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Come on who admits to playing just the famous bits?

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Showing 1-21 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Jul 2012 15:27:42 BDT
Nugent Dirt says:
In polls like's Classic FM's annual fest the usual suspects feature quite regularly e.g. The Planets, Peer Gynt Suite, Karelia Suite, LvB,s 5th, 4 Seasons etc etc. Thing is surely the popularity of these works is entirely down to the famous bits. While every man and his dog knows the 1st movement of LvBs 5th, what % of the public would be able to recognise anything from the other 3? I suspect when many folk put on the Planets they go straight to Mars and that's it. Viz really popular works, how many here admit to playing the really famous parts while ignoring the rest. I do, quite a bit I admit.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 15:45:33 BDT
Paul B says:
As a teenager first learning my CM I most certainly did. It was usually the loud fast bits that got played the most. Over the years, the habit gradually got less, until now I can honestly say I never do it. If I don't have time for a particular work, I'll skip it and go for something shorter instead.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2012 18:17:33 BDT
Piso Mojado says:
Not I, Nugent. I go direct to jolly-tune Jupiter and find my bottle of Mars-repellant. Although first exposure in grammar school was to favourite movements, probably abbreviated, called "The Heart of the Symphony", recorded by Fiedler and the "Pops" for RCA.

Next came "The Heart of the Concerto" with Jesus Maria Sanroma, staff pianist of the Boston Symphony, and Fiedler, who sanguinely exclaimed "Jesus Maria! We really cut the heart out of that concerto, Sanroma".

They later did full justice to Mendelssohn's entire G-minor concerto, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and Concerto in F.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 19:03:01 BDT
MacDoom says:
If memory serves, I've only ever done it to:
- Smetana's Ma Vlast. No prizes for guessing the movement I played out of context.
- The Diabelli Variation Project, where I almost invariably limit myself to Beethoven's.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 19:19:13 BDT
JayJayDee says:
I think that Ma Vlast is such a loose collection that you are excused that one, MacD!

I may have got to know the classics through the famous bits being more readily accessible, but I don't do 'famous bits' with the single exception of the Sunrise from Also Sprach Zarathustra which I play to others who hum it and ask me to play it to them if I have it!
I know for sure that they will go off classical music big time if asked to sustain their interest through the next 30 minutes!

There are single movements that I might play and then stop when short of time, but I don't think they are the 'famous bits'. It would usually be the first movement. I don't think I have ever played the Largo from New World on its own, but I can understand why it happens.

To round-up (pun intended) an intellectual is one who doesn't think of The Lone Ranger when hearing the William Tell Overture, while a real show off is one who says 'Ahh - Dmitri's last symphony!'

Nice idea Nugent....I hope people are honest!

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 19:37:34 BDT
Paul B says:
An advantage back in the days of LPs was that you could see which were the loud bits just by looking at the grooves. I well remember dropping the cuing arm to let the stylus into the grooves just about an eighth of an inch before what looked like a potential good bit. I had forgotten that til just now.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 19:38:54 BDT
Lez Lee says:
Mostly I avoid the famous bits but exceptions are 'Aquarius' from Carnival of the Animals, and Bolero of which the whole thing is the famous bit! Oh, and several bits of Scheherazade.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 20:23:08 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2012 20:25:25 BDT
I don't do this with classical music but I certainly do it (concentrating on my favourite tracks rather than necessarily the best-known ones) with rock albums, very few of which I listen to from beginning to end.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 21:22:02 BDT
JayJayDee says:
Yes Harry, I do that a lot with Santana. Especially his middle period.
I think Nuge might have inadvertently hit upon a key difference between CM dippers, CM newcomers and CM afficionados. Dippers and newcomers have a choice as to whether to descend the expensive and slippery slope into obsession, or stick happily with samplers and Classic fM.

There certainly are some duller or routine sections of many CM pieces, but you really have to take them on board in order to 'get' the whole piece - rather than just enjoy a few tunes. Or is there a piece of music out there, of significant length, with no padding and no development section?

Nobody needs to be ashamed to search out the superficially attractive bits. Surely it's the way we first get to know any piece? Gradually piecing together the key moments?

I remember the fascination I had as a teenager, conceptually linking together the exciting bits of Shostakovich 10th Symphony. It must have taken a dozen hearings - during which, at first, I was only waiting for the percussive and brassy bits! Something manic drove me to listen repeatedly to its full 50 minutes! Somehow I knew there was a real story being laid out in there and I shouldn't always go to the last page to see Whodunnit.
Like reading the last few pages of La Bete Humaine. A shallower experience.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 22:13:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2012 22:16:09 BDT
Bella says:
I have listened to "best bits"from time to time, but they usually sound a lot better in context! It's like discovering where all those Shakespearian quotations come from.
What I do do is listen to movements. I started doing this a few years ago when I realised that I was seldom listening to lengthy pieces, or operas, that would take up most or all of an evening, and I find that it works really well. No doubt Mahler would turn in his grave, on the other hand concerts in earlier centuries regularly presented movements as well as complete works. I continue during ensuing days so that I eventually hear the whole piece, it's just a bit more spread out than the composer intended......

