Saturday, January 4, 2014
What I called Classicalia is over.
But as with a good piece of music, the melody remains.
On Jan. 1, 2013, I listened to U2’s “New Year’s Day,” as I do every NYD, and then switched to Bach, Beethoven and beyond for the rest of the year.
As I have written in this space before, for all of 2013 I have listened intentionally to only “Classical” music.
Yes, I heard the occasional rock or jazz, and some days I listened to no music at all.
But I kept my musical choices to classical, Baroque, Romantic, Early, and Modern music, essentially everything from 1650 to the 1920s.
While not an A-Z exercise, I listened first to Isaac Albeniz on Jan. 1 and ended with Domenico Zipoli on Dec 31.
Essentially Classicalia was about music I would listen to on my own — driving or walking, or while at home. I did listen to nothing but classical all the time, most days, but toward the end of the year as I got really busy the exercise evolved into making sure I heard at least one piece each day.
The year was not quite all-classical-all-the-time. I did not tell my wife and kids to Shut That Off when other music came on the radio or devices in the car or at home, nor would I change the channel or interrupt The Decemberists to play Donizetti.
Classicalia has been a great experience; my musical vocabulary and my musical knowledge have expanded and much of the music I heard was among the most beautiful and thrilling I know.
A few notes from the year:
Feb. 3. Richard Wagner, “Tannhauser Overture,” Georg Szolte and the Vienna Philharmonic: Does it get any better?
Oct. 14: Rameau’s harpsichord pieces rock in places. I’ve written before that my lack of rock-n-roll in 2013 was actually filled, with surprising frequency, by classical and baroque pieces. The Rameau sounds like three guitars at once; Google it and listen for yourself.
It took me three busy days in August, 20 minutes at a time, to get through a Bruckner symphony.
Meanwhile, the music of Chopin, Respighi, Tchaikovsky and, yes, Hummel, to cite a few examples, regularly came to my ears thanks to regular listening to Portland’s allclassical.org (yes I am a member). Suffice it to say KQAC and Eugene’s KWAX offered a convenient and varied quotient to go with the YouTube-CD-LP equation I needed in order to listen to virtually nothing but classical music for a year.
All that Classical: too much of a good thing, right?
A year ago, I thought that would be the case. However, rather than being sick of Classical, I grew to love it even more.
That included Giuseppe Martucci and Jean-Féry Rebel and Johann Hummel and Joan Trimble — not people I had ever heard of before starting this. Whitacre’s “The River Cam,” written in classical style about 20 years ago, was among the newest music I heard. The oldest was the anonymous Hurrian hymn, from 3rd Century Syria.
I know I’ll still have a regular steeping of Sibelius and Beethoven ... and Zipoli.
And a lot of other guys, because in personal terms I confirmed many musical friendships and made some new ones, from Adolph Adam (Dec. 24, the 19th century Frenchman who wrote “O Holy Night” (“Minuit, chrétiens” to Zipoli.)
Here are the composers whose works I recorded in my diary of daily Classicalia listening:
Adam, Albeniz, Albinoni, Argento, Bach, Barber, Bartok, Barton, Bax, Beethoven, Biber, Boildeau,
Bolzani, Borodin, Boyce, Brahms, Britten, Bruch, Bruckner, Brumby
Catalani, Chabrier, Chopin, Copland, Corelli, Corette, Couperin, Debussy, Delius, DePont, Dohnanyi, Donizetti, Duff, Dvorak, Elgar, Enesco,
Falconieri, Fasch, Faure, Field, Finzi, Franck, Gabrielli, Geminiani, Gershwin, Gestadius, Gibbs, Glazunov, Gossec, Grabu, Grainger, Grieg
Handel, Harty, Haydn, Heinichen, Holst, Hovaness, Hummel, Humperdinck, Hynayni, Janacek, Johnson, Klemperer, Korngold, Kovalevsky, Kreisler
Lanner, Lehar, Liadov, Liszt, Mahler, Martynov, Martucci, Mendelssohn, Milhaud, Moeran, Mondonville, Mussorgsky, Mozart, O’Connor,
Pachelbel, Petrini, Pierne, Praetorius, Prokofief, Puccini, Quantz, Rachmaninoff, Rameau, Ravel, Rebel, Respighi, Richter, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Rossini,
Saint Saens, Sarasate, Satie, Schmelzer, Schnitke, Schubert, Schumann, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Smetana, Strauss (Johann), Strauss (Richard), Stravinsky, Sullivan, von Suppe,
Tallis, Tschaikovsky, Telemann, Torelli, Tosti, Trimble, Villard, Vivaldi, Wagner, Waldteufel, Walton, Warlock, Weill, Whitacre, Williams, Wolf, Ziehrer, Zipoli
The newest pieces I heard were Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony (1957) and the 21st century composer Whitacre, who writes in the Classical style.
For New Year’s Eve I saved the high sweet sounds of the Baroque composer Domenico Zipoli, music I have on a deliciously scratchy LP. When I went to find that album, I realized I have a lot of classical vinyl that I never spun all year.
Then it was back to a steady dose of rock-and-roll, Celtic, jazz, and, yes, Classical, for the new year.
Bono and “New Year’s Day” awaited.
On New Year’s Day 2014 the first chance I had to hear music was late morning, and the radio was set to allclassical.org.
A beautiful piano concerto was playing, and I could not turn away. I had to know whose it was. It was a piece I could almost place but not quite, and entranced by the beauty and power of it, I drove on with what emerged as Tchaikovsky. This, not U2, was my first music of 2014.
But, back to radio: Early in December, I heard again the Albeniz guitar piece that was my first music of record.
I could not place it on first hearing, but knew I would recognize it once I heard it, and allclassical.org obliged.
Other fun facts:
n Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” I was listening to in August one night when it was mentioned in “The Tender Bar,” the book I was reading at the time.
n Gerald Finzi wrote a piece I heard called “Eclogue for piano and orchestra.” An eclogue — a term I had never heard — is a “pastoral poem usually in form of dialogue.”
n About “Aus Italien” (From Italy), by Richard Strauss: he would later be sued for royalties by for using “Funiculi, Funicula” — which Strauss thought was a Neapolitan folk tune.
(By the way, when it sees the German word “Italien” my computer spellcheck suggests “Italian” or “It Alien.”)
n Upon reading first reviews of “Symphony 11: the Year 1905,” in 1957, Dmitri Shostakovich feared that he would be executed.
Knowing that, and listening to this amazing work in one sitting, made for one of the most powerful moments in Classicalia
n And Zipoli? He was an Italian (1688-1726) who studied in Spain, settled in Paraguay, and became the most prominent European musician in Spanish-ruled South America. He died of an apparent infectious disease and no one knows for sure where he’s buried.
That said, amazing musical facts I heard this year include this one: In 1961 in Hamburg the Beatles played sets lasting six hours, sometimes seven days a week, and Keith Richard’s inspiration for the guitar riff in “Street Fighting Man” (1968) was the distinctive siren of the Paris police car of the day.
I’ve thought of spending another year with, say, only Beatles remixes, or Irish emigration songs, or Klezmer/Balkan tunes, but I’m not sure if I want that narrow a niche. Perhaps Nothing But Jazz Recorded In New York City Between 1946-59, or some Outlaw arc by Willie-Waylon-Kris-Johnny-Merle-Hank-Townes-and-company.
I just know it will involve vinyl.