The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #90211   Message #1710450
Posted By: Don Firth
04-Apr-06 - 03:12 PM
Thread Name: Classical music - what makes you listen?
Subject: RE: Classical music - what makes you listen?
I used to work as an announcer for a local classical music station. What a job! Other than some pre-programming by the program director (who had pretty good taste and was knowledgeable), I got to play pretty much what I wanted within reasonable limits. I read some news and a few commercials, announced the records, then sat there with a cup of coffee in my hands and my feet propped up and listen to the kind of music (one of the kinds of music) that I love, got the ego-boo of my name being recognized by local classical music buffs, and got paid to do this!!

I knew a fair amount about classical music before I went to work there (otherwise, I wouldn't have got the job), but the station had a massive music library and I made a lot of discoveries while I was there. It would really be hard to say that I had (have) favorites. Among other things, I first heard a Luciano Pavarotti record while working there. This was awhile back and not all that many people had heard him. I was playing Rossini's Stabat Mater (oratorio) in which Pavarotti sang the "Cujus animam gementem" aria. Pavarotti was younger at the time, and although his voice is still holding up well, it was even clearer and more ringing when he made this recording. I sat there with my ears bent forward and my mouth open. I was used to hearing great operatic tenors, but this was phenomenal! About ten seconds after the aria was over, all the buttons on the phone lit up, and everybody had the same question:   "My God, who was that!???"

I first head a Christopher Parkening recording there (Parkening Plays Bach). One of the salesmen walked in and said, "You play the guitar, don't you?" I allowed as how I did, so he gave me a pair of free tickets to an up-coming Parkening concert at the Seattle Opera House. I knew a girl who liked classic guitar. I took her to the concert. First date. Married her a year and a half later.

It would really be hard to say that I have favorite pieces. I listen to a lot of Early Music. We have a bunch of Baltimore Consort CDs, along with one of Custer La Rue, one of the vocalist with the group singing folk ballads. We saw them in concert a couple of years ago and I had a chance to chat for a few minutes with Ronn McFarlane, the lutenist. Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, others, anytime. Rimsky-Korsakoff's Scheherezade has some of the lushest orchestration ever written, Tchaikowsky is no slouch in that area either, and Rachmaninoff's piano concerti are also very rich.

Barbara and I held season tickets to Seattle Opera for several years and took in one of SO's Ring festivals (all four of Wagners' Ring of the Niebelung operas in one week—man, was that a lot of sitting!). Wagner is an acquired taste for many, but I think I've acquired it. Favorite excerpts:   Wotan's Farewell sung by a really good bass-baritone (e.g., the late George London) with segue into the Magic Fire Music. Once, when driving down a country road at a good clip, the radio was playing an orchestral arrangement of the Ride of the Valkyries. When it hit the part where the whole orchestra dives in full-blast on the main theme, it was like flying! Wow!

Opera in general. Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Puccini, Bizet, lots of others. Speaking of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, I have an old recording of tenor-baritone duets from opera with Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill. They do several, including the duet from The Pearl Fischers and Verdi's Don Carlo, both of which are real goose-bumpers.

Vaughn Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, definitely on the list.

More. Between Barbara and me, we have LPs, tapes, and CDs up the ziggy, and we keep getting more. Great stacks of stuff, including heaps of classic guitar, not to mention all the folk music. HELP!! Is there a 12-step program for this sort of thing?

Don Firth