Classical Chat: Music sounding strangely familiar

Classical music. Two words which for its enthusiasts can conjure up thrilling adventures in sound.

Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 3:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 4:55 pm
The Apprentice is just one TV programme using classical music

But for too many people the description has the opposite effect, suggesting dull, stodgy music putting off all but a few, with exploring this world not on the agenda.

However, this journey is not quite so strange as it may first appear. Despite what some of the classical world’s more pessimistic voices may think, the music is part of the everyday soundtrack.

In particular, TV and advertising loves raiding the classical tradition.

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At the moment, millions of people are listening to a classical piece every week watching The Apprentice.

The stirring string-driven music that appears during the programme, with its unmistakable lop-sided rhythm and faintly hysterical edge, is the Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet.

Adverts are no less resistant to the classics’ power. Curiously, given it is usually assumed to have little mass appeal, opera has proved enduring on the small screens between shows.

Hovis used the slow movement of Dvorak’s symphony From the New World, the Flower Duet from Delibes’ opera Lakme became best known as the British Airways theme tune and the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni was used by Heineken in the mid-1990s.

The beer advert absorbs a lot of operatic atmosphere. If you remember it, it’s the one with the boxer on the train home remembering his big night of glory, only to find the villagers are more interested in the bar owner who stocks their favourite lager.

The advert is poignantly nostalgic and beautifully Italian, and that’s a perfect description of the music too.

Smetana’s glorious piece Vltava, a depiction of the river flowing through Prague and the Czech countryside, was the theme for Dulux.

Even the Trainline had a go, using Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Don’t be put off the music, it’s infinitely better than the advert was.

Sport enjoys the classics too - the 1990 World Cup was perfectly matched by Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, from his last opera Turandot.

There’s no such thing as starting from scratch in classical music. It’s already there, all around.