Monday, November 2, 2015

Classics for bangers

“Let’s not start with the mistaken notion that classical music is polite, safe or pretty,” pianist Jeremy Denk writes by way of introduction to a classical music-for-beginners playlist that he compiled for The Guardian in advance of the Sound Unbound festival staged over the weekend at London’s Barbican.

Denk’s playlist: Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” preludes and fugues from Book 1 of J.S. Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” György Ligeti’s piano etudes (“try as many as you can stand”) and two movements from Beethoven quartets, the adagio from the first “Razumovsky” (F major, Op. 59, No. 1) and the opening fugue of the C sharp minor, Op. 131.

Impolite? Mostly. Unsafe? Definitely. Unpretty? In the ear of the beholder, let’s say.

Denk’s playlist, with links to lists from composer/re-composer Max Richter, the violin-cello duo Mari and Håkon Samuelsen, composer and electronica artist Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of Sergei) and composer Anna Clyne:

Certain comments – e.g., Prokofiev’s about Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony: “Beethoven was badass in every way, and this piece is as banging as it was possible to make at the time” – point pretty clearly to the age cohort targeted in the lists.