I got tagged on Facebook to do this project – share ten albums that greatly influenced my taste in music. One album per day for ten consecutive days. In theory for the Facebook version this is supposed to be without explanation… but I want to explain! So I’m going to blog the explanations here.
I will say I found it a challenge to assemble the list not as ten favorite albums but ten influential albums. Since I’m a musician myself, I really tried to pick albums that were formative for me as a musician, though a few of them slipped in that were formative for other reasons. I’m also going to try to be somewhat chronological since these are a part of my story.
I’ll start today with what formed me early – classical music. My parents’ love for classical music rubbed off on me. I still have memories of my dad (who spent several years early in life as a high school band director) standing in front of the stereo conducting along to recordings of Beethoven symphonies. I started taking piano lessons at age 7 and continued through high school. But the first bit of classical music that latched on to me in a really significant way was Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto.
I don’t remember the specific recording I listened to as a kid. I know it was on a cassette tape (remember those?) which I probably bought at Walmart. Rachmaninov hits the sweet spot on the classical to modern spectrum for me. Still strongly influenced by the late Romantic composers, tinges of the modern influences that his Russian counterparts would more fully embrace, but beautiful melodies and lush harmonies that are well suited for pianists with large hands. I hacked through a lot of this concerto in junior high and high school and while I never got very good at it I enjoyed it immensely.
The recording I’m sharing of it today is one that has become one of my favorites – Stephen Hough with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It’s fairly fast and rowdy compared to most other versions you hear. I think Sergei might approve. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be on any of the streaming services. There is this YouTube video though of Hough talking about his new recording and playing a bit of it.