- Elgar, Cello Concerto in E Minor – Jacqueline Du Pre.
I started to play the cello when I was seven, and from the first moment I picked it up I had a love/hate relationship with it. I’d wanted to play the violin but when I walked into the Canberra School of Music with my mother to speak to the violin teacher she took one look at my hands and said “No, fingers are too long. Cello”
However, I found that when I sat down to play the cello every bit of energy and passion I had to give poured out through the cello. I had a startling talent, but as with everything it doesn’t amount for much when you don’t put work into it and it was the first thing that I would push aside during my depressive stages. So now, at 20, I’m all talent, no skill. The cello is like an extension of my body, my playing is instinctual, I can move without effort, but I can’t dance.Jacqueline Du Pre, was arguably the greatest cellist of all time. She was a passionate woman and you can hear that passion in every note she plays. Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor is possibly her best, certainly her most famous recording. I challenge you to listen to it without falling in love with the cello. I can barely listen to it without crying.
- Vivaldi, “L’estro armonico” No. 10 (Concerto for Four Violins and a Cello)
This is a piece which never fails to cheer me up. Its such a vibrant and exciting work. I had the pleasure of performing this during my HSC year with my string quartet and a couple of borrowed additional violinists. It’s truly inspiring and should be on everyone’s ‘music for thinking’ playlists.
- Corelli, Concerto Grosso in G minor (Christmas Concerto)
Again from my string quartet days. This was my favorite piece to perform. It has a fun and prominent cello part. I loved the fact that I got a chance to shine rather than just playing walking basses all the time. It brings back great memories; in fact, when I listen to it I usually end up closing my eyes and playing it in my head.
- Chopin, Nocturne in E Minor, Op 72
One of my favorite pieces to play on the piano. I don’t have a piano in Melbourne and its the first time in my life that I’ve been without one. I miss it a lot. It was always the best outlet for any frustrations or sadness. I’ve been known to play an mp3 of this, close my eyes and play the imaginary piano on my desk… sad, I know!
- Rachmaninoff, Prelude in C sharp Minor
When I was a kid, after I’d go to bed my dad would play the piano. This was my favorite piece that he played. I’d often creep into the corridor to listen to it better. Dad’s not really one to show his emotions but he plays the piano with passion and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C sharp minor is a very passionate work.
- Widor, Toccata from Organ Symphony no 5
I’ve always loved the drama and grandiosity of the organ and this is the piece of music I most wanted to play. I learned the organ for a couple of years but I never got anywhere near good enough to play it. It’s still my favorite organ work.
- Satie, Gymnopedie 1
The first piece I learned to play on the piano was Satie’s Gymnopedie 1. Dad always used to play it and when I was around twelve I sat down at the piano and thought “I’ll give it a go”. When mum came home from work I proudly played her the first half of it. She called up to arrange piano lessons the next day.
- Allegri, Miserere
I have a long history with this work. I first learned the soprano solo for the Allegri Miserere when I was ten as an audition piece for Gondwana Voices, a choir comprised of 50 young singers from around Australia. Later, I sang it in a concert put together for a friend of my mother’s who was dying of cancer, and then performed it at his funeral. It is an amazing work, the kind of music that sends shivers down your spine every time you listen to it.
- Purcell, Funeral Music for Queen Mary
If you haven’t heard Purcell’s, Funeral Music for Queen Mary, and in particular the march, then I recommend that you stop reading now and get yourself a copy. I’ve performed this a couple of times and having the brass section just in front of me playing the funeral march is just spectacular. When I first heard it I immediately thought that I wanted it to be played at my funeral. I now realize that its probably a little over the top for someone like me but I love it nevertheless.
- Purcell, Dido and Aeneas
I had the honor of playing Dido in a school production of Dido and Aeneas and it is a fantastic work. Originally written for a girls school of ballet and the performing arts, its based on the Aeneid and has all the drama you would expect from a work with such heritage.
I was going to try to put these in some kind of order but I can’t find one. Jacqueline Du Pre’s recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor is definitely number one though. So I guess this is mostly a personalized idiots guide to classical music. A handful of classical works to check out that have my own personal seal of approval, whatever that’s worth 🙂