Banish Those Winter Blues!

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I've read, that things inanimate have mov'd, And, as with living Souls, have been inform'd,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.

   By William Congreve from The Mourning Bride, 1697

It has been a challenging winter - walloped by snow storms and frigid temperatures, our spirit needs something invigorating.  Why not warm-up by listening to some uplifting Western classical music which is sure to lift your spirits, comfort your psyche and improve your mood?

If you, like many, believe that classical music is for elevators or the dentist's office, you are wrong. If you think classical music is for old fogies, you are mistaken. Chances are you have heard classical music in the most unlikely of places, and you did not even know it! A fan of the Simpsons? Then you have heard music by Debussy, Vivaldi and Beethoven. Watched any Looney Tunes cartoons? Then you have heard the William Tell Overture by Rossini, Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner, Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens, Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms, and Blue Danube by Johann Strauss, to list just a few! Been to a wedding? Then you must have heard the music from Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin, an instantly recognizable part of the opera is the music that is played in the bridal procession. Of course, we all know the piece as Here Comes the Bride!

Seen Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Then you have certainly heard Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. And, if you have seen The Phantom of the Opera (1962) or Rollerball (1975), or if you are a fan of horror movies, then chances are you have heard Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The first three notes are enough to induce a spine-chilling sensation!

Remember the 1979 movie, 10? It brought Bo Derek her proverbial fifteen minutes of fame but more importantly, we heard Maurice Ravel's stirringly beautiful Bolero, and saw it put to some very creative use! And I am sure you have heard the rousing O Fortuna from "Carmina Burana" composed by German composer Carl Orff if you have seen the movie The General's Daughter (1999) or seen a particular episode of the Rachel Maddow show or The Simpsons.

Countless award ceremonies, commercials and popular movies use Western classical music to highlight something dramatic, heartbreakingly beautiful or cataclysmic. After all, why reinvent the wheel? Some of the greatest musical geniuses have already done such a perfect job of composing music that invoke a certain mood or ambiance that it would be futile to try and improve upon their handiwork.

I will readily admit that I am no expert when it comes to classical music! In order to appreciate and enjoy classical music, " don't have to know an andante from an allegro" writes Phil G. Goulding. Any classical music novice can relate to the following paragraph in Goulding's book entitled Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works:

What is a concerto? How does it differ from a sonata? Is a concerto fifteen or forty-five minutes long? Everyone knows that symphonies are major works, and I know that both Schubert and Beethoven had written famous ones, but which others are as famous? Did Bach compose symphonies? Why is there such a hush when people say "Bach,"...? Who were the ten best symphonists? And if I collected one symphony composed by each of those ten, would I then have music's ten most famous symphonies? Somewhere I heard that Haydn wrote 104! ... Besides, Haydn seems to be famous for oratorios. But wasn't that Handel with his Messiah? Did those two live at the same time? Why does this thing by Stravinsky sound peculiar while that thing by Stravinsky sounds normal?

If you are nodding your head in agreement as you read the above paragraph, let me reassure you: in order to enjoy classical music, you really do not need to know the answers to the above questions! All you have to do is listen to the music. Do not be intimidated by all the pedantic jargon! Ignore the bewildering classifications - just listen and enjoy! Below are just a few of my favorite pieces. By turns evocative and delightful, yearning and enigmatic, or just simply beautiful, all the music listed below have given me great joy over the years. I hope that they give you as much pleasure as they have to me. And, needless to say, the CDs of all the music listed below are available at the Mercer County Library System.

Author: Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791.
Author: Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827.
Author: Vivaldi, Antonio, 1678-1741.
Author: Chopin, Frédéric, 1810-1849.
Title: Water Music
Author: Handel, George Frideric, 1685-1759.
Author: Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
Author: Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828.
Author: Mendelssohn, Felix, 1809-1847
Author: Haydn, Joseph, 1732-1809
Author: Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886.
Author: Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich, 1840-1893
Author: Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918.
Author(s): Haydn, Joseph, 1732-1809. Other Author(s): Hummel, Johann Nepomuk, 1778-1837

-Rina B.


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