Wednesday 2 October 2013

Light Classical Music - including British Light Music


Ever since I became interested in classical music in my mid teens, I have liked that genre of Light Classical music - which comprises things like accessible short pieces by the heavyweight Classical composers - such as Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusic or movements from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony; detached opera and oratorio arias and choruses; plus deliberately composed light music such as operetta, concert overtures, suites, and occasional music for ballet, plays and (more recently) movies.


The achetype for this was in the BBC radio programme Your Hundred Best Tunes, presented by newsreader Richard Baker - I used to sample these to find out which composers warranted further exploration.

I then moved onto heavyweight investigations, listening through whole operas, complete symphony sets, all the concertos or sonatas I could find by composers like Mozart and Beethoven.

And of course the baroque era composers and earlier such Bach, Vivaldi and the lesser lights such as Albinoni and Telemann - which became added to the Light music category in the 70s (before which only Handel had a place at the table with things like the 'Largo', Hallelujah chorus and 'Harmonious Blacksmith'). 


Of particular appeal in this array is the genre of British Light Music - which was mostly an early 20th century phenomenon but still much in evidence in the 1960s.

The doyen of these composers was Eric Coates (1886-1957) who wrote numerous excellent pieces including the Dambusters March, By the Sleepy Lagoon,  Calling all Workers and other very evocative (and nostalgic) short pieces, plus some very pleasant suites.

Coates was only the premier of a stable of such professional composers - who often lived from the sales of sheet music orchestra scores: Ronald Binge, Charles Williams (not the Inkling), Albert Ketelby among many others (many of whom contributed only a single piece to the canon).

A selection of this genre performed absolutely as they should be is available in a Four CD set of British Light Music Classics conducted by Ronald Corp.


Anyway, the genre of Light Classical Music is pretty much my bread and butter for daily daytime listening, of the sort provided by the commercial radio station Classic FM - I can tolerate nearly all of this kind of stuff, and some of it I like very much.



dearieme said...

We came back from living in Queensland in 1993 and, lo!, there was Classic FM. Hurray, declared my wife, no more being obliged by Radio Three to listen to some horrible din because It Was Good For Us.

The other wonderful feature of music for the last few decades was the release on CD of large amounts of early jazz. Stuff that you couldn't get hold of in the sixties and seventies was now available, and cheap. 40 CDs for £28 cheap.

Beethoven and Beiderbecke, Mozart and Morton, Schubert and Satchmo ...
Who could ask for anything more?

Anonymous said...

The "Pastoral" is an interesting example because, along with its tunefulness and accessibility, it is a serious and first-rate symphony. It is perhaps the only piece of such stature to serve equally well in both worlds.

The classical tradition received by educated people today is quite different from the one that existed among the educated classes of the 18th and 19th centuries. (Patrick O'Brian conveys this well in his Aubrey & Maturin books -- Aubrey and Maturin often play works by composers like Hummel, Boccherini, J.C. Bach and Benda, highly skilled professionals familiar to cultured people of the time but whose names aren't famous today). The old tradition included an awful lot of light music. I remember once looking at a Maud Powell recital program, for example, and it was quite unlike a modern one in that it was mostly "light":

There is a lot of very good light music out there -- Chaminade immediately comes to mind -- that generally cultivated people ought to enjoy. The difficulty is that most educated people today do not wish to be musically cultivated since that's a snobby, old-person thing (but it's perfectly fine to be a "foodie", a pomo literature snob, an indie rock snob, etc).