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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Lark Ascending? Really?

One of the things I love most about the Easter weekend is the countdown from Good Friday of the 300 top classical favourites as voted by the public. I have quite happily spent entire weekends in the kitchen with the radio tuned in to this event.

The most interesting part of the countdown, however, is not so much the number one as it is hearing what comes before say the top 20. The top ten are always pretty predictable and usually the top five are to be expected. Except that the last two years it has been somewhat surprising -- even astonishing to me -- that Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending should have placed number 3 last year and number one this year! That is not to say it is not a lovely lyrical piece -- but number one favourite -- certainly not mine -- not even in my top ten!

The number one choices in past years have been fairly predictable: Last year it was Mozart's clarinet concerto, the year before Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto and before that it was the Bruch Violin Concerto -- which surprised me, and it held that position for several years! This year for the first time Beethoven had more entries than Mozart. Personally, I don't see how anyone can listen to Beethoven's piano concerto number 5 (The Emperor) and not give that the highest of all rankings -- it ranked number 5 this year.

Personally, I would like to see some opera in the top ten. There is not really a lot of opera among the 300. The Pearl Fishers duet is always popular among listeners and so is the 'Humming Song' from Madame Butterfly -- but there is so much more that is exquisite yet not often heard.