Let’s begin with a spoiler: the public’s top choice for ABC Classic 100 – Swoon was Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. No piece of fluffy background music that. It was at first a mystifying choice in the sense of being unpredictable, unlike others in the top ten such as the Allegri Miserere and Albinoni’s Adagio.
However it seems the work had its own centenary in 2014 and orchestras across the country chose to perform it for that reason. Classic Melbourne heard fine renditions from the ANAM Orchestra to the ACO in its Gallipoli concert. This recording features Sinfonia Australis, with Anthony Walker conducting and soloist violinist Dimity Hall. (The accompanying notes for every one of the 100 items are very welcome in an age of streaming and lack of precise information).
As the top choice indicates, a list such as this will capture the mood and feeling of a particular audience at a particular time. It cannot be definitive and indeed does not pretend to be so. Nevertheless the expected favourites are there, with the Mozart Clarinet Concerto: Adagio and Barber’s Adagio for Strings coming in at nos.2 and 3 respectively. The collection is, however, over 11 hours of music, all well recorded and sure to contain many loved pieces for classical music lovers. It is also a great way to introduce children and others to beautiful works that they may not have heard. Even classical aficionados are bound to make new discoveries such as Sculthorpe’s Left Bank Waltz (91), other Australian music and some selections from the world of film, notably by Morricone.
It has to be said that the Classic 100 Swoon Collection is also great value. The deluxe edition boxed set (available exclusively through ABC Shops and Centres, and on line) brings together highlights from all top 100 Swoons in ABC Classic FM’s countdown – over ten hours of music on 8 CDs. There are also two bonus discs: Swoon: Piano Rapture CD and Swoon: and a DVD, A Musical and Visual Odyssey.
Clearly this musical feast is not intended to be played at one sitting! Listeners may well have recordings by different artists that they prefer – and of complete works, as most of these selections are relatively short. Normally, I tend to stay away from “best of” selections as they can have the effect of trivialising the composers’ great achievements. However in the case of the Swoon Classic 100 project, many listeners to ABC classic FM commented how, over four days, there was simply a wonderful flow of music they loved, with hardly a piece that did not appeal to them. Many a weekend task went undone as listeners relaxed into armchairs and let the music wash over them. This is hardly the recommended way to listen to this collection, but there is no prescription for how best to do it.
The Swoon concept has come a long way from its origin 20 years ago and ABC Classic FM’s breakfast Christopher Lawrence’s idea to present a daily calming piece of music in the midst of the traffic and early morning hustle. This collection is true to that inspiration, and is needed more than ever!