I like to think that I have more knowledge of what people generally call "classical" music than the average person. My parents brought me up on a diet of Radio 3, choral music, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Elgar, and I've always loved everything from Tallis to Tippett. However, mum and dad were never that keen on large-scale symphonies so I've never really got to know some of the major works that other people think of as their favourites. I've therefore decided to give myself a musical education, starting with the biggest symphonies of all. For a bargainous £20 I've bought a box set of all nine Mahler symphonies (Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Sir Georg Solti) with the aim of discovering what all the fuss is about. I've only ever heard his first symphony when it was on tv a few years ago as part of the Proms, and I have to admit I thought it was tedious. A recent live performance I saw did nothing to change my opinion, so I was a little sceptical about listening to his other works. However, this evening while baking brownies for the office (Charlotte's been pestering me for them for weeks!) I brought my CD player into the kitchen, put the second symphony on...and discovered exactly why everyone loves Mahler. The piece is wonderful! I now can't wait to listen to the rest of the set, although I'll need a lot of time for each one - I managed to bake two batches of brownies with washing up between each one and still had time to sit and listen to about 20 minutes at the end of the last movement today. They really are epics!
After I've finished Mahler I intend to move onto Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Beethoven and Tchiakovsky. If anyone has more symphonic suggestions then do let me know. After all of that I might even dip my toe into the waters of opera for the first time! Scary stuff.