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Classically Inclined

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Despite the fact that I’m listening to Rage Against The Machine as I write this, I’m noticing the music I listen to on a daily basis is now skewing towards things of a definite non “rage”-ing variety. Sure, I still listen to the odd metal album or two, but more often than not, I’m plugging in and listening to one of Mozart’s symphonies instead of, say, Ronnie James Dio.

I can honestly say that had you told me that this would have happened when I was growing up, I’d have most likely laughed at you for hours on end while cranking up my turntable to rattle the windows with the latest offering from Motley Crue or Iron Maiden.

My denials wouldn’t have mattered, though, as it’s true. Not only am I listening to classical music, I’m actively seeking out more to purchase and enjoy. I’m guessing this is a rare thing nowadays judging from the looks I’m getting at my local record shop as I not only purchase the latest album by the Cowboy Junkies (which is AMAZING, by the way) alongside of the Elvis Costello two-CD set, The Juliet Letters, which he recorded with the Brodsky Quartet.

Did you even know Costello did an album with classical accompaniment? Me neither, but it’s fantastic. It’s neither a simple Costello album or a simple string quartet album; instead, it’s a wonderful hybrid that stays true to its pieces as well as its whole self.

Probably what’s moved me further along this variated path I’m taking in my musical tastes, was an honest attempt to do what this feature set out to do. Simply put, I’m trying to keep an open mind and (more importantly) ear to ALL different forms of music.

Well, that plus on a whim I decided to spring $50 on the 2011 iTunes season pass for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (led by Alan Gilbert). For that one price I get to download all 12 of this year’s scheduled performances nearly immediately after the performances take place. I think it is supposed to add up to nearly 30 hours of music for that one price.

And what music! So far I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the first five performances, and they have been:

Release 1
R STRAUSS Don Juan
Henri DUTILLEUX Métaboles
HINDEMITH Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

Release 2
MAHLER Symphony No. 6

Release 3
WEBERN Passacaglia
BRAHMS Violin Concerto
Pinchas Zukerman, violin
BRAHMS Symphony No. 4

Release 4
DEBUSSY Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Magnus LINDBERG Kraft

Release 5
MENDELSSOHN Elijah
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano
Allan Clayton, tenor
Gerald Finley, bass-baritone
New York Choral Artists,
Joseph Flummerfelt, director

That right there, in my opinion, is already worth the price I paid for the entire season and I still have seven more concerts to come. It’s been wonderful listening to these recordings while at work. Sublime and powerful all at the same time, this is music that just lends itself to helping me concentrate, which is a trait required when you are working in a graphic field.

Just FYI, my favorite so far is the Mahler symphony. It led me to break out and try to listen to more of Mahler’s compositions as well as to seek out more symphonies in general to listen to. If you only choose to listen to one piece instead of the entire season pass, this would be the one I’d suggest.

Fortunately, each concert is available or purchase and download on an individual basis.

And, also fortunately, this is a musical field that has such a wide and varied field of composers and compositions that I think this new infatuation with classical music will turn out to be a passion that lasts as long as I continue to listen to music.

Here’s hoping that’s a good long while indeed, because my headphones are far from ready to be hung up.

If you have any favorite composers or compositions, please comment and let me know. I’m always looking for more to listen to. In fact, on my own personal blog (linked below) I try to discuss in passing everything I listen to (time permitting) throughout my work day and beyond.

Until later, then …

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About Michael Jones

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Did you even know Costello did an album with classical accompaniment?”

    Umm.. Did you even know Yngwie Malmsteen wrote, arranged & performed (on his strat)a classical album?

    Imho, most of the Metal bands that released any real defining work for that genre were inspired by classical music. Once I figured out the similarities, I, too, went hunting for cool stuff. I eventually learned that I truly love Classical Acoustic. So, my suggestions for you would be:

    -Christopher Parkening “A Tribute to Segovia”
    -Yngwie Malmsteen “Concerto Suite for Electric Guitar and Orchestra In E Flat minor Op. 1″

  • http://harmonyinmyheadphones.com Michael Jones

    I didn’t mean it to come off like that, lol. I was pretty much typing that one aloud to myself as I had no idea Costello had done this album.

    The one metal guitarist I love that I knew had strong classical strains in his music was Randy Rhoads, but I will most definitely check out the two things you suggested.

    Much appreciated!