Opposites attract ??? going for baroque

September 15, 2010


We all like lots of things. If you thought about your musical tastes, I’m sure it wouldn’t take too long to think of two entities that were quite diverse but which you loved equally. One such pair for me is Antonio Vivaldi and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

If you are just a casual fan of classical music or not at all a fan of classical music, maybe you’re thinking, but they’re both classical composers, they aren’t that different. But those of us who have more than a passing interest know that they are quite different. Vivaldi is Baroque and precise. Rachmaninoff is (late) Romantic and organic.

My overall favorite genre of classical music is Baroque, and Vivaldi is my favorite classical composer of any ilk. You’re probably most familiar with his Four Seasons, and that’s an amazing piece of music. My fondest memory of it was watching ice dancers Maya Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin skate to it in the 1992 Winter Olympics, especially the moves at about 4:30. It still sends chills up my spine!

A nice album of Vivaldi compositions the volume 2 CD of his cello concerti as played by Ofra Harnoy (buy). I particularly enjoy the Concerto in C Minor RV 402. But really, I like just about anything by Vivaldi

Sure, there’s the flasher Johann Sebastian Bach. As a kid taking piano lessons, I really enjoyed learning piano adaptations of some two- and three-part inventions. Over the years, the book has lost its cover and been nibbled on by my various rabbits. I haven’t played my piano for years. I like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart just fine as well, but his music always seems a little more clinical in its ultra-precision. (I guess he’s technically considered to be of the Classical era, though there is overlap with Baroque and the stylistic influence is present.)


I would probably say that Georg Friedrich Handel is my second favorite Baroque composer. Every December, I listen to my complete recording of The Messiah, and Watermusik is just charming.

Two-thirds of the way to the other end of the spectrum is Rachmaninoff and his lush romanticism. I’m a big fan of the four piano concerti, especially No. 2 in C Minor, Op.18 (buy). The opening of the first movement is just so … Russian. And in the second movement, astute listeners will hear one of the motifs on which Eric Carmen based his hit song “All by Myself.”

What musical opposites do you like?

(Vivaldi and Rachmaninoff images from Wikipedia)

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