Anglo-German soundtrack – music that has rocked and continues to rock my world
My upbringing has had a non-negligeable impact on my taste of music. As a toddler, the first thing I probably climbed up on was my dad’s grand piano – an almighty hurdle if you’re only about half a metre long. From that piece of information you can probably gauge the gargantuan importance classical music was accorded in our family, especially by the pater familias.It goes without saying that for that very reason, I listened to every ear-cancer inducing music (in my parents’ opinion) under the sun, giving Schubert, Beethoven et al an extremely wide berth.
However, most people become wiser with age, even I wasn’t spared by this trend (..). Starting university in 1997 also implied being immersed in a wholly new universe, filled with novel concepts and ideologies, be it literature, music or politics. And so blossomed a new found love for classical music! But the many years spent in England also meant that I was at the source of “where it all happened”, London’s avantgarde independent music scene with bands largely unknown in Continental Europe, some of whom became hugely successful in later years. Swinging London indeed.
But I have rambled on for long enough, time to come clean 🙂
Brahms Piano Concerto n° 1 in D-Minor (Artur Rubinstein, Wiener Philharmoniker)
For me one of the most evocative pieces of music ever written. It encompasses in its three movements a vast plethora of human emotions, such as anger, hurt, melancholia, resignation, a tangible bitter sweetness, tentative hopefulness. I re-discover new sensations everytime I listen to it, and it never ceases to do anything but give me goosebumps. Brahms composed this chef d’oeuvre upon hearing from his close friend Schumann’s suicide attempt – hauntingly beautiful.
Massive Attack “Unfinished sympathy” (Virgin Records, 1991)
This year apparently marked the 25th anniversary of this timeless triphop song, making me also incidentally realize how old I am! Recognised as a pioneering song in the development of British dance music, I love the song for its ingeniuous combination of high-paced percussion samples and string orchestration with the memorable voice of Shara Nelson. Over the years it has featured again in all sorts of memorable situations, in a romantic setting (…), countless (dinner) parties, revising for my finals, on oversea travels and many more. Catchy and effortlessly elegant and infinitely relaxing – an all-time classic.
Peter Fox “Alles neu” (Warner Bros Records, 2008)
One of the songs that would raise the dead from their sleep! For me it is inextricably linked to my move to Berlin in 2012, a bold decision after nearly a decade in exceedingly bourgeois and cosy Munich. “Ich stürz’ mich auf Berlin und drück’ auf die Sirene” (translates as “I pounce on berlin and hit the button”) – nomen est omen! At least that’s what it felt like at the moment, cheering to new beginnings in a city bustling with creative energy, full of hope.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf “Welch’ ein Kummer herrscht in meiner Seele” (“The Abduction from the Seraglio, Wiener Philharmonic Orchestra, 1946)
You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this heartbreakingly beautiful rendition of one of Mozart’s finest operas, incidentally also my favourite opera. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is for me the best Mozart soprano to date, not too forceful, not too soft, just the right amount of vibrato and volume. I also gifted this CD to my beloved grandfather for his last birthday, four months before he died. My grandmother told me that he listened to this CD day in, day out as he lay immobilised in his bed.
The Prodigy “Out of Space” (Elektra Records, 1992)
This track by alternative dance/big beat combo The Prodigy is like a perfume – a whiff of it and you’re transported nearly 20 years back in time, back to carefree days in the late nineties, dancing the night away with my gang of friends. Its catchy refrain “I’ll take your brain to another dimension” never fails to this date to do exactly that. At the gym, on my way to work, any time.
Manic Street Preachers “A Design for Life” (Epic Records, 1996)
A friend of mine once maintained that the “Manics”, as they were often referred to at the time, were an acquired taste. So be it. I have developed many a crush and for songs in particular. This one somehow stayed, it reminds me of many many (…) nights spent down at the local pub, its infectious orchestral tune staying engraved in my mind forever. Needless to say, hardly ANYONE has ever heard of them over here. Must be something to do with the lack of pubs.
Beethoven Piano Concerto n °5 “Emperor” (Maurizio Pollini, Wiener Philharmoniker)
This is, as the title implies, a very majestic piece of music. Most people in Germany will recognize it from a very popular tea advert (“Teekanne”), also a clever means of promoting classical music to those not inclined that way. It is supremely elegant, flows beautifully, with a slight hint of melancholy in the second movement. I can listen to it time and time again, with unveiling a new facet I had not yet discovered.
London Grammar “Strong” (Metal & Dust Recordings, 2013)
London Grammar – definitely an acquired taste and not to everyone’s liking. Though originally an Indie-Pop combo, their music has been described by online music news site “Gigwise” as “a blend of ambient, ethereal and classical sounds”, with the brooding, and mesmerizingly haunting voice of Hannah Reid taking centre stage. This is actually sounds more depressing than I intended – I found it to be exceptionally uplifting and re-balancing music. I listened to it a lot this summer when I went hiking – beyond beautiful and definitely one of my “newer” all-time favourites for years to come.
George Michael/Elton John “Don’t let the Sun Go Down on Me” (Columbia Records, 1991)
Everyone has a musical skeleton in their closet, and this is mine. Incredibly cheesy, incredibly infectious and incredibly upbeat. For times when shit really hit the fan, a quick pull-me up and get over it-type of song.