Many Musings, Mostly Musical: And the Winner Is…
By B.J. Bowen
What is your favorite classical piece? With centuries of musical works to choose from, it is very difficult to select just one. Being brave (or perhaps foolish) I will attempt to answer that question.
For musicians it could depend on what instrument they play.
My protagonist in the Musical Murders series, Emily Wilson, plays second flute in Colorado’s Monroe Symphony Orchestra. Her favorite piece is probably the “Dance of the Reed Flutes,” from Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet. It’s a gorgeous work, well-known, and features the flutes. She might also choose the Second Suite from Daphnis and Chloe by Maurice Ravel, the part she is working on as the first book of the Musical Murders series, Music is Murder, opens.
An oboe and English horn player, I have different favorites for different functions (yes, I’m aware this approach is a cop out). My favorite Christmas work is Handel’s Messiah (sorry, Emily, there’s no second flute part in Handel’s scoring, which is my favorite). From the repertoire I’ve played, my unquestionable favorite would be Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The second movement starts with a beautiful English horn solo, which I’ve played many times, always with congratulations and recognition from colleagues. For hope and encouragement after my divorce I listened to Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Sonatas. Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 plumbs the depths of my soul every time.
My daughter, a violinist, prefers “Adagio for Strings,” by Samuel Barber, a moving piece often played for funerals. The night of 9/11, the Colorado Springs Symphony changed its scheduled concert and opened the performance with the “Adagio” instead, in memory of the victims of the two towers.
My former section leader’s favorite is Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins. He says the second movement sounds like love as it should ideally be.
His wife’s favorite is Scheherazade, a programmatic piece by Rimsky-Korsakoff representing four stories from the Arabian Nights, with the first violin solo accompanied by harp, representing the storytelling Scheherazade.
As a non-musician, my son-in-law’s favorite piece is Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, because, he says, it always signals the entry of the villain in movies.
Friends chose selections as varied as Rhapsody in Blue, a jazzy pick sometimes interpreted as a musical portrait of New York City; “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana, a piece frequently used in movies; and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” familiar as the processional for weddings.
So, you see there is plenty of room for variety and differences of opinion. What is your favorite classical piece? Why? Tell me about it in the comments. I look forward to reading your responses.
About Music Is Murder
When a symphony musician is murdered—bashed with her own bassoon—flute player Emily Wilson becomes the prime suspect. To save herself and secure justice for her murdered friend, she must find the killer.
In the close-knit, unforgiving environment of the symphony orchestra Emily makes her way through the tender egos and warped relationships of her fellow musicians to find tantalizing clues. Blackmail, the victim’s abusive ex-boyfriend, an angry neighbor, and a shifty Symphony Board member all lead her to feel she is on the right track.
With the dogged Lieutenant Gordon on her trail, she must flee from the police so she can continue her search. She unexpectedly finds a loyal female friend and the possibility of a new man in her life. But she must learn to trust again after her failed and abusive marriage. With time running out, will she be able to evade the lieutenant, face her personal demons, and clear her name?
About B.J. Bowen