A serendipitous moment.

26 posts / 0 new
Last post
A serendipitous moment.

It's 1983 and I'm in a darkroom processing negatives for print production. The radio is blaring pop pap from BBC Radio 1 as usual, Duran Duran, Kajagoogoo, Spandau Ballet were the best of the output.

Maybe the chemicals got to me but in sheer frustration I turned the dial to quit the noise. Radio 3 was playing some orchestral sounds that just made me stop and listen to a soundscape alien to me. I don't remember what was playing but it was enough to make me visit W H Smith that weekend and randomley pluck from the LP's available Shumann's Rhenish symphony. I know it was Kubelik and I'm sure it was a CFP album. I love that symphony to this day.

This was my intro into a world of wonder and never ending amazement. Next, Sheherezade, Pathetique, Mozart, Falla, Mahler all of which I no longer listen to now, sadly. Then Vaughan Williams, Walton, Berg, Part, Ireland, MacMillan ................it's never ending from such a serendipitous beginning.

What's your story?


Pause for thought.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

In around 1986 I was watching a vox pop on telly, on some youth programme. The reporter enquired with random bypassers if they were familiar with 'Mozart's 21st Piano Concerto', while the 2nd movement played in the background- and only one person, identified it as the one "they also call Elvira Madigan". The next day I bought the Gulda/Abbado version and  soon discovered that the coupling, the D minor concerto, reached even greater emotional depths.

After that I was in the record store after every pay day (I ran with papers), buying randomly everything on the prestigious yellow label - Karajan, Bernstein, Mutter, Zimerman etc. Zeffirelli's Otello film made a great impression and this was my first opera recording, immediately followed by extracts from Maazel's Carmen which I acquired after a school trip to Kiel in Northern Germany to see Carmen. Funnily enough, while these 2 operas I remain among my favourites, I can't beart those particular recordings any longer.

I think that the biggest leap you make as a record collector is the day when you discover that it's less a question about what is being played but rather who is playing it. On that day, you truly enter the richness of Ali Baba's cave.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

In my formative years (again around 1986) I was usually quite happy to leave it to the the Penguin Guide to decide the top recording (as well as Gramophone, but el Penguino was always by the side of my bed, and crucially, there was always a dog eared copy on the counter in my local classical stores - amazing I had two to choose from in leicester back then!). On the whole it was the repertoire I had the burning desire to explore, not so much different interpretations, so in my early years I tended to go with one recording of each work.

However, I did find that I became very set in my ways, in the sense that the first recording I heard of a work often became fixed as the definitive interpretation (ie the phrasing, tempos etc became locked in my mind),  so when I  heard a technically better interpretation I would go running back to the first version I heard because the new one seemed to be out of kilter. For example, Arrau playing Brahms 2 with Guiliani conductiing - for years I couldn't accept any other recording (ie Barenboim/Barbirolli) simply because this was the first one I heard. (Actually, I still love it, even if it is a tad creaky).

Anyhow - my best friend's older brother came back from University talking about Mahler. I rushed out to Bree's in Leicester and bought Mahler 2 conducted by Tennstedt on vinyl. The first notes grabbed be by the ears, and within a month I'd blown my left speaker thanks to the finale.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

What a lovely thread - many thanks, Atonal.

My conversion to opera and the world of the singing voice is such a vivid memory and I can still remember it as though it were yesterday. It was about 1971 and I was having a relaxing bath on a Sunday night. School (and probably some exam or other) was on the cards the following morning. We had a transistor radio in the bathroom, and those of a certain vintage will remember a programme called 'Your Hundred Best Tunes' introduced by the melifluous tones of Alan Keith. I listened avidly every week, but opera was for me barely tolerable and an interruption between the orchestral excerpts.

I had the light off and was relaxing away when some singing came on which suddenly had me utterly transfixed. I had no idea what it was, who composed it or who was singing. I really was in such a high state of nervous excitement that I could only catch one word of Alan Keith's "And that was...." announcement at the end of the piece.

I really could hardly sleep that night, and after school the following day, walked to the town's record shop with my saved up money from my paper round. I explained to the lady that I really didn't have much information about what I was after except for the first name of one of the singers.

"It was Jussi" I told her.

She knew instantly who it was, and presented me with my very first LP - Operatic Arias by Jussi Bjorling. I clutched it eagerly as I walked home thinking how I could persuade my parents to buy a record player - we didn't have one!

It's difficult to convey the depth of gratitude I have for that one moment for opening up what was for me, as Atonal beautifully expressed it, the "world of wonder and never ending amazement".

And the piece? It was the 'Miserere' from Trovatore with Bjorling and Milanov. I've heard it countless times since, both live and on recordings, with singers both famous and forgotten, but no performance of it can ever equal that night in mymemory.

Sorry for the inordinate length of the post, but this really stirred a wonderful memory for me.  