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jul 2012 23:36:08 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jul 2012 23:54:14 BDT
John Ruggeri says:
Many Verdi OPERAS are totally Famous Bits at least to me and require no picking and choosing unless I am in a Hurry.
Samples: Trovatore, Rigoletto, Traviata, Otello and Fastaff on instant recall.
For Wagner I often listen to extended BITS.
I do NOT just listen to DA DA DA DA from LvB's 5th.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 23:46:38 BDT
Malx says:
I sometimes listen to "bundles" of pieces like Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues rather than attempting the whole collection, I guess that may not qualify as famous bits as suggested in the thread title!

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 06:07:34 BDT
JayJayDee says:
I agree with you there Malx.
I don't think you get the best out of Shostakovich by listening to the whole set. Just two or three at a time is more digestible for me! {Watch out for food analogies}.

Nugent's reference to the Classic fM syndrome is useful, because I think listeners are being provoked into much more bite-size listening by that radio station. I only listen to it in the car and as an alarm wake-up nowadays. While I am getting sick and tired of hearing ONLY the Andante from DSCH Piano Concerto 2 and ONLY the Scherzo from Rachmaninov 2nd Symphony, I guess the overall impact of Classic fM has been good and has pulled across some middle of the road music-listeners to something a bit more weighty.
After all you have to take a few bites before you finish a whole meal. Now there's a thought, the same people who listen to bite size music also push their salad and veggies to the side of the plate and eat only the meat and 'taties?

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2012 08:38:16 BDT
MacDoom says:

I have my troubles with the preludes and fugues by Shostakovich, and also with those by Bach. So it was quite remarkable that a combination of the two worked very well indeed for me. This was at a very small-scale recital given by Ivo Janssen, in a private house living room with only some 15 or 20 people present. It gave a whole new meaning to the idea of an 'intimate concert'. And it was an ear-opener for sure.

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 09:32:31 BDT
Goeden dag, mijnheer. Might I suggest you seek out Edwin Fischer's recording of the Bach on Naxos Historical? He performs them as music, instead of laying them out as exercises.

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 09:49:04 BDT
Malx says:

There are many piano works I thoroughly enjoy but have to take in "bite" sized portions to digest, the Shostakovich and Bach Preludes and Fugues are prime examples. Chopin, Etudes Mazurkas Nocturnes etc, I tend to listen to in small groups, a couple of opus nos together usually amounting to about 20 minutes of listening time. Debussy preludes again I don't tend to listen to a whole book in one go.

That recital you mention sounds like a very good idea, could it be the intimate nature of the setting helped the concentration levels?

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2012 10:32:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2012 10:45:01 BDT
MacDoom says:
Beste heer Callahan! Historische opnamen zijn aan mij helaas niet besteed, tenzij het om pianorollen gaat die recenter tot klinken zijn gebracht. De geschilderde aanpak van Fischer lijkt me voor mij wel de meest geschikte!

If that was gobbledegook (or double Dutch):
HC: historic recordings are unfortunately not my cup of tea, unless they are piano rolls played back more recently. Fischer's approach as you describe it would seem ideally suited to me!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2012 10:44:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2012 10:46:15 BDT
MacDoom says:

It is not something I have encountered in other pieces. I can take my Debussy two books at a time, all Chopin études in a bunch don't phase me either (though I'd have liked more of them!). These Shostakovich and Bach preludes and fugues are a different matter. Not helped by my overall inability to connect with fugues in general.

As for the recital - yes, it was almost as if the pianist communicated to the individual audience members (or guests, in this case!) which made it a very special occurrence.

Those wanting to explore Janssen's highly regarded Bach (when the individual volumes came out, I read nothing but very positive opinions on them) might be interested in this: Complete Keyboard Works which (especially used and new) seems a steal for 20 CDs. Note that the one 'customer review' is by Ivo Janssen himself!

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 11:22:34 BDT
Nick says:
Errm - surely the sets of Preludes/Etudes/well-tempered whatever/fugues were not composed with a view to be listened to let alone performed en-masse - they are all their composer's treatments of different aspects of the same form/emotional landscape. The bite-sized debate is mainly applicable to symphonic writing where the individual movements are significant as part of the whole. My annoyance with the Cfm model is that they only play one movement of Karelia or Giselle or whatever - why on earth not play the other two too?! It ghettoises the core repertoire - having tried to programme concerts for amateur orchestras I know just how hard it is to persuade them not just to play 'rare' repertoire but if you are doing the pops it has to be Dvorak (for example) 9 or 8 - not a chance with 4-6!

Posted on 7 Jul 2012 14:37:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2012 14:37:55 BDT
Nick: I think the problem with amateur orchestras is that the audience is going to consist mainly of relatives and friends, many of whom aren't going to really like classical music anyway. Even Dvorak 6, which they would probably enjoy, would frighten them away because it wasn't the 'New World'.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jul 2012 21:58:56 BDT
Piso Mojado says:
Wouter MacDoom -- In a recital here, Piotr Anderszewski also interleaved Bach with Shostakovich preludes and fugues, one on one. It worked very well.
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Initial post:  6 Jul 2012
Latest post:  7 Jul 2012

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