chance. But I'll proceed anyway.
The first selection, Warsaw Concerto, is a one-movement mini-concerto in the style of one of the Romantic greats, Rachmaninoff, written for the wartime movie Dangerous Moonlight. It's just ten minutes long, manageable even for state-dumbed-down moronnials. It will be a good indicator of the condition of your receptors. If this doesn't do it for you, I'd suggest you don't even think of proceeding any further! You are not a good candidate for setruction! Regardless of your vocation you'd assuredly be wasting your time! (All of the following are YouTube links. Be sure to push the button that eliminates commercials!)
The first four notes of that concerto's theme, by coincidence or design, formed the basis of a popular song by Carl T. Fischer, When You're in Love. Frankie Laine wrote the lyrics and topped the charts with it; Mario Lanza then sang it on his radio show. I can't imagine love's intoxication being extolled more ardently than this. The surging high notes are a wonder of the world. Imagine our truckie pulled up at the lights blasting this out the windows. No time for ‘setruction’; he'd be mobbed, and there'd be traffic bedlam:
As Richard Addinsell composed Warsaw Concerto, he surrounded himself with the scores of Rachmaninoff's 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Here's the Rach 3 played by the stupendous Martha Argerich. Piano is a bit jangly but the performance cannot fail to get our truckie's juices flowing:
As should be apparent by now, in Romantic music "it's the melody, stoopid!" Of course harmony and rhythm matter, and reached new heights of complexity in the Romantic era, but the overarching factor was the thing that makes music music. Melody. The tune. One of the greatest melodists was Chopin. Here's his Ballade No.1.
And another Arthur takes us back to Romanticism's beginnings. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 is on the cusp between Classicism and Romanticism. Our brainy truck driver will note how Mozartian it sounds, and yet how it itches to cut loose, and sometimes does. The astonishingly young performer is a happy reminder that not all millennials are moronnials. And he throws in some more Chopin for good measure!
That concerto was one of the many works alluded to in Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A Minor, composed in memory of his piano virtuoso friend Nicholas Rubinstein. Joshua Bell is something of a weak link in the chain here, but the other two are breathtaking:
Another melody wizard was Max Bruch. His glorious Scottish Fantasy is bound to arouse our peripatetic truckie!
And while we're in the region (sort of) let's truck off to Norway for Grieg's verdant concerto:
No lightning introduction to Romanticism would be complete without at least one selection by Brahms, melody's Keeper of the Faith par excellence. Here's his sublime Alto Rhapsody. I'd suggest printing out Goethe's words ... follow ... wallow ... and repeat!
By now our intrepid truckie must be ready for a full-blown symphony. For this I'll repair to Tchaikovsky again—his triumphal Fifth, with the Boston Symphony and the matchless Leonard Bernstein. A fitting climax to our virgin truckie's introduction to rapture:
If he didn't get musical orgasm from that we must assume he's clinically, incurably, intractably frigid! But my hope is, he's been well and truly setructed, and I shall have fulfilled Oirishman O'Cresswell's un-pc brief!.
Lindsay Perigo is a former television newsreader and interviewer, a present-day professional voice coach, an opera buff and capital music reviewer for Wellington’s Capital magazine, and the author of Total Passion for the Total Height and The One Tenor: A Salute to Mario Lanza (with foreword by leading tenor Simon O’Neill).
He can be found at his blog, SOLO for Sense of Life Objectivists, his website LindsayPerigo.Com, and even—on supremely odd occasions—at Facebook. Make the most of that.
NB: So there you go: 4 hours, 26 minutes of joy! Spotify users can enjoy the selection thus: