Classical is an ambitious genre to tackle. From gregorian monk choirs singing in caverns to contemporary music recitals in museums, the spectrum is enormous. The sheer number of pieces for any composer is astounding. The size of the orchestra, the endless and subtle variations by conductors and musicians can seem almost intimidating. However, the genre’s history is so rich, the individual performances so moving and the music so important and at times sublime, that music fans can’t afford to not give it a try.
The Classicaliszt is meant to be a guide for the casual listener, using my passion for classical music pressed on vinyl to share some knowledge and introduce incredible compositions into their musical rotation. I sang professionally in a choir and performed opera on stage and that is where my passion for classical started. Over the years I have been amassing quite a solid classical collection and have found that so many spectacular records are still out there for the taking. Having kids, working in an office setting and looking to avoid road rage have led to me listening to more classical music on the daily. (check out our workflow playlist)
But its when I started researching the history behind composers and their eras, learning about the fascinating careers of historic performers and truly understanding the scope of the impact of this omnipotent genre that my passion evolved into a full fledged (yet healthy) obsession.
I chose Hungarian composer Franz Liszt as a namesake because he encompasses all the thoroughly fascinating aspects of classical music that got me hooked. He was the first piano virtuoso and his furious style of playing (and extremely difficult compositions) was all the rage through Europe. Much like today’s rockstars he toured through all cities leaving frenzied crowds and adoring fans behind. His large ego was matched by his unworldly skill and his compositions have endured the test of time. Watch this performance by the irreverent Gyorgy Cziffra and imagine what the impact this piece had the first time it was presented to an audience.
I love the complexities of classical because the impact of each actor is felt throughout time and culture on a much larger scale than simply influencing a genre or producing a classic album. You can unearth compositions, transcribe pieces for other instruments, annotate and be a conductor, performer, composer, teacher by choice or necessity. Liszt was all those things and also inspired and was inspired by his immediate peers as he left his mark on musical history. His work seems to also attract the most skilled and tormented performers such as Samson Francois whose performance of the Bach/Liszt Prelude serves to further cement our approach (Video). Indeed, Bach’s foundational orchestral works canalised into a single piano and interpreted so personally by a sensitive artist with strong opinions and flawless technique. An innovative take on a century old composition; yet played in a concert hall with its own historical legacy. Music that is both ephemeral and timeless.
So in conclusion, this is the universe I hope to immerge you in. One where the closing act of a universally famous piece by one of the earliest composers means an electrifying performance from a violinist whose concert tickets you can buy online (video) will compete for your fascination with a heart stopping and ice cold close to a lesser known piece by a young prodigy who tragically left us too soon.
Its all about the records after all and much like I break down my personal collection by composer, piano/violin/cello/ensemble (trios) performance & conductor. My posts will take you through the classical repertoire with a few informative pit stops regardings labels, eras, concert schedules, legendary recordings and digging tips.