Classical music. Isn’t that world dead? Who listens to that kind of stuff anymore? It’s for old posh white people, not for me. It’s too expensive and you have to dress up like in Downton Abbey.
These are a few statements that are thrown about when it comes to classical music. The problem becomes even more acute when it comes to opera, seen as “high” entertainment for the rich, snobby and well to do. All that was partly true, once upon a time, but the world has moved on since then. Despite the fact everyone who has an internet connection today can listen to more or less any type of music they want, the mental barriers to classical music and opera are still very much there. And I stress mental barriers because that’s exactly what they are: mental barriers. Music may be written by Germans, African Americans, Indians, the Chinese or the British, but no one has the right to claim exclusivity over it. For me, that fundamentally goes against the spirit of music. Music is in many ways a manifestation of humanity, and should be celebrated as such and not artificially monopolized by one group. So when it comes to classical music and opera, and the class barriers that come with it, they need to be torn down for good. Class is not, and should never be, a barrier to music. The idea that only the rich listen to, and are allowed to listen to classical music is just stupid. It seriously is. And the great irony is, when you look into classical music and opera it’s all embracing inclusivity becomes quite apparent very quickly.
Everyone has had some exposure to classical music and opera at some point. It could’ve been from a record your parents played you as a kid, to cartoons or video games through to television and film. Often we don’t really know we listen to it, but then comes the moment of “hmm, I know that tune”, or “this reminds me of something, but I don’t know what”. Chances are that thing you half remember will come from an orchestral piece of music or an opera, which is probably quite famous in the world of classical music. Take the famous helicopter scene from the film Apocalypse Now which is set to Ride of the Valkyries. That music is taken from the third act of Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), an opera written by Richard Wagner, and is one of the most famous in the entire repertoire. The grand opening to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey comes from a tone poem written by Richard Strauss called Also Sparch Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra).
My primary aim with this series is to provide an introduction to composers by proving a brief biography and a list of around five key recordings of selected works. There’ll be other stuff as well like reviews of concerts and CD’s. Where I can, I’ll try to provide YouTube recordings for easy access. These recordings will be a combination of “go to” recordings and ones that I really like. Where I can I’ll make it clear which is which. Details will be brief and not all that extensive. The aim is, after all, to introduce the music rather than provide extensive reviews or write biographies.
I hope these introductions go a way in breaking down mental barriers to the music and stop this nonsense that only the rich and posh have the right to listen to classical music and opera. That’s the underlying aim in the long run, but for now, let’s enjoy the music! Happy listening to all!
Dorian C. Marsden