Milton Moore: Who says classical music has to be relaxing?

In “Just Listen,” The Day’s music writers share their playlists of favorite recordings and invite you to share your comments and your playlists. Each blog includes a Spotify playlist of the music in play. You can stream the music, then add your comments in this blog. Spotify is a free music service for your computer or wireless device.

It annoys me to hear classical radio stations tout their music as “relaxing.” Does anyone ever call a book or a movie or a painting “relaxing”? To me, the best in music is exciting or, at least, transporting. If something written by Beethoven or Mozart or Brahms relaxes you, you’re probably not paying attention.

We’re all guilty of using music as some sort of drug at times, but I seldom think of music as a sedative (that’s what television is for). I like musical energizers, music to get the engines revved up when cleaning the house or cooking or just buzzing around. So I am offering some of my favorite energizers from the classical realm.

This playlist (just click to play the tracks in area below) starts with Paul Hindemith’s Kammermusik (chamber music) No. 5, a sort of mini-viola concerto, written for viola and a small, brassy ensemble that chugs along gleefully through this first movement.

Next up is the first of two Schubert piano pieces here, the finale of one of his last three piano sonatas, the C Minor, D. 958. This wild tarantella dance is relentless and gets me jumping around my house every time. I prefer a particular Sviatoslav Richter recording of this (unavailable on Spotify), but Mitsuko Uchida is no slouch when it comes to Schubert.

Next up is the motor-driven scherzo from the Fifth Symphony of that most motor-driven of composers, Sergei Prokofiev. It is said that when Prokofiev had writer’s block, he would take a long train ride with a blank book of staves in his lap. In this, you can almost see the vast Russian landscape race past and the rail clickety clickety click.

The fourth track is Schubert again: his immensely popular Military March No. 1. In this recording, Russian wunderkind Evegny Kissin performs this, with an air of utter delight, as an encore. If you have little kids, form a parade and march around the house to this one.

The fifth energizer is Fritz Kreisler’s 1910 Tambourin Chinois. Kreisler was the last of a breed: a virtuoso who was also a composer. He wrote many sentimental Viennese confections, but this one is all motion.

And I end with the final movement of Haydn’s String Quartet No. 59 in G Minor, one of the best set-enders ever. The galloping rhythm gave the quartet its nickname: “The Rider.” As we go racing off to the horizon, it’s a good moment to think of Haydn’s endless creativity – this is just one movement of his 59th string quartet! No writer’s block for this musical genius.

So much energy in these … have I hit or missed a favorite of yours?

Reader Comments