Authors Answer 74 – Another Random Entry

Soo, the original Authors Answer 74 was an April Fool’s joke. Given that it’s the 3rd of April now, I’m too late to try and put my own spin on it, so once again a random entry this week. Still, if you’re interested in the original post, you can see it here.

Instead I think I’ll talk a little about classical music.

I’m not entirely sure what brought it on, but I’ve been listening to a few of my favourite classical music pieces this week. I’ve always had a tendency to have a particular favourite at any one time, be that a band or an individual song, which I then play over and over again ad nauseam (certainly to my poor, suffering husband), and the flavour of the week (month? year?) is classical.

To start with, the piece I’m playing to death at the moment is the Capriccio Italien, by Tschaikovski.

If you don’t know it, it starts a bit slow, but give it a few minutes. I especially like the recurring theme that picks up at 4 minutes.

I think I first heard this piece in secondary school, during music lessons, when the teacher had a little book to accompany it which (supposedly?) told the story behind the music. It starts with the reveille, signalling the start of the day, then after a bit the theme that I like represented a group of partygoers on their way to the carnival (I think), then a bit of a chase through the streets and eventually the whole city joins in with the party (that’s when the theme recurs at 12 minutes).

I may not have got all of this right – bear in mind I was sixteen at the time, so it’s several decades ago.

Still, I just really love this complete piece of music.

Second on my list of favourites is the Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns.

Every Dutchman who has ever been to the Efteling and visited the ghost house will know at least part of this music, but this too got the pictorial treatment at school. In this case it starts off with Death tuning his violin, after which he plays a haunting piece of music to get all the skeletons dancing. There may have been more to it, but as I said, several decades. Still, the tune is suitably haunting yet catchy, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this particular piece.

Thirdly, and maybe surprisingly, given my first two choices, at number three is Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

This one is inspired by my long-ago piano teacher. He was a school friend of my brother’s, who would turn up every Sunday to give me piano lessons for the odd bottle of wine. He’d spend twenty minutes having a cup of coffee and a natter with my parents first, after which we’d retire to the piano, he’d go ‘have you practiced this week?’ to which I’d often reply ‘no, not much, sorry’ and he’d go ‘ah well, let’s just play, shall we?’

He was awesome. And he did teach me how to play Für Elise, the first part of the Moonlight Sonata and several pieces by my absolute favourite piano composer, Chopin. He also tried to teach me some Mozart, but I quickly realised that I actually rather hate Mozart (his pieces are nothing but cleverly put-together finger practise, and as you can guess I hated finger practice).

Oh, and I learned a fairly easy version of The Entertainer, which is how I think we got to Gershwin, because he also had a piano adaptation of the Rhapsody in Blue. I never learned to play that, because it’s fecking difficult, but I did eventually learn to like the piece itself. Yes, it was an acquired taste.

Next up is the Sabre Dance by Khatchaturian. Don’t know how I ended up with this one – it may have been on one of my parent’s old LPs. Yes, vinyl – I grew up on that, people!

Short but sweet, and one where I’d love to be the one playing the kettle drums. I’d probably hit them a lot harder than this dude is doing though, so I’d most likely be summarily ejected.

Lastly, I give you The Moldau (or Vltava, in its original Czech), by Smetana.

This is apparently part of a larger piece called Má Vlast (my homeland), but I’ve never got round to listening to the whole thing. This is just a musical representation of the river Vltava, from its beginnings as a little babbling brook all the way to a stately river as it flows into the river Elbe. Vltava is the river that runs through the middle of Prague, in case you didn’t know.

So there you have it, my favourite classical pieces. Enjoy.

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