I grew up playing and listening to Western classical music, and to this day, listening to and playing that particular genre feels like coming home.
I realize this isn’t true for everyone, and sometimes this type of music can feel unapproachable — but if you take a moment to slow down and listen to it with an open mind, I think it can lead you down a path of discovery and emotion that is captivating and transporting. And along the way, the practice of simply slowing down and focusing on one thing is always a good idea.
I primarily have my parents to thank for my love of classical music, and what’s interesting is that while both my brother and I play a few instruments each — something that I think can naturally deepen your appreciation of classical music — neither one of them had that opportunity. I did, however, find their copy of Aaron Copland’s What to Listen For in Music during my last trip to my childhood home, so if you’re similarly analytical and devoted to learning (both of my parents were teachers), you might find it helpful, too.
Or you can just listen, relax into it, and see what happens. This playlist is one I’ve had on repeat during these cooler months, and it includes some fun ones I love listening to with my own kids (the tango from Scent of a Woman, played by Itzhak Perlman), seasonal favorites (Ravel’s “Bolero”), and “Danzon No. 2” from Arturo Márquez, a Mexican composer I recently came across after first hearing Yuja Wang perform this piece in a recital, then hearing the SF Symphony play it under the spirited direction of Carlos Miguel Prieto.
And, generally, I’m never able to put together a playlist without some pieces performed by Igor Levit. Beethoven and Bach are my favorite composers of music for the piano, and they seem to be among his favorites, too. Listen to the third movement of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata — aptly described by Levit as a "hymn of life" — realizing that the composer was already noticing changes in his hearing at that point, and it adds fresh awe to your experience of this beautiful, glorious piece; similarly, listen to Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez knowing that his blindness undoubtedly gave music a different, deeper dimension for him that most of us can only imagine.
There’s a lot to dig into here, and if you’re not already a classical music fan, I hope it might help convince you that this genre is so much more than background music.