A gift to the senses to be enjoyed by all? Or the elitist, stuffy domain of people with beards and dinner jackets?
With so much history and so many players involved, traversing the auditory minefield that is Classical music can be daunting to the seasoned veteran, let alone the humble beginner!
Well not any more! Not with our handy 10 point 'Beginner's Guide'.
Sorting out the who's from the why's and the where's, with our easy to digest guide you will be able to wax lyrical at parties about the fineries of the art of music. Speak openly about your favourite passages or movements, and you'll always spot your Rachmaninoff's from your Beethoven's!
So here we go, ten things to know about classical music...
1. Classical music is different from all other forms of music, because it's the oldest! Pre-dating modern music as we know it by many years, classical is seen by many as the invention of music. Before it came along, people just hummed to themselves.
2. Beethoven is one of the most popular artists in the classical field. Known for his wild hair and rousing music, Beethoven was actually not that good. In fact his playing was so bad, he made himself completely deaf by the time he hit his twenties. It was his saving grace. After the complete loss of his hearing he continued composing, but his understudies would change the notes he had written in to a more acceptable structure, thus creating some of the most recognisable, and brilliant music ever written. And they always let their master take the credit!
3. Gustav Holst, who wrote the much acclaimed space odyssey 'The Planets', was almost never a composer. The English born artist was spotted by Pete Waterman of Stock, Aitkin and Waterman fame, playing piano at a local fete in 1890. He was immediately impressed with the virtuoso player, and signed him to their label as a honky-tonk act. With a world tour in the offing and a five album deal ready to sign, Holst pulled out at the last minute, citing 'musical differences'. The pair never spoke again.
4. The most famous piece of classical music in the world is Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The rousing music is instantly recognisable, but it is actually a cover version. Tchaikovsky heard the piece being played on the clavichord in a small Austrian bar in 1880, and decided to use elements for his own piece. The original, 'While My Clavichord Gently Weeps' was a worldwide hit for Johnny Barton and the Fun Wings in 1856.
5. Classical music makes tomato plants grow taller, when played in greenhouses.
6. Tragedy struck at a 1789 performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No.24. Two fans died at the concert after being beaten to death with pool cues. In a bid to cut costs, promoters had foolishly employed the local Hell's Angels chapter to provide security, when they began attacking audience members. Mozart escaped unharmed.
7. A range of classical music was sent in to space on compact disc in 1996. NASA sent the discs on an unmanned, non-returning exploratory craft, to act as a greeting to any beings who may intercept the probe after it was decommissioned, and left to float aimlessly in to the void.
The decision to send classical was made by public vote, and was deemed the best example of man's temperament through music. It could be simple, serene and happy or loud, bombastic and angry!
The discs were returned some 6 years later, with a note attached that said 'Any Simply Red?'
8. The North American Beaver can not hear classical music. They are the only mammal that can't, even the other extant species in it's classification, the Eurasian Beaver, can hear it. It just chooses not to listen, preferring light opera.
9. There are over 700 thousand different recordings of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in existence today. But not one of them features the artist himself. This is because he was extremely shy, and refused to perform in public, even in front of studio technicians, opting to use stand-ins instead.
10. Fact-flood!! Classical means 'really old, but good' in Hebrew! Music is piped in to the mind through the ears, but classical music seeps in to the soul through the pores in your skin! Classical music has seen every fad in the industry come and go. It very nearly toppled to grunge, but it held on and is still the most popular form of music in every country, except France! A reformation and world tour featuring the 'Classical Big 4' of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Wagner was put on hold last year, when promoters realised they were all dead!
Up next in our series is The Beginner's Guide Part 4: Ten Things To Know About Travel
For Part 1: Space go here.
For Part 2: Religion go here.