Friday, April 25, 2014

Now he's got a graph

What on earth is this? I quickly ran through the list of all the pieces of music that have appeared on the Classic FM Hall of Fame since 1996, and tagged any that I considered "Classic FM music", the stuff that's not "classical" in the strict sense. So this is a graph of the number of such pieces in each chart, beginning with 0 in 1996 and rising all the way to 47 in 2014.
The 3 pieces that appeared in 1997 were Jenkins's "Adiemus", Zipoli's "Elevazione", and Nyman's "The Piano" soundtrack. The following year, Nyman dropped out, and Paul McCartney's "Standing Stones" stormed in at no.76 (it's only been seen once since 2002). 1999 saw the first of the movie Johns, Williams's "Star Wars" music, then 2000 gave us Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell", Einaudi's "Le Onde", and the other John (Barry)'s "The Beyondness of Things", as well as Williams's "Schindler's List". I could go on like this all day, but anyway, the point is: from about 1% in the early days, "non-classical" now constitutes about 15% of the Hall of Fame.
What's important to note is that a lot of the "non-classical" music is actually new music, which gets into the HoF not long after being written or recorded. (I find it interesting that the once-ubiquitous Myers "Cavatina" has only been in the HoF once, at no.299 in 2003!).
I should also point out that "non-classical" seems to account for much less than 15% (I'd say, at a rough guess, below 10%) of the station's output.

Now go draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fun with the Classic FM Hall of Fame

OTOM, as Cicero might have texted. Yes, it's just gone Easter, and time for another Classic FM Hall of Fame for the serious classical music lover to bemoan!
(Previous Les Introuvables cover available here: 2010, 2011, 2012. Hmm, the absence of a 2013 comment shows the parlous state of this blog, doesn't it?)

So the news is that VW's Lark is back on top of the chart, thanks in large part (if one is to believe the bumf, and why wouldn't one?) to its use in the much-watched death scene of Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street (I didn't know this; I read it).
Yeah, that's not the news is it? Because the most important news is that Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien is at no.140. No, wait, that's not it either. Oh yes: video games. Lots of game music - music from 8 games to be exact, according to Digital Spy. The trend began two years ago with a couple of suspiciously high new entries, but Classic FM seems to have embraced the concept now, informing us:
This year's chart also revealed a huge rise in popularity in orchestral music used in video games, with eight entries in the top 300 including two in the top 20.  Since Classic FM started playing video game soundtracks regularly last year, the station has attracted a significant number of new, younger listeners.  In the last year alone, the number of 15 to 24 year olds listening to Classic FM each week has grown by 27 per cent. 
Ah, it was all part of a cunning plan, or something. Well sure lookit, if it gets the young folk off their mopeds and their heroin and starts them listening to Beethoven instead then it must be a good thing. Though the scientist in me wants to know, "27 per cent of what?" of course.

The games thing is part of a broader trend in the Hall of Fame, though, Back in 2010 I speculated on whether one could draw any grand conclusions from the many years of data. I wasn't so sure at the time, but looking at it now - there have been 19 charts - I notice one clear change over the years. Let's put on our nerd goggles!

Comparing the first Hall from 1996 with the latest version reveals that they have 196 works in common. Not all of these works were in every single chart; about 40 of them disappeared at some point and then returned. We can look at a few changes in fortune here. Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia started off at no.221 and has showed a general upward trend, peaking this year at 47. Schubert's Trout quintet has gradually sunk from no.27 to no.154, while his String quintet has had an even greater fall, from 56 to 215. Why, I wonder? I suppose the Borodin fits better into the overall "sound world" of today's Classic FM, and anyway chamber music has never been a significant feature of the Hall of Fame.
But Nereffid, I hear you grunt, what is this "sound world" of which you speak? Well. Let's look at the pieces that were in the Hall of Fame in 1996 and aren't in the 2014 one, and vice versa.

Here's what's been lost:
Beethoven Fidelio
Beethoven Triple Concerto (Violin, Cello and Piano)
Beethoven Violin sonata no.5, Spring
Bellini Norma
Berlioz L'Enfance du Christ
Boccherini String Quintet (Minuet)
Brahms Symphony no.2
Chopin Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor
Delius Walk to the Paradise Garden
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E
Elgar Coronation Ode, op.44 no.6, Land of Hope & Glory
Elgar String Serenade in E minor
Elgar Violin Concerto
Franck Panis Angelicus
Gluck Orfeo and Euridice
Gounod St Cecilia Mass (Sanctus)
Hummel Trumpet Concerto in Eb
Mahler Symphony no. 3
Mahler Symphony no. 4 in G
Mendelssohn Elijah
Mendelssohn Symphony no.3, Scottish
Monteverdi Vespers
Mozart Horn Concerto no. 4 in Eb
Mozart Mass no.18 in C minor, Great
Mozart Piano concerto no.27
Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in Eb
Mozart Symphony no.39 in Eb
Offenbach The Tales of Hoffman
Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 in Eb
Pergolesi Stabat Mater
Prokofiev Symphony no.1 in D (Classical)
Puccini Turandot
Purcell Dido and Aeneas
Ravel Daphnis et Chloe
Rossini Barber of Seville
Saint-Saëns Intro and Rondo Capriccioso
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto no. 2
Schubert Symphony no. 8 in B minor (Unfinished)
Strauss R Der Rosenkavalier
Vaughan Williams Symphony no. 1 (A Sea Symphony)
Verdi La Forza del Destino
Verdi Rigoletto
Vivaldi Mandolin Concerto RV425
Wagner Siegfried

