Originally posted on November 1 2007
Last night I had dinner with my parents, and we listened spellbound to the ABC Classic 100 Concertos, as voted by ABC listeners. The countdown had been going since Saturday, and unfortunately I did not get a chance to listen to all of it.
My father is a classically trained pianist, who studied under Lindley Evans and Marjorie Hesse at the Sydney Conservatorium. His mother was also a classically trained pianist, although neither of them ever chose to become professional performers. Therefore it should come as no surprise that dad managed to pick virtually all of the top ten concertos on the list, pretty much in order. I think the only one he missed was the Bruch Violin Concerto in G Minor which came in at number 4. He definitely picked the top two – Rachmaninoff’s 2nd and Beethoven’s 5th, also known as the Emperor (both for piano).
Which lead to an interesting discussion for us as listeners: looking at the list on the ABC website, I would say that predominantly violin concertos are on the list, yet the top two were piano concertos. And while there was a good mix of composers, by far the most represented were Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Vivaldi. All the Brandenburgs, three of the Four Seasons (not Autumn though), the Bach Double, and other wonderful pieces that I seem to have known forever. Of course there were others composers represented too including a few Australians such as Carl Vine and Ross Edwards. And it was pleasing that composers like Gershwin made the list, as I always feel he has been underrated due to the success of his popular music. There were other solo instruments too, including cello, viola, harp, horn and even tuba. There was also a concerto for two didgeridoos, which I am not at all familiar with.
However I was left with the conclusion that I really have been neglecting my love of classical music lately. I haven’t had much time for music at all, and I really miss it. However I’m going to listen to Chopin and Rachmaninoff when I get home tonight, and just indulge myself a little. This brings me to thinking about my earliest memories of music – my father playing the piano at night while I danced, and then he would still be playing when I went to sleep. His preference was always the eastern Europeans, which I always referred to jokingly as his ‘loud bangy Russians’ – Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Liszt. Yes, I know the last two are not Russian, but you get the idea. It had a profound effect on me as a musician, and on my view of music.
It was only in my final year of piano lessons (at which I was adequate but not great) I finally felt like I was playing ‘real’ music, when I learned Chopin’s Waltz in E Flat (and suddenly I did become a good piano player, taking out first in the local eisteddfod and aceing my HSC music prac a few weeks later). And so I wish that the Rachmaninoff 2nd, which was in 2nd place last night, had actually come in first. I would have loved to hear the whole thing live instead of just the first movement. I love the middle part of the first movement when the first theme returns but with repeated notes. Can’t be more specific than that as I have never seen the score, but I’m sure anyone familiar with the piece will know exactly what I mean.
My memories as a violinist are different – I joined our local community orchestra when I was 7, and by the time I actually started to enjoy and appreciate the music I was playing we were doing the Brandenburg concertos and the Four Seasons. Plus I had already done the first movement of the Bach Double with my violin teacher (both parts). So the baroque composers tend to be my favourite when I play the violin. And of course Mozart manages to cross all the boundaries – violin, piano and singing. There is just something about Mozart that is irresistible to listen to, and so exhilarating as a performer.
Anyway, just some thoughts on music from my addled brain. Life has been a bit up and down lately, so it is nice to focus on something different. I have a job interview with a circus next week, which is awesome and exciting. More may be forthcoming later, I don’t want to talk too much about it and jinx myself.
So, what is your favourite concerto? Did it make the list? Hopefully there will be a cd or two with a selection of the list available so I can be lazy and not have to find them all for myself. A great way to relive some favourite memories, and also to find new and interesting music.
Of course, next years’ count-down will be the 100 favourite chamber pieces. So I suspect a lot of the same music will appear again . . .