31 Dec 2017

Settling the Score 2018

From Settling the Score, 6:00 am on 31 December 2017

On New Year's Day RNZ Concert will count down the favorite classical music pieces from 2017, as voted for by you. Here are some of the highlights:

Piha and Pohutukawa

Piha and Pohutukawa Photo: Bryn Jones flikr.com

There are 80 works in this year's countdown featuring composers from Bach and Beethoven to Grieg and Gershwin.

Beethoven is a popular choice - his music makes up ten percent of the playlist. Universally loved, the 'Symphony No 9, Ode to Joy' is in the Top 10. In Japan performances