Retail therapy cures all

I’m not exactly suffering from any malady that I can think of, apart from a general case of apathy regarding most things, but my spirit is somewhat lifted after receiving a care package from Buywell Just Classical in Western Australia. It has been quite some time since I last purchased some classical CDs so I decided to fill in a few gaps in my collection, and having made the mistake of leaving it too long to complete my Trevor Pinnock Mozart Symphonies collection, and being forced onto eBay to rectify the problem, I thought I’d be on the ball for a change.

For some time I’ve wanted a recording of Copland’s music for the 1948 film of Steinbeck’s novel, “The Red Pony.” I especially wanted the movement titled “Walk to the Bunkhouse,” which doesn’t sound too appealing, but it is at once a simple piece and jolly good orchestral fun, and unmistakably Copland. The rendition of “Rodeo” on this disc ain’t half bad either.
Manuel de Falla was a master orchestrator, plain and simple, and he has been horribly under-represented on my bookshelf. This oversight now has been corrected with a disc that is appropriately titled “The Essential Falla” and that’s exactly what it is, and with names like Alicia de Larrocha, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit… need I say more?
I have an old audio cassette of this very same recording, but since it is beneath me to attempt playback of such a medium, and given my history of leaving it too late to acquire CDs, I can now sleep well knowing that this disc is on my shelf. The quality of the baroque music to be heard on this disc is astounding and if you prefer chamber music to orchestral largesse, you will not be disappointed with this offering.
I wouldn’t say that I’m too familiar with most of Walton’s music but I do like his first symphony. Thanks to an old BBC Music Magazine CD, I have become well-acquainted with a live performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Tadaaki Otaka, and I am most grateful, because the end of the first movement is one of the greatest moments in the entire orchestral repertoire. Vladimir Ashkenazy’s conducting on this CD is absolutely superb and you would do well to get yourself a copy (especially if your musical diet consists solely of Mozart, Haydn, Bach, etc, at the expense of the best that the late 19th and 20th centuries have to offer; yes, I’m talking to you, S.A. :-)
I’m not a religious man, and if describing myself as a devout atheist wasn’t an oxymoron, I’d be one of those. However, this disc is almost enough to shake my devotion to atheism, especially the processional titled “Christum wir sollen loben schon.” This would probably have to be a desert island disc for sure, but I’d have to be allowed to take another nine. One disc would never do (and I hope this desert island has electricity and a CD player).

My ten most favourite composers

I’ve often thought about this particular question, and usually give up because it’s not a very easy one to answer! Well, lately I’ve given it some more thought, and if I don’t at least get it written down, then I’ll have no way of seeing how my interests change over time.

Just about any list of favourite composers will have to feature Mozart, Beethoven and others, but that doesn’t mean that I should omit them because they are essential. Even though these two characters ought to appear in any self-respecting aficionado’s “top ten”, I reckon that it’s the other composers one chooses to include in such a list that says the most about their musical tastes. So here goes…

  1. Ludwig van Beethoven
  2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  3. Johann Sebastian Bach
  4. Georg Friedrich Handel
  5. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  6. Jean Sibelius
  7. Gustav Mahler
  8. Sergei Rachmaninov
  9. Johannes Brahms
  10. Antonio Vivaldi

After the first five, the ordering becomes academic, and not being able to include more is almost criminal, but my list of runners up would include: Falla, Vaughan Williams, Grieg, Haydn, Khachaturian, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov and Richard Strauss. Who knows, perhaps when I next review this list, I may elevate some of the runners up and demote one or two of the top ten (which all depends upon who I might have recently played to death :-)

Edit on 9/Aug/2015:

After a decade’s worth of thorough consideration I’d have to revise the list thusly:

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach
  2. Joseph Haydn
  3. Georg Friedrich Handel
  4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  5. Ludwig van Beethoven
  6. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  7. Jean Sibelius
  8. Gustav Mahler
  9. Sergei Rachmaninov
  10. Johannes Brahms

Sorry, Vivaldi, but you had to go in order to make way for a dreadful omission: Haydn!