Hear & Now

Classical music’s dirty little secret: It’s for everyone.

There are three ways to program classical music on the radio – my way, your way and the wrong way.

The above is regarded by historians as the most accurate surviving likeness of Mozart, painted when the composer was 26 years old. It is a section of an unfinished 1782 portrait by Joseph Lange. The splotchy texture of the composer’s cheeks, visible in the original painting on display at the Mozart Museum in Salzburg, was verified by Mozart’s contemporaries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what’s my way? Program like Mozart.

After composing his Piano Concertos 12 – 14, Mozart wrote to his father, “These concertos are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why.”

Meaning: Program music people will like for whatever reasons resonate with them.

You see, if we only program music to please musicians and music academics, we will have very few satisfied “customers.” Actually, we will have very few listeners.

The genius quotient of the composers we love is their ability to translate our human feelings, emotions and experiences into a musical language we can all feel and understand, regardless of musical experience, a degree in music or an understanding of how to analyze a fugue.

Here’s the saddest thought and lament I hear too often from listeners: “If only I understood classical music, I know I’d like it more.”

Not True.

While it is true that some information, historical background and context can enhance your enjoyment of classical music, I am even more convinced that if you know what you like, and you like it a lot, you know everything you need to know about classical music.

If you know what you like, and you like it a lot, you know everything you need to know about classical music.

All you have to do is listen. The more you listen, the more you hear. The more you hear, the more you enjoy… and learn.

– dms