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What was your introduction to classical music? [View All]

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Barad Simith Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-28-04 07:49 PM
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What was your introduction to classical music?
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Mine was Christopher Parkening Plays Bach. I was 15, and my older brother was taking guitar lessons from a man who gave him a cassette copy.

I recognized the tunes, but this was my first introduction to Bach (as far as knowing this music was his). And Parkening is such a master. You would swear he's dubbing in a second guitar, but my brother saw him perform later that year in Seattle, and he said all that sound is coming out of a single guitar. (My brother and his girlfriend, both 17, were the only ones at that concert in jeans, he said.)

I bought a copy for myself, and that was the extent of my classical collection for a few years -- one Bach cassette.

Then one day in early 1979 I was in a grocery store, and they were selling volume one (Tchaikovsky) of the Funk & Wagnalls Joy of Great Music LP series. It was 99 cents, with the next 23 volumes something like $2.99 each.

Side one was Swan Lake excerpts, and side two was Sleeping Beauty excerpts. I fell in love with the waltz from Act I of Swan Lake.

I never found a better version of that waltz, even though I collected it by several composers and orchestras, always searching for a version on CD that would equal that old Funk & Wagnalls record. Over a twenty-five year period, I would buy the record every time I found it in a used record store -- I even purchased a couple of sealed copies I found.

The idea was that someday, someone would invent a way to record LPs onto CD, and when that technology arrived, I wanted to be ready with the best copy of that waltz I could find.

And then came eBay, and the mighty search engine. A few months ago I found a sealed copy of that exact recording on CD (different artwork, label, etc.). It's by the Vienna Symphony, conducted by Edouard van Remoortel. After all those years, I found it on CD, brand new, sealed, for $3.45.

Next was the 1980 Carl Sagan Cosmos series on PBS. I bought the soundtrack because a Vangelis number ("Heaven & Hell, Part 1") reminded me vaguely of the music from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Here I was introduced to Pachelbel and Verdi. The producers connected the Canon to "Spring" (from The Four Seasons), and the result was a perfect fit. I realized that what Verdi did with the violin in the latter piece was no different than what Hendrix did with the electric guitar.

Next was a random purchase based on the LP cover: Alex de Grassi's Slow Circle -- more classical guitar (though some would categorize him as new age).

It was Copland's Appalachian Spring that hooked me for good, made me realize that my previous discoveries were not flukes, that there's a reason this stuff has been popular for so long! I heard the piece in a record store while looking for the usual early '80s ear candy (probably B-52s or Talking Heads), and discarded whatever I was considering in favor of the Copland LP. From that night on, I would never hear classical music with anything but an open mind (open ear?).

Soon after, I stumbled across Glenn Gould's "Bach: Goldberg Variations" (a must-have for anyone who loves Bach, Gould or the piano), but...

The Milos Forman masterpiece Amadeus was my baptism. After seeing it a couple of times, I bought literally dozens of Mozart CDs, many of them classic reissues from the '50s and '60s, and just as many new digital recordings spurred on by the wave of the Mozart revival of the '80s.

From there, I bought all sorts of music at random, from the standards like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Schubert, to eccentric works by Bartok, Glass, Adams, Reich ... even something called "Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger" (which I've since discarded). I think it was a ballet about a vacuum cleaner salesman or something. Regardless, my mind was open to things I didn't quite understand.

Lately I've immersed myself in Shostakovich, Schumann, Bruckner, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler, more Tchaikovsky, more Mozart, more Beethoven and more Schubert. I'm using it all to forget November 2nd, and for the most part, it seems to be working.
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