Voltarol - related music

Friday, 20 June 2008

Classical Guess

I've related elsewhere in these pages how the record player first came into my life (see Wonderful round, black, shiny things). My brother Alcohol is eight years older than me so at this point already had an income and a social life (although this was interrupted for a couple of years by National Service around this time). Inevitably, some of this income was spent on records and Alcohol's interests lay in a classical direction. I knew very little about classical music other than the fact that I liked most of what I heard of it, without actually stopping to think that that was what it was, if you see what I mean. So far I knew that I had liked the music for the BBC Chidren's Hour production of John Masefield's 'The Box of Delights' ( a Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson) and that was a good start. (In the early eighties the Beeb did an excellent Television Production of The Box of Delights and to my great joy they used the same music. Here is a clip of the opening titles.)

Alcohol's choices also tended to be influenced by the use of music in films and plays. the BBC TV production of 'The Quatermass Experiment' in 1953 had used 'Mars, Bringer of War' from Gustav Holst's The Planets' Suite and as a consequence had received a certain amount of exposure. Prokofiev's 'Lieutenant Kijé' had been used for the film of Joyce Cary's 'The Horse's Mouth'. Both of these works soon turned up in the house, rapidly followed by Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', Rimsky Korsakov's 'Scheherazade', Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony and '1812 Overture', Sibelius's 'Finlandia' and 'Valse Triste', Saint Saens' 'Dance Macabre' and an EP of José Iturbi playing Debussy's 'Claire de Lune' from the 'Suite Bergamasque' and Chopin's 'Polonaise No 6 in Ab'. This was the bundle of goodies that kick-started my taste for classical music. I loved every one of them and would play them endlessly whenever I had the front room to myself.

Pretty soon I was buying my own classical records but, as usual, I was restricted to EPs and singles by lack of funds. I bought Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides' and 'Ruy Blas' overtures, De Falla's 'Ritual Fire Dance (from 'El Brujo Amor), Tchaikovsky's 'Slavonic March', Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', a single of the intermezzo from Sibelius' 'Karelia Suite' (the theme for ITV's 'This Week', Dag Wirén's 'Serenade for Strings' (part of which was the theme for BBC's 'Monitor' arts programme) and Wolf-Ferrari's overtures to 'Susannah's Secret' and 'The Jewels of the Madonna'.

It was a great basis to build musical taste from and it eventually led me to a love of a huge diversity of so-called 'serious' music, without ever replacing my other passions for jazz and folk. I didn't realise that I was already beginning to consider everything in its own right and was doing away with the 'pigeon-holes' approach to music. These days I have a pretty sophisticated sound system and a vast collection of music, but sometimes I just imagine myself back in the front-room of that flat over the hardware shop, crouched on the carpet in front of the Bush record player, with the smell of hot vinyl in my nostrils and the sound of 'Mercury, the Winged Messenger' filling my ears and transporting me into space. I don't have many fond memories of my home life as a child but that one will do...

NB. If you scroll right to the end of most of the Wikipedia links here, you will find a link to a performance of the music referred to.