That's a pretty solid list of standard classical repertoire, isn't it?
OK, brace yourself.
Here come the works that appear in 2014 but not in 1996:

Addinsell Warsaw Concerto
Armstrong Romeo and Juliet
Bach Cantata BWV208 'Sheep may Safely Graze'
Bach Cello Suites
Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier
Badelt Pirates of the Caribbean
Barber Violin Concerto
Barry Dances with Wolves 'John Dunbar Theme'
Barry Out of Africa
Beethoven Coriolan Overture
Bernstein Candide overture
Binge Elizabethan Serenade
Binge Sailing By
Brower World of Warcraft
Bruch Adagio appassionato for violin & orchestra, op.57
Coates Dambusters March
Debussy Arabesque no. 1
Debussy The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (Preludes)
Delius Florida Suite
Dvorak American Suite, op.98b
Einaudi Divenire
Einaudi I Giorni
Einaudi Le Onde
Elgar Pomp and Circumstance 4 in G major
Elgar Salut d'amour
Finzi Clarinet Concerto in C minor
Finzi Eclogue
Finzi Five Bagatelles
Gershwin Walking the Dog
Glass Violin Concerto
Godfrey The Mirror of Love
Gold Doctor Who
Grieg Lyric Pieces (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen)
Handel Sarabande
Hawes Fair Albion
Hawes Highgrove Suite
Hawes Quanta Qualia (Blue in Blue)
Haydn Cello Concerto no.1 in C
Hess Ladies in Lavender
Hess Piano Concerto
Jenkins Adiemus (Songs of Sanctuary)
Jenkins Palladio
Jenkins The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace
Khachaturian Masquerade
Kirkhope Banjo Kazooie
Kirkhope Kingdoms of Amalur
Kirkhope Viva Pinata
Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
Litolff Concerto Symphonique no. 4 in D minor
Long Embers
Long Porcelain
Long The Aviators
Long To Dust
MacCunn The Land of the Mountain and the Flood
Marquez Danzon no.2
Maxwell Davies Farewell to Stromness
Mitchell Seven Wonders Suite
Morricone The Mission (Gabriel's Oboe)
Mozart A Musical Joke
Mozart Adagio for Violin in E, K261
Mozart Bassoon Concerto in B flat
Mozart Piano Concerto no.11 in F
Parry I Was Glad
Parry Jerusalem
Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel
Piazzolla Libertango
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no. 1 in F# minor
Ravel Piano concerto in G
Satie Gnossiennes (No.1)
Schubert Impromptu no.3 in G flat (Impromptus, op.90)
Shimomura Kingdom Hearts
Shore The Hobbit
Shore The Lord of the Rings
Shostakovich Assault on Beautiful Gorky (The Unforgettable Year 1919)
Shostakovich Jazz Suite no.1
Shostakovich Jazz Suite no.2
Sibelius Andante Festivo
Soule The Elder Scrolls (Skyrim)
Stopford Do Not Be Afraid
Stopford Irish Blessing
Stopford Lully, Lulla, Lullay
Strauss, J II Die Fledermaus
Sullivan The Yeomen of the Guard
Tavener Song for Athene
Uematsu Final Fantasy (Aerith's Theme)
Ungar The Ashokan Farewell
Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 Mandolins RV532
Wagner Gotterdammerung
Walton Crown Imperial
Whitacre Lux Aurumque
Whitacre Sleep
Whitacre The Seal Lullaby
Williams & Doyle Harry Potter
Williams E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Williams Jurassic Park
Williams Saving Private Ryan
Williams Schindler's List
Williams Star Wars
Wintory Journey
Wiseman Wilde
Zimmer Gladiator
Zimmer Inception
Zipoli Elevazione

Yes, we've lost Vivaldi's Mandolin concerto and gained his 2-Mandolin concerto. We've lost Siegfried and gained Gotterdammerung. We've lost one Strauss's Rosenkavalier and gained another Strauss's Fledermaus. And, yay, Bach cello suites!
But observe the presence not just of the games composers but also of John Barry, Howard Shore, John Williams, and Hans Zimmer; Ludovico Einaudi and Karl Jenkins; Patrick Hawes, Nigel Hess, Helen Jane Long; Philip Stopford and Eric Whitacre.
We can call this a trend, can't we? A gradual evolution from a list full of what you might call regular classical music, towards something rather more like... well, I tend to call it "Classic FM sort of music". And so Classic FM's listeners are, increasingly, not "people who like classical music" but "people who like the music on Classic FM". Perhaps in another 10 years the change will be so great that it won't make sense for a classical music blogger to write about the Classic FM Hall of Fame!