I’m calling my next class “Warhorses,” but not because the music carries a military theme. In classical music, the term “warhorses” refers to works that are so popular, even people who know little about music recognize them.
Think “Bolero” or the “William Tell” Overture.
We will explore four works — not those — that span three centuries, one from the 18th century, two from the 19th and one from the 20th century.
Each piece plays on our souls in compelling ways.
For example, in 1958, when the Cold War was approaching the frigid zone, a gangly 23-year-old Texan flew to Moscow to compete in the first Tchaikovsky Competition. Of the 50 contestants, Russian audiences immediately warmed to the shy young man with the unruly hair and thunderous touch. The Russian judges were taken aback. Who was this unknown?
As Van Cliburn played through each round of the competition, his popularity grew. Tickets to hear him sold out. At the final round, he played three pieces: Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, a work by Dmitry Kabalevsky and the piece that would change his life: Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.
As he finished the Tchaikovsky, the crowd erupted. “First prize! First prize!” they shouted and showered the stage with flowers.
What happened next has become music lore. Come find out why, as we explore Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto — once deemed unplayable — and its place in history as the first piece to fully combine the virtuoso and symphonic styles.
The other three pieces we will explore are just as powerful and fascinating.
4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16 at Classic Pianos, 3003 SE Milwaukie, next to the Aladdin Theater. $20 at the door. To register, contact Peggie Zackery, 503-546-5622; firstname.lastname@example.org
David Stabler is a pianist, writer, dad and cyclist. He's working on a novel based on his childhood years living in Africa and rode across America with his brother in 2017.