Various artists. Warner Classics 2564 69987-0 (2-disc set).
In the mid Fifties, when I was in fifth or sixth grade, I remember buying a LP box set of excerpts from famous classical masterpieces. It was quite a revelation to me at the time because my parents didn't care much for classical music, and I had only heard classical pieces on the Big John and Sparky Saturday morning radio show and occasionally in Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. The set of excerpts was, therefore, something of an introduction to the classics for me, no matter how truncated the music.
That was a long time ago, but the same thing happens here with 40 Most Beautiful Love Themes. On two discs, Warner Classics offer up forty excerpts of classical music representing some of the most romantic tunes ever written, things like Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, Saint-Saens' "The Swan," Borodin's String Quartet No. 2, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Satie's Gymnopedes No. 1, Liszt's Liebestraum No. 3, Massenet's "Meditation" from Thais, Ravel's Bolero, and so on. You name the tune, it's here. Of course, the pieces are not often in their entirety, between three and seven minutes each, often fading out just as they're getting started, but you'll get enough of the music to count.
The idea is for classical-music lovers to listen to it in the car, maybe, or as background music, and for nonclassical music listeners to learn a little more about the subject. The music is well played by top-name artists, so there's nothing to fear in terms of mediocrity: Kurt Masur, Lawrence Foster, Hugh Wolff, Andrew Davis, Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Jean-Francois Paillard, Bernard Haitink, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Lorin Maazel, Eliahu Inbal, and many other first-rate conductors contribute.
Warners chose the material from their catalogues of Erato, Teldec, and Warner Classics, the recordings spanning the years 1964-2004. Yes, there is some small variation in the sound characteristics, with none of it audiophile quality, yet it's all quite acceptable for casual listening. It makes a pleasant diversion that doesn't require one's full attention.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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