Friday, 23 April 2010

A song of joy

It's an old, old story but often repeated. A long-forgotten piece of music is picked up for radio play by a present-day announcer or host and an entirely new audience takes an instant pleasure to the music and the song shoots up the charts and becomes a best-seller.

On 10 March 2010, someone called Rush Limbaugh (he may be a big radio celebrity in America but he means nothing to me here except a name) played a piece arranged by Argentine composer-conductor-arranger Osvaldo Nicholas Ferrara - his version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's first movement of the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor K550 - and the exposure pushed the song's popularity from #136,705 to #1 on's rankings.

Until then, Ferrara - better known in music circles as Waldo de los Rios - had almost faded into oblivion, having died in 1977. In my opinion, his most memorable contribution to present-day music was his interpretation of Ludwig von Beethoven's famous Ninth Symphony, the Ode to Joy, that was given a dramatic lungful by Spanish singer Miguel Rios in 1970.

Don't expect too much from this album if you are a classical music purist. In the 1970s, symphonic rock was at its most popular and Ferrara was just one of many musicians attempting the classical music-rock music crossover. Way back then, adding modern-day rhythms and percussion to classical music helped to open up a whole new audience. And even today, this album continues to attract people who seldom appreciate classical music. My wife, for instance, took one brief, fleeting listen to this album yesterday morning and asked that I play it for her this Sunday afternoon.

Nevertheless despite the growing awareness for Ferrara's music, there may be better interpretations of classical music out there. My own favourite symphonic rock-classical music crossover comes from an obscure band known as the Munich Sound Symphony Orchestra. I've only their music on cassette but in the 1970s, this band released some of the meanest interpretations of classical music that I had ever heard. It started me off on the road to appreciating real classical music.

Anyway, Grandes Exitos is the title of a compact disc, a recent compilation of Ferrara's music, from which this Rush Limbaugh had lifted the Mozart Symphony No. 40 for airplay last month. This is not Grandes Exitos but Sinfonias, where the song originated from. 

Side 1: "Ode To Joy" Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in D Minor (4th movement), Schubert's Eighth Symphony in C Minor (1st movement), Mozart's Symphony No 40 in G Minor (1st movement), Brahms' Third Symphony in F Major (3rd movement)
Side 2: Dvorak's Symphony No 9 (4th movement and 2nd movement), Haydn's Symphony Of The Toys in C Major (2nd movement), Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5 in E Minor (2nd movement), Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony in A Major "Italian" (1st movement)

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