TEENAGERS: CLASSICAL MUSIC YOUR CHILDREN SHOULD KNOW (AND WILL ENJOY!) Many parents, when faced with the teenage years and teenage musical tastes, buy their child a headset and hope that their child’s hearing will survive the next ten years. (The generation gap can often be measured in decibels!) And yet, while schools provide the counterbalance to popular reading matter with good literature and a talkshow view of contemporary society with courses on history and current events, it is left to parents to provide the counterbalance to popular culture. The trick is how to protect your child from being the class “dork” at the age of fifteen and at the same time make certain that he/she is not ridiculed as the class dunce the first week at college when he/she does not recognize the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. For better or for worse, there are certain pieces of classical music that your child should have heard before being sent off to college, and that job usually falls to you, the parent. If you are a great lover of classical music, you will look at the list below and cry out about all of the wonderful works that are not there. If you are not a great fan of classical music, you may find this list a bit long. My goal was to make a selection of 12 works that not only are classics among classics, but which also allow a person to say, “That sounds like Bach,” or “That sounds like Tchaikovsky.” These works span in time from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and from Europe to America. I recommend that you purchase tapes or CD’s and put them on as music which are listening to, not music that your teenager should listen to. Repetition is important. Put Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on every morning for a week while the family is getting up or racing through breakfast. See how long it takes before you get the comment, “Are you listening to again?” (They have noticed! Score one for the parents’ team!) Respond with something like, “Yes. Have you ever heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons before?” Be prepared for, “Yes, every morning this week!” (Congratulations, you have a child with a good musical memory.) Now the time has come to move on to another recording. The good news is that everything on the list has been enjoyed for decades, if not centuries, so even if it takes your child a month to notice that it is the same CD every time he/she gets into the car, will enjoy listening to the music. The Guide to the Lively Arts in Sunday’s The Washington Post gives a fairly complete listing of upcoming concerts, and the works on the program are almost always listed. While those on the list below are among the most famous in the classical repertoire, the number of times each is performed live is surprisingly few. A live performance of a work that you know from recordings is an exciting experience, even for the jaded teenager, so purchase two tickets and take him/her with you. Recipe for success: Do not pay too much attention to dress. Do not take younger siblings. Offer to take a friend. Make it a special event with a meal out at his or her favorite restaurant. Agree to hear only that work (a call to the performing orchestra or the concert hall will usually give you exact
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times for each work.) Listen to the recording of the work several times before you go to the concert, even if it is during homework or dinner. Be prepared for resistance! If it is fairly explosive, you have a normal teenager. If it is moderate, hold onto your hat; you may have a musical genius! Not all concerts are wonderful; not all recordings are fabulous. There is also much room for personal preferences. You may have a favorite recording of one or more of the works listed below; if so, dust it off and play it for your teenager. If you do not, I have listed my favorite recordings of some of these works. ORCHESTRAL...