Top 5 - Classical Music Hall of Fame

Inspired by Classic FM's 2018 Hall of Fame countdown this weekend, and because you have time to listen to them, Susan Omand gives you her own top five pieces of classical music...

I listen to Classic FM a lot, it's my "everyday" radio station of choice (and I was particularly chuffed when I got a follow on Twitter from my favourite, Breakfast presenter Tim Lihoreau, but that's another story). Between 9am and 10am every day on the station they do the Hall of Fame hour when they pick tracks that have been voted in to the Hall that year by their listeners. Every year the vote runs from Christmas(ish) to just before Easter when listeners can nominate their favourites to be included and the official "chart rundown" of the top 300 choices happens over the 4 days of the Easter weekend, with Easter Monday (i.e. today) being the reveal of the chart topping tunes, the number 1 being played just before 9 pm.

Listening to some of the selections over this weekend has got me thinking about what I would choose for a top five with so much great music out there. So I decided to set myself some rules - these are not the rules of Classic FMs vote but just for me:

1 - I wouldn't choose any music specifically written for a film, musical or stage show but if the music features in a film AFTER it had been written that's fine

2 - I wouldn't include opera (which would involve a top five all of its own - I love opera) but would allow choral music and

3 - I could only have one piece by any one composer in my list (or should that be Liszt? Sorry).

Here then, for today anyway and until I hear something I haven't heard before, are my choices for Top 5 pieces of Classical Music.

5 - Mussorgsky - Night on the Bare Mountain

If you ever want a piece of music to tell a story Mussorgsky's tone poem is it. I first heard this as part of Disney's Fantasia (the only film I remember seeing at the cinema with my parents when I was wee) and was absolutely captivated by the darkness of this section.  When I listen to it again now I can still see the witches gathering, the demons rising in the dead of night and feel the lightness at the end as I hear the dawn chorus.

4 - Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Such a multi-layered piece for a composer whose work was often simpler in structure and melody, this is the work that brought me to back to Bach so to speak. I must admit I was more of a Handel fan from the Baroque era of music before I first heard this because the Bach I had heard previously (this was when I was about 15) I found to be a bit plinky with no real substance. As soon as this started though, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I sat in silent awe. And this is a superb recording of it (uncredited on youtube sadly so I don't know who played it)

3 - Bernstein - Chichester Psalms

As well as writing the music for stage shows such as West Side Story, Candide and Oscar winning films like On the Waterfront, Leonard Bernstein was a hugely accomplished classical composer and conductor and this is one of his very few religious pieces. The Chichester Psalms was the first piece of music that I really analysed the score of from a theoretical point of view (for my O Grade Music exam) rather than just listening to it and that (and my music teacher Miss Wallace) really helped my appreciation for the complexity of composition. It's also one of my favourite pieces of music to "air conduct" to.

2 - Mozart - Requiem (Lacrimosa)

Oh Mozart, Mozart, Mozart - I just adore Mozart's work. Such glory, such genius that burned so brightly for so short a time. Beaten into second place in my top 5, Mozart's requiem always, always, always makes me cry. So much power and beauty in the massed voices and strings, even if you don't know the story behind it. It also brings back hazy memories of a (very drunken) evening of deep discussion about classical music while watching the film Amadeus - I need to watch that film again soon (and sober).

1 - Stravinsky - Rite of Spring

Until I first heard Rite of Spring, I thought all music had to "make sense." Music, especially classical music from all the previous eras, had to follow strict rules of harmony, tempo and structure, didn't it? Rite of Spring was the mould-breaker for me - I had found the modern art of classical music and I instantly fell in love with it.

Oh, and remember I said that Bernstein was an accomplished conductor? Watch the maestro at work, without a score in front of him. This is conducting at its absolute finest...

Image - Classic FM
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