Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playlist

I have a healthy-sized CD collection that I've managed to amass over the years, primarily classical (horn, chamber music and orchestral), some vocal and choral, a bunch of movie soundtracks, and the oddball Animaniacs set (because the music is both brilliant and hysterical, and I'm a big kid at heart).  So despite having studied music throughout college, and having made an attempt to be a professional musician, it may surprise you - yes, all five of you who are reading this (hi, Mom!) - that for several years after I graduated, I hardly listened to any canned, classical music at all - at least of my own free will.

I'll save the whole saga for another posting, but since getting a digital music device that doesn't have a fruit symbol engraved on the back, and trying to start running again to compensate for the drubbing that my metabolism took when I hit my 30s (again, another story for another time), I've been slowly getting back into the listening game again. 

So there's a back story to every track or album that's on my playlist - of course, it's not random, because I chose them - but each has some special meaning in my life.  And I swear - I could listen to this same music for hours on end and never, ever tire of it. 

So, in no particular order, here's what's currently on my what-would-you-take-on-a-desert-island playlist:

Kreisler - Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani)
I've had the good fortune of hearing Midori play live (in a sold-out concert hall that had no AC on a hot spring day, no less), which is fitting, since the two times that I've ever wanted to be a violinist involve her.  The first was when I watched her play the Carmen Fantasy for Leonard Bernstein's 80th birthday celebration, on TV.   The second was when I heard this recording with her and her long-time collaborative pianist, Robert McDonald.  I realize it's probably not a "masterwork" of the violin repertoire (even though every violin playing prodigy from 9 years old seems to have a made a recording of it that's now up on Youtube), but something in this music just gets to me every time - or at least how Midori plays it.  Or maybe I'm just a sucker for a sequence.  (And that's sequence, not - ahem - sequins.)

Celine Dion - Because You Loved Me, I Drove All Night, Taking Chances, I'm Alive, To Love You More, The Power of Love, etc.
Despite what some might consider a gratingly saccharine personality, the French-speaking girl from humble beginnings in the Great White North has amazing pipes, scandal-free longevity (other than her husband's alleged gambling problem and the nightmare that was her first-born's hair), and a loyal fan base in our household of two.  A few years ago, Matthew bought us tickets to see her show at Caesar's Palace ('cause that's just the type of partner he is), which we l-o-v-e-d, so when her show came out on DVD after she ended her Vegas run, I promptly bought it as a Christmas gift for him.  And, yes, I freely admit to loving her stuff, especially those I consider her "power ballads."  And better yet, I find that the slower ballads don't screw up my running pace when she powerwashes my eardrums through my non-fruit-symbol-engraved music player.  Score!

Wicked - Broadway Cast Recording
Idina Menzel has it all - an amazing voice, a rockin' hot husband, a Tony award, and Glee credits to her name.  Sigh.  Some girls have all the fun.  (Although I count myself lucky at 1-for-4 - I'll let you guess which.)  And while Wicked has its preteen following, you can count me as a fan, too.  I guess it's that whole I'm-different-but-I'm-not-gonna-let-that-hold-me-back attitude of Elphaba that speaks to me.  And now you know where the not-quite-sure-if-it's-permanent title of my blog comes from.

John Williams:  The Best of Space Music
Growing up, I used to watch Evening at Pops as often as I could on PBS, and even got to see a live show on a high school trip to Boston in 1991.  My favorite episode was John Williams' last at the helm of the orchestra - when Jessye Norman sang, and a pre-paralysis-accident Christopher Reeve walked on stage and said that there was no Superman without that ubiquitous theme song.  And he was totally right.  When the Superman Returns movie came out a few years ago, I got goosebumps when I heard that first rumbling of the theme, even though the franchise had been practically dead for two decades.  In addition to Superman, this soundtrack holds golden oldies including the first three Star Wars movies (the good ones) and E.T

Richard Strauss - Four Last Songs
My college horn teacher once told me that there's something about the last thing that a composer composes: Mahler's 9th, Beethoven's 9th, and these incredible songs by Richard Strauss for soprano and orchestra (about death, but they're in German, which I don't understand, so I'm blissfully ignorant).  I've been told that the Elizabeth Schwarzkopf recording is better, but I'm quite content with Jessye on mine.  And while it's been years, I still have fond memories of playing 4th horn on this in college.

Non Nobis, Domine from Henry V Soundtrack
The first time I heard Patrick Doyle's incredible scoring for this movie was in 1992, when Paul Wylie used it to skate to an Olympic silver medal.  I promptly went out and bought the cassette tape, and practically wore out the damn thing from playing it over and over again.  (I've since upgraded to the CD.)  And even though it's a bit repetitive, I love how it starts out with a single male voice, joined by more and more male voices, and then the orchestra.  Sends chills through me every time.

Make Our Garden Grow from Leonard Bernstein's Candide
Similarly to the Carmen Fantasy, I first heard this when it was performed for Bernstein's 80th birthday on TV.  Yes, the lyrics are corny, but I frakkin' love this one, which is why I was terribly disappointed by the truncated rendition given for Stephen Spielberg when he got his Kennedy Center Honors (even though hottie-McHot Nathan Gunn took the lead).  There's a brief passage when the chorus sings a capella that gets me every time.  Every time. 

And while there's much more on my non-fruit-symbol-engraved music player, these are the tunes that have been keeping me company on my transit ride home when I'm not with Matthew, or on my solitary runs around the park.  So, one of these days, if you come across a runner singing along to a Celine power ballad, or a Wicked show tune, please resist the urge to trip him and laugh - he's just rockin' out with his girls.

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