And when did you last hear your father?

While looking up some information for work this week, I stumbled across the On an overgrown path blog; a blog that is about, among other things, classical music. While flicking through the pages of the blog I came across a record cover for a Tchaikovsky symphony, the first classical music LP that the blogger bought. This got me thinking - what was the first classical LP I ever bought?....and I couldn't remember.

As my working life has largely been spent earning money from classical music as, among other things, musician, accompanist, teacher, choir trainer, music librarian - you would have thought that this would have been a momentous moment in my life, but no, no recollection at all.

My musical background as a child was rather odd. My father was a very good singer, who'd been unable to turn professional due to family circumstances. My mother loved music, but couldn't read a note, although she was brilliant at sol-fa, something I've always found completely mind-bending. Granddad loved German Oompah music (a gene that thankfully I've not inherited), but his real passion was for Italian opera. As a result of my father and grandfather's influence I have a great knowledge of tenor arias from Italian opera (which is a bit weird when you're a soprano!). Even today when I hear that wonderful recording of the Pearl Fishers' duet featuring Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill, I can hear a second tenor (my father) singing along beautifully.

What I remember best from my childhood are the novelty records that were played as a special treat. My favourite was No! No! A thousand times no!. The 78 that my grandfather had was even more hammy than the version on YouTube, but it was utterly brilliant, and I've still got it. At my uncle's house there was a recording (this time a 45) of the Goons' Ying Tong song, again hilariously funny. While The Laughing Policeman reduced the rowdiest nursery class to silence.

Very different to these were the experiences that I had at my mother's Baptist chapel. I can still feel the thrill of hearing Charles Wesley's And can it be sung fortissimo. The men usually sat in the balcony upstairs in the chapel and the whole church would shake when their voices entered in the chorus. This was music that was, quite literally, moving.

The first piece of classical music that truly made an impression on me was Bach's C minor prelude, the second of the 48 Preludes and Fugues, which was used in the opening sequence of the TV movie remake of Les diaboliques Reflections of a murder. This (the music rather than the film, although the film is extraordinarily creepy) made such a huge impression on me that many years later when I heard it during a piano lesson, I shrieked(!)

So, did I ever remember what was the first classical LP I ever bought? The first LP I was ever given was an anthology of ballet music - a beautiful LP with all the usual suspects from Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty, but also some rather more unusual items including Polovtsian Dances, which I found thrilling. The first cd I ever bought was a set of Handel organ concertos, and the very first LP?

After much brain-racking I remembered that it was this lovely, now fifty year old, recording of The Mikado. There is, of course, a bit of a story behind it. My parents' had an odd collection of sheet music - much of it religious, lots of opera, and one single, non-religious, full vocal score The Mikado. I learned to read music from this, and I've never looked back. What else could I possibly have selected as my first foray into the world of classical music?


Popular Posts