In the current issue of Ravinia Program Magazine, we asked several music professionals to select five pieces that they thought might “hook” a first-time classical listener. Here are my selections. Feel free to tell us what works you would choose. In the coming weeks, we will share other answers with you too. So stay tuned!
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Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2
First movement: [Allegro]
Perhaps more than any other Baroque piece, this work for me typifies the thrilling sound of brilliant Baroque orchestration. It’s like Las Vegas neon turned into glorious sound.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
First movement: Allegro con brio
Sometimes it’s hard not to believe that this is the most thrilling symphonic movement of all time. The final coda—that moment when you first think the movement will end, but instead Beethoven takes off on a final, frantic flight—can really take your breath away.
Rossini: Overture to Guillaume Tell
Baby Boomers and those even older will forever associate the final portion of the “William Tell Overture,” as it is usually called, with The Lone Ranger television and radio series, but that still doesn’t destroy the incredible excitement it can generate.
Donizetti: Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor
Here is a selection that has been lampooned by many artists, not the least of which are the Three Stooges. When properly sung, it clearly demonstrates the glory of human voices joined in a gorgeous ensemble. And that tune! Just try to get it out of your head.
Tchaikovsky: “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is performed to death by countless ballet companies every Christmas, but that still hasn’t dulled the luster of this catchy piece. The sudden minor-key interlude by the cellos inevitably brings tears to my eyes.