22 Oct 2018

Too much music!

From Settling the Score, 12:00 pm on 22 October 2018

When faced with having to choose just three favourite pieces of classical music to vote for in RNZ Concert's Settling the Score, Cynthia Morahan looked to the past, present and future for inspiration.

RNZ Concert presenter Cynthia Morahan.

RNZ Concert presenter Cynthia Morahan. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Each year we invite the people of New Zealand to vote for their three favourite pieces of classical music. The votes are tallied, then counted down on the radio across 12 hours on Labour Day Monday and New Year's Day. It's a great day of listening to our biggest classical hits.

I tried to whittle it down to three pieces, but there is simply too much music. How do you go from hundreds of works in numerous genres over at least five centuries down to three pieces?

I listen to a lot of music as part of my job. Some of it I like, some of it I am indifferent to, some of it I most definitely do not like and sometimes I fall in love. I do not know why the music causes me to react in this way. It seems taste, for anything - be it tea or coffee or cats or dogs or music, is just one of those mysteries. It's personal. So with that in mind, here is my personal strategy.

Choose one piece for each in the following three categories:

1) The Past - the music of memory. This is the music that vividly transports you to a place or time. I choose Brahms's 1st Piano Concerto (the moody and stormy first movement). This music is my passport to reliving an early winter morning drive around the Ring of Beara in County Kerry, Ireland 13 years ago. 

2) The Present - music of stillness. This is the music that stops you in your tracks. Whatever you're doing, when you hear it, you simply have to listen - despite the fact that you might be halfway out the door and late for work. For me, this is Bach's Cello Suite No 3.

3) The Future - music of hope and joy. This is the sort of music that changes your mood, lifts you out of a slump and turns an otherwise ordinary day into a few moments of the sublime and the extraordinary. For me, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson singing Handel is a thrilling shot of musical caffeine. 

Here are some favorite pieces other people chose to vote for: