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by Seth Colter Walls

August 19, 2013

Classical Remix: Bach & More

by Seth Colter Walls  |  August 19, 2013

Welcome to Rhapsody's Classical Remix Portal, which you can follow here. In every playlist, we present classical works in their original forms. Then, after each one is over, we give you an upstart musician's rethink.

Remixing was a part of classical music long before anyone ever thought of the turntable. Used to be, when composers wanted to reconfigure music of prior eras, all they had to do was re-orchestrate. You can hear, for example, the way Schoenberg heard Bach in his head by listening to his orchestral version of the St. Anne fugue.

But he hasn't been the only musician with a desire to box with Bach. Django Reinhardt swung a version of the first movement from the "Concerto for Two Violins," while Nina Simone dropped a bit of the composer's material in the solo portion of her early rendition of "Love Me or Leave Me." Meantime, one of Nat King Cole's early groups had a striking way with Rachmaninoff's C sharp minor prelude. Likewise, Art Tatum put a jolt into Dvorak's "Humoresque" and Massenet's "Elegie." Laurie Anderson had a thing for the latter composer, too, which she acknowledged in "O Superman (for Massenet)."

Purists used to scoff at such recasts, but today most folks have calmed down enough to dig into them properly. There might even be room in your heart for both Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and the "Fifth of Beethoven," which showed up, disco-fied, in Saturday Night Fever. The wide-eared, all-styles-at-once form of classical remixing is probably best exemplified by Uri Caine's version of Bach's Goldberg Variations: It makes way for both jazz and left-field electronic recasts. (We've contrasted Caine's selections with those of Glenn Gould, just to you give the maximum number of idiosyncratic looks at Bach.) Hear all these highly adaptable tracks in the appended playlist -- and check back for more posts in our Classical Remix series.

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