Baffled by Bach? Puzzled by Puccini? Yet still wanting to discover what classical music is all about? Here are suggestions for ten of Echo features writer Tom King's favourite pieces of music. Together they should make anybody a convert.
Read the verdict then listen to the clips below.
1.Cello Concerto by Edward Elgar: A composition of heart-rending beauty and power, written in the aftermath of the First World War, which takes the heart and mind on a journey through shattered dreamland, yet somehow keep hope alive. Soloist Jacqueline du Pre’s recording is still unchallenged.
2.Requiem, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Mozart’s last, unfinished composition faces the prospect of his own death head-on, using music to take us into the black hole of extinction, and on a journey beyond. A terrifying, exultant display of the power of music.
3.Clarinet Concerto, by Mozart: The last completed piece by my favourite composer. Gentle, serene, and deceptively simple, it distils the sweetness of life the way a bee makes honey from flowers.
4.Madame Butterfly, Act 2 Love duet by Giacomo Puccini: A musical description of a wedding night, with powerful notes of treachery as well as passion. For my money, one of the supreme moments in opera and one of the greatest accounts of love in all music.
5.Sea Interludes, by Benjamin Britten: An orchestral sequence from the opera Peter Grimes, this is a musical description of dawn breaking on the East Anglian coast. It reveals the ability of music to capture the sound, sights, light, and almost the smell, of nature.
6.Scheherezade, by Rimsky Korsakov: Suite based on the Arabian Nights that will turn even the most hard-bitten heavy metal fan into a true romantic, with its evocation of love and adventure in far-off magical places.
7.Overture to The Mastersingers of Nuremburg, by Richard Wagner: The incredible genius of Wagner shows the full power and subtlety of an orchestra, and is also a masterful prelude to the story that follows – an epic comedy about a medieval German city which is consumed by a passion for music.
8. Symphony No 7, by Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies are like soups, you can chuck anything into them. Seldom before or since has the symphony been on better form than in Beethoven 7, which dances from mood to mood in a succession of gorgeous melodies and sumptuous orchestrations.
9.Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams: Orchestral version of the folk melody which captures the essence of old England, timbered houses, open hearths, maypoles and village greens.
10. The Lord of the Rings, by Howard Shore: The classical music tradition continues as a popular musical force in the shape of film music. Howard Shore uses themes and techniques from many of the great classical composers to evoke Middle Earth on screen.