Introducing… Classical

Frances Pickworth 22 October 2009

Frances Pickworth reveals the delights of Classical music

Ever find, as I often do, that you get distracted from your work by the instinctive urge to sing along to your iPod? Or perhaps you’re bored of listening to the same old tracks again and again, but have no ideas about where to begin looking for something new? Take a glance at the wealth of variety that the Classical genre has to offer.

Don’t dismiss it as the dry, emotionless music of intellectual thought; a good composer knows how to express love, anger and peace just as well, if not better than, a modern artist.

Embarking upon yet another brain-crushing essay? Nothing expresses frustration as well as the sound of one hundred-odd people screeching their lungs out, to the accompaniment of an entire frenzied symphony orchestra, in the ‘Dies Irae’ of Verdi’s Requiem.

And through no coincidence has the love theme from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Romeo and Juliet Overture’ been frequently used to express intense passion in modern TV dramas and films such as Scrubs, Clueless and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Perhaps you’ve staggered back home after a night at Cindie’s and feel the need to cleanse yourself of the cheese of 90s Brit-pop? Make a cup of tea, find a duvet and settle down to the soothing sound of the slow (second) movement of Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto; like slipping into a hot bath, it will calm you and cast a rosy haze over your memories of a hectic day.

If you’re not quite sure where to start with classical music, as it’s not always immediately accessible, try film music. The soundtracks to blockbuster flicks such as ‘Gladiator’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Titanic’ have proved just as popular as the films themselves, even outside of the silver screen. Personal favourites include the theme from Schindler’s List (tears guaranteed), and the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings, which can inject dynamism into even the most boring reading list.

So once you’ve realised exactly how incredibly exciting and fascinating Classical music is, where to next? Most of the music mentioned so far has been from the Romantic or Modern era, so it may be worth taking a look further back. The names you may have heard in passing, such as Mozart or Haydn, are from the Classical era; Bach and Handel are even further back, in the Baroque era, which covers the period from around 1600 to 1750.If you fancy giving them a try, I’d recommend Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture, or Bach’s 4th Brandenburg Concerto.

Discovering an interest in one composer naturally leads to curiosity about another, and before you know it you’ll be humming symphonies to yourself on the way to lectures. Give your artistic palate a treat, and begin a new term with some vintage music.

Frances Pickworth