How Do You Introduce Someone To Classical Music

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Painting by Alex Katsenelson

How do you introduce someone to classical music? You start with the music that is the most accessible, with the music that hits you over the head right away. The one that gets you hooked and won’t let you go. For me that was Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 part 2, or the first bars of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Falling in love with classical music is a path-dependent process. If you accidently listen to a piece that hits you over the head, you’ll reach out for more. Unlike pop music, classical music is complex (I am generalizing about both genres). This complexity often makes it difficult for someone who did not inhale classical music with his or her mother’s milk to get into it.

There is only one way to overcome that complexity – keep listening to the same music multiple times. With every listen you start hearing connections that you did not hear before. In fact, I recommend not to go to a live concert unless you’ve listened to the music performed at the concert a half dozen times beforehand.

It seems that over the years I inadvertently stepped into two public missions in life: to proselytize my love for both value investing and classical music. In my attempt to achieve the latter, I have created a playlist that I ambitiously call “The Gateway Drug to Classical Music – Piano Edition.” This playlist features only piano. (I’ll create other playlists in the future.) I used three criteria to select pieces for this playlist: (1) piano is the lead instrument; (2) I have to love the piece; (3) It has to be accessible from the first listen and hopefully hit the listener over the head with its beauty. I struggled with the last criterion the most. I’ve listened to these pieces so many times that I only need to hear the first few bars and I know how they’ll sound. I put the ones that I had the most confidence in up front.

Also, the pieces on the list are usually excerpts from longer pieces. So if, for instance, the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 touches you, then listen to the full concerto a few times.

I am sharing two playlists – the original I created on Spotify and the YouTube version (which I exported from Spotify). I’ll keep updating the Spotify playlist, since that is the service I use daily.

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