My Desert Island Discs

I was listening to Desert Island Discs this morning and it got me thinking what I’d choose if I were marooned on a desert island myself. So, I thought it would be a good little bit of Friday morning fun/procrastination to write them all down. It was SUCH a tough choice so I have given myself ten rather than eight pieces!

1. Mozart – Requiem
This remains my favourite piece of music of all time and I consider there to be no superlatives great enough to describe its absolute magnificence. I do wonder how differently the latter parts of it would have been had poor Mozart not departed this world before finishing it. I have performed it with three different choirs over the years, and know the alto part so well that whenever I listen to it, I hear (and sing) the alto part, not the main tune in the soprano part. Its haunting opening with the bassoon solo melting seamlessly into the clarinet, and each part of the choir coming in one by one, is just perfection itself – and it gets better and better from there on. It’s the pinnacle of Mozart’s achievements, and that is definitely saying something.

2. Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major
I love the contrast of the soaring highs, the turbulence and passion, the sadness and the joy in this piano concerto. Apparently the passion comes from Brahms’ (unrequited?) love for Clara Schumann, and the piece has meant a lot to me over the last decade or more as I have experienced similar emotions. I don’t ‘need’ it now like I used to, but it’s still high up there with my favourite pieces of music. I have often felt that this piece is almost a representation of the different parts of my own personality. I love it when you find a piece of music that speaks to you so much that it could have been written for you, and this is, I think, the closest I’ve come to finding that.

3. The Carpenters – Top of the World
Lee and I adopted this as “our song” fairly early on, and it has some lovely memories attached to it. We have, on a number of occasions, played it in the aeroplane through our headsets while flying above the clouds, when we are very literally ‘on top of the world’. Sometimes when we’re feeling sad we put it on in the car and sing along. You can see us singing it on this video (about a minute in)!:

4. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 2
It was a tough decision as to whether to put the second or third piano concerto on the list – or even the first – but I think the second still has the slight edge. It’s Russian melodrama at its very greatest, and it’s another piece that has meant a lot to me over the years. It’s a piece I used to listen to LOADS when I wanted to wallow in self-pity, but I don’t listen to it very much these days. Still, whenever I do, I absolutely adore its every note.

5. Danny Elfman – Black Beauty score
Although I don’t consider it to be proper classical music (unlike Classic FM, who seem to think that it counts as classical just because it’s played by an orchestra), I do love film music and have an extensive collection of it. I’m choosing one soundtrack for this list, and after much deliberation have selected Danny Elfman’s score for Black Beauty. It’s not one of his more famous scores, but I love it because it reminds me of an idyllic childhood spent looking after our horses (and watching Black Beauty very often). It’s the Sean Bean adaptation of this much-loved story, and in my opinion this version hasn’t been bettered.

6. Haydn – Cello Concerto in C major
If ever there was a piece of music that could be described as “sunny”, it’s got to be the first movement of Haydn’s C major cello concerto. I’m not generally a fan of ‘upbeat’ music, but whenever I need to motivate myself in the mornings, I put this concerto on and off I go. It’s hard to be sad when you’re listening to this!

7. Ella Fitzgerald – Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
I love how mellow this song is. It’s a perfect evening-in-with-a-glass-of-wine song – not that I’m likely to have access to wine on my desert island, but it’s definitely a song to help me relax at the end of a day.

8. Muse – Butterflies and Hurricanes
If I had to choose one band as my all-time favourite it would have to be Muse. I like the fact that many of their songs have classical roots, in particular Butterflies and Hurricanes, which has a middle section of Rachmaninov-esque piano riffs played by classically-trained Matt Bellamy. I saw Muse play at Wembley years ago – it was the Resistance tour, an album full of songs inspired by Orwell’s 1984 – and it was epic in every sense of the word (though my ears rang for days afterwards!).

9. Wagner – Tristan und Isolde
From its amazing Prelude with never-before-heard chord sequences to its emotional climax, this is another piece of music I wouldn’t want to live without.

10. Puccini – Chi il bel sogno di Doretta (La Rondine)
Finally, another piece of opera. This piece came to my attention in my favourite scene in one of my favourite films, A Room with a View. Lucy is taken by an Italian man to a wheat field near Florence to find the Reverend Beebe; instead, she sees Mr. Emmerson standing there and he turns to see her, strides purposefully towards her and takes her in his arms. It is the absolute epitome of romance and the music fits it perfectly. I have often wandered the picturesque backstreets of Rome, by myself, with this music playing through my headphones, imbibing the Italian atmosphere and generally loving life.

Final choice
If I had to choose just one of the above, it would be Mozart’s Requiem.

The book
In addition to the complete works of Shakespeare, I get to choose one book to take with me. This was even more difficult to choose, but in the end I am settling for Charles Dickens – Great Expectations. I don’t think I could ever get tired of laughing at Mr. Pumblechook.

The luxury item
I found it difficult to choose between a piano and a journal, but I think if forced to choose I would pick a journal (an everlasting one with an everlasting pen!!). I already have music to listen to, after all, and having kept a diary for years and years, I don’t think I could be without one now.

Honourable mentions
There were soooo many more pieces of music I wanted to include. To name but a few: Strauss Four Last Songs, Mahler 5, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Bach St John Passion or B Minor Mass, Mozart D minor piano concerto and tonnes of other Mozart, Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony, Butterworth’s Banks of Green Willow, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez… and on the non-classical front, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’, Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’, Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, a load more Muse, Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’, perhaps even a bit of Dizzee Rascal…

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