A Practical, Common-Sense Guide to Falling in Love with Classical Music
By David M. Prentiss, President and CEO, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra
At Musical Connections we explore the world of classical music by providing you with playlists and periodically posting reflections on classical music and other types of music. The spirit of this exploration is that all types of music are connected to each other by the common elements of what makes music, music. Things like melody, harmony, and rhythm, plus other basic elements of music like tempo, dynamics, structure, and feeling or mood, are used by composers and songwriters as a way to express themselves and to create connections between the music and listeners. Through Musical Connections, you will see how classical music and other types of music use these elements in similar ways, and also see how they are sometimes used in very different ways. Our hope is that experiencing music from this common-sense, practical perspective will deepen your enjoyment of all music, and help you fall in love (or more in love) with classical music.
Please enjoy the playlists below and come back from time to time for more!
To enjoy the full playlist you will need a free account with Spotify. Simply click on one of the songs and you will be prompted to create an account. There is no requirement to provide credit card information or incur any other obligation. With a free account you get full access to the music and will periodically have ads play in between songs.
The First Playlist
I use this playlist when I talk to groups about classical music. It helps illustrate some of the basic points I like to make about musical connections (plus – just by coincidence – it’s all music that I really love). For example, in rock and other popular music, songs are usually made up of verses and choruses that alternate back and forth. That is exactly what Handel does in the first piece, The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. In the next piece, the third movement from Dvorak’s Symphony No. 4, there is also an alternating structure that is similar to verse and chorus but he starts with an introduction that really builds up an exciting anticipation before the verse/theme begins. This is also a great example of how classical music can be used to create a sense of motion that propels us forward and then transitions into a new feeling or mood. The next two pieces (#3 and #4) are by Tchaikovsky and Bach and simply show how different the piano can be made to sound depending on what mood or feeling the composer wants to create for us. Pieces #5 and #6 are slow, beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing – need I say more? The rest of the playlist is filled with pieces by Mozart, Sibelius, and Brahms and shows how diverse and creative composers can be in using all the basic elements of music. If you listen to this playlist a few times, whether as background music or in a more focused way, I think you might start to fall in love with some of the pieces. Please take your pick – it’s up to you!
Mozart and His Piano Concertos (Fast Movements Edition)
No composer seems to be more on a “musical mission” than Mozart. His music has such a strong sense of direction and forward movement that you can’t help but feel that Mozart knows exactly where he wants to take us and how to get there. All music (or at least almost all music) conveys a sense of motion that periodically transitions to a feeling of rest. The fast movements of Mozart’s piano concertos deliver this feeling in a very clear and powerful way. I think that is what makes them so energetic and delightful – yes, they are full of many delights! Full disclosure: I often listen to this playlist when I’m riding my bike. It has helped me get up many hills.
Special note: When listening to Piano Concerto No. 22 (song #7 on this list) be sure to hear the change of mood Mozart creates around the 4:15 minute mark. For the first four minutes it’s all rollicking fun and high energy, and then suddenly he decides to go slow and sublime. It’s really beautiful. And then of course he returns to the initial fast-paced mood for a wonderful ending.