Can rock and classical share a sonic space? The case for and against, your honour

The temptation to mix rock music and classical is often too great for most musicians

 

The temptation to mix rock music and classical is often too great for most musicians, but in recent weeks we’ve two examples of when it works well: Teenage Fanclub’s Francis MacDonald’s Music for String, Piano & Celeste; and Iceland’s Olafur Arnalds and classical pianist Alice Sara Ott’s The Chopin Project. Each tapped into classical music while being respectful of its heritage and adding something idiosyncratic and experimental. Other musicians, however, don’t always strike such a successful balance.

THREE of the BEST

Switched-On Bach - Walter/Wendy Carlos (1968)
A marmite record within the genre, for sure, but no less a figure than Glenn Gould said that this album was the finest performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos he had ever heard.

Black Aria - Glenn Danzig (1992)
Surprise! Hardcore punk guy Danzig delivers an all-instrumental classical music/opera album. “This is not a rock record,” it states on the cover, which is both a warning and a statement. You bet.

The Juliet Letters - Elvis Costello & Brodsky Quartet (1993)
Yet another non-representative curveball in Costello’s (above) varied career.

THREE of the WORST

Pictures at an Exhibition - ELP (1971)
UK prog rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer tackle Mussorgsky’s renowned piano suite. “I can say that I listened to it twice tonight,” wrote Lester Bangs in his review in Rolling Stone, “beating my fists on the floor and laughing…”

The Doors Concerto - Nigel Kennedy (2000)
In which Nigel Kennedy’s violin – accompanied by Prague Symphony Orchestra – replaces the vocals of Jim Morrison. The results bear little resemblance to the original songs.

Fantasies & Delusions - Billy Joel (2001)
Pianist Richard Joo performs Billy Joel’s impressionistic faux-classical pieces. Sometimes, an album title say it all.

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