RE: A serendipitous moment.

Hermastersvoice wrote:

I think that the biggest leap you make as a record collector is the day when you discover that it's less a question about what is being played but rather who is playing it. On that day, you truly enter the richness of Ali Baba's cave.

I've never experienced that day. I'm usually content with the recording I have, unless it has obvious shortcomings. Which is why you won't find me contributing to any threads about the relative merits of this or that bandmaster in this or that symphony. For me the rise of the conductor was enabled by the demise of the composer (I mean the composer whose new works are eagerly awaited by a wide audience); despite everything I still prefer composers.  

RE: A serendipitous moment.

It was not one single moment, but rather a gradual situation of different (with some serendipitous) moments, that changed the course of my musical life.

In the early sixties, I heard by chance a fragment of the opening of Beethoven's Fifth along with the usual start of the Ode to Joy, in an irrelevant radio programme. Although I was moved, I never thought to go and buy the relevant LPs. I was happy with Beatles, Elvis and the rest.

It was in April 1967, when I went to see, for the first time, in a very specially prepared movie theatre, the very influential, prophetic film of Stanley Kubrick called "2001: A Space Odyssey". It was this amazing blaze of the opening peroration of R. Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra along with the contrasting following flowing beauty of the "Blue Danube" of Johann Strauss that made me wonder...Soon, I bought my first classical LP : the "Zarathustra" with BPO under Bohm, in the yellow label (with a very impressive cover). I found out, to my dismay, that I couldn't follow what was happening after the initial impressive less than two minutes fanfare. So, I return to Frank Zappa's Hot Rats!

Then, came a forced concert of Leningrad Philharmonic under Mravinsky. Still, the whole concert went "over my head", till the time of the "encores''. There, the magic power of Wagner's music came: The epic "Ride of the Valkures", the Prelude to the third Act of Lohengrin and the Funeral March from Gotterdammerung. Despite the transformation took some time, the change has started. Soon, I had to go for musical studies to start learning a bit more of what was going on and how I may become a musician, if I had to choose so. The beginning of a very heterogenous record collection (Messiaen along with Brahms or Ligetti along with Bach) has started as well.

The important thing is that these special, sometimes unique, moments of changing directions, perceptions owing to the revelation of new works or even new composers has become an ongoing process. Last year, preparing our concert for an african country, we worked extensively on Mozart's Piano Quartet in g minor, which, despite it was not unknown to me, it came out as a true discovery, as I had to follow every single step of it. This year, we're working on Schubert' Trout Quintet and the Piano Sonata D. 959. That led me to listen to almost the whole output of his amazing works, which, unfortunately, are "squeezed" among the other great composers of the classical and romantic periods.

So, what I found out is that, the more you indulge in, the more you discover, in numerous (serendipitous or not) moments, musical revelations of an infinite pleasure of the mind and emotional as well spiritual fulfilment.


RE: A serendipitous moment.


1983 and 1986? You youngsters, you!

Change the last two numbers from 1986 to 1968!

So it is 1968. I was six years old and we had a front room, which was called 'the parlour', and which contained nothing much other than the best suite, a posh coffee table, a mysterious device called a telephone in the corner and wait for it...a Dansette record player!

One day my dad said listen to these! Not in the right order, but the pieces were Sibelius's Karelia Suite - thrilling stuff-the 1812 overture and then onto Beethoven's fifth and sixth opening movements, Scubert's Unfinished etc...That was my time of conversion, although I was also content to listen to my older sister's Tamla Motown stuff as well!

Thankfully dad never forced me to listen to anything - but he didn't need to anyway. He just introduced me to this glorious music and left me to it.

A year or two later, I had persuaded my parents to buy a second hand piano, which moved into the parlour, and started piano lessons of course with the little old lady down the road. And progressed onto Radio 3 and Sibelius etc...

Gradualism with me as well. I was lucky enough to go to Grammar School in the 70's, where we had a kind of cathedral school tradition really, so joining the school choir as an alto at 11 was wonderful. We did three concerts a year, ending with a major work in the local cathedral, so I got initiated into that wonderful sacred choral music and sang in the Verdi Requiem, Vivaldi's Gloria and Purcell's Te Deum, the Messiah, Bach's St. Matthew and an obscure but delightful work by Dyson called The Canterbury Pilgrims.

I think my conversion to twentieth century came when my set composer for A level was Britten, and the set work the delightful Serenade for tenor, horn and strings.

However, in my teen years I went over to the dark side, and decided to study literature and not music. Sometimes it is good to keep something that has great personal value as a hobby or passion, rather than trying to make a career out of it...

Lovely topic yes.


Hi Ludwg. Hpe u don mind me sendin u a txt mes. How u doin? - Yrs. Frz Scbrt.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

1983 I was taking every opportunity to go to the Hacienda Club with my schoolmates. I was also spending far too much time listening to Robert Johnson (only in the sense that this kept me from my Physics homework).

September of that year, at the encouragement of a teacher I took a school trip to see the drama "Masterclass" by David Pownell. I found the portrayl of Shostakovich particularly fascinating. The next day I skipped the last lesson and went down to the local WH Smiths and bought a cassette of the Shostakvovich piano concertos. A week later I added a copy of the 11 Symphony (Berglund). I then read around the whole subject using the school library, adding new music when I thought there as something worth exploring. I think it was the next Easter I watched Parsifal on TV, from beginning to end, and that was Wagner on the list.



RE: A serendipitous moment.

Thanks for all your replies, great stories.

I've never been that interested in collecting different versions of the same piece rather stick with one or two recommended versions - usually period and modern instruments if an early work. Mind you this is a financial consideration more than anything else.

Will respond later when I've more time.


Pause for thought.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Good thread.

1990 the World Cup was in Italy and this big bearded bloke belts out Nessun Dorma on the radio.  I hunted out a CD recording and settled for the DECCA Your Hundred Best Opera Tunes.  I was immediately hooked on a new sound world which I have never left.  The voices of Bergonzi, Tebaldi, Pavarotti, Milnes and Ghiaurov were like a balm and I quickly gathered the remaining five CDs and decided that I loved Puccini and Verdi and started aquiring complete DECCA box sets beginning with La Boheme and HvK.  It was three years before I heard Maria Callas sing (in a repeat of the Tony Palmer documentary) and then this took me in the direction of Bel Canto.  

At the start I loved Lesley Garrett too - so feel especially grateful for the TV programme she did with Evelyn Glennie as she was my introduction to appreciating Le Nozze Di Figaro.

A further big help was Classic FM which at the time - in the early 90s had a completely different approach and used to broadcast complete operas on a saturday night.  I also yearn for the Classic Opera Show with Hugh McPherson which used to begin with the overture from the Barber of Seville.  I still remember the interview he did with Renee Fleming where the only recorded material he had was her live Pesaro Armida.  

Proof, to my mind, that bringing this sublime music to the masses through as many different means as possible encourages those who would otherwise have been ignorant of classical music to start exploring - and crucially (in my case) keep exploring.  It's funny but it took an i-pod for me to start really appreciating symphonic music as the cocooning effect whilst commuting long distances helped and bizarrely and honestly it's taken a really good set of PC speakers for me to start listening to Bach with fresh ears.  Only just recently having ventured away from the works for solo instrument to the cantatas and masses which I had previously been highly allergic too.  

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Two pieces of music in an otherwise essentially music-less world changed the direction of my life - though, as an eleven or twelve year old in the mid 1950s, I had no way of knowing its import at the time.

Stuck in an inner-city, Catholic Secondary Modern (for failures) school, the experience of which I have spent a lifetime preferring to forget, for some totally atypical reason, some teacher decided that we should file into assembly to the music of Wagner's Tannhauser overture.  Over a period of time it began to fascinate, to thrill me to the core; it gave me a visceral thrill that had me almost praying (looking back, probably literally) to be the class that day to be chosen to enter the hall first so I could hear more of the music.  I have never forgotten that physical thrall.   No-one in my world knew of this music and I certainly hid my reaction to it, thinking myself something of a freak for feeling so.  It took me years to track it down and hear it at my own bidding.  Perhaps, nearly half of the rest of my life!

The other was Sibelius' Karelia Suite.  This was used to introduce and conclude a current affairs programme called, I think, "This Week."   I remember, or think I remember, sneaking down the stairs to listen secretly to this, again, physically thrilling, climax-building music.  I can still recall the effect of this music on my whole being.

Being painfully shy, I have no idea what gave me the courage to audition for a part in a school performance of "The Pirates of Penzance".  Yes, I do.  I was secretly in love with girl called Paula Milne who got the part of Mabel.  My best friend Victor got to be Frederick while I pined at the back of the chorus of pirates.  Every single tune of that music has lived with me for the whole of the rest of my life.  And a little pain too.

Until teacher training college as a mature student in my early thirties, I had never mixed with anyone with whom I could have shared my secret, and for some reason, rather guilty love of classical music.  What I do know is that most of my early exploration was a desperate desire to recreate what those snatches of Wagner and Sibelius gave to me.

For the last period of my teaching career, I volunteered for a school for (very) naughty boys excluded from several mainstream schools.  When (very infrequently) they had settled to "work", I would play a small selection of classical pieces that I thought would sink in and grip like my experience.  I am rather proud that towards the end, boys, most of whom are probably in prison now, demanded - yes, demanded - Pachebell's "Canon" before they would consent to put pen to paper.   Yes, I am proud of that.




Log in or register to post comments
© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2014