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The Sonicgypsy Not-So-Celebrity Playlist

April 14, 2011

 After posting the Eric Whitacre video the other day, I ended up spending a good chunk of what should have been productive working hours daydreaming about what I would answer if I were ever posed the same question he was:  what are my favorite classical videos on YouTube?  It’s a tougher question than you think given the big ocean to fish from, but with a gun to my head, these would be my top 5 picks (for now):

1)  Elgar Cello Concerto 1st mov. (Jacqueline du Pré, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra).  It didn’t take long for this performance to become legendary for it’s sheer poetry and emotional quality.  You don’t find this kind of magic every day.

2)  Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould).  Glenn was a walking oxymoron – intensely private, yet a born showman blessed with a musical gift that maybe comes along once in a lifetime.  He’s most famous for his 2 career bookend recordings of J.S.Bach’s Goldberg Variations (1955  and 1981), and while the genius of his playing stands strong next to the genius of Bach’s composition, to see Glenn play, all hunched low over the keyboard, lost in his own world of rhythm and melody, only enhances the auditory experience.  (The YouTube posted here is part 4 in a series.)

3)  Nico Muhly – It Goes Without Saying.  I’m on the fast-track to becoming the queen of Nico’s fan empire.  I mean, the sounds that come out of this guy’s brain consistently transport me into my own zing universe of happy.  Thanks to some odd quirk of stratospheric talent, it seems Nico only needs to sneeze and *presto!*, there’s another composition on its way out to the world.  This video is a great example of how classical music needs to be marketed to the MTV generation.  Good art gets noticed.  Check out his blog while you’re at it – he’s a ridiculously engaging writer as well (- who said the world was fair??)

4)  Karajan – Beethoven: Symphony No.9 (with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra).  I almost didn’t include this video on my list since it’s only compiled excerpts of the 9th, and besides, Eric already included the Leonard Bernstein Ode to Joy (final movement) on his list.  But I decided to go with it in the end for a host of reasons.  a) I remember watching the complete Symphony No.9 performance on TV as a kid, so there’s serious sentimental value attached to this video;  b) I don’t think anyone has ever come closer to interpreting Beethoven as perfectly as Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic – he had the right temperament and the ego needed to pull it off;  c) Karajan also had an innate understanding of the power of media and image, and he used it to great advantage (notice the different camera angles and close-ups – Karajan turned regular concert footage into the first classical music videos);  and d) I’m with the people that say this is one of the greatest pieces, if not THE greatest piece of music ever written.  Add to that that Beethoven had been totally deaf for several years by the time he wrote it…  The 9th Symphony is a miracle of sound and statement.  This video gives us a taste.

5)  And finally, Horowitz plays Schumann’s “Träumerei” in Moscow.  A tender offering by a master.  This was traditionally the encore Horowitz would leave his audiences with.  He had nothing to prove anymore at this point of his long career, and so we’re left with this treasure of effortless grace.

It’s hard to imagine life now without the immediate access YouTube gives us to these kinds of timeless gems.  We’ve got history at our fingertips, not to mention the 4 corners of the globe.  So, thanks to YOU for making it possible.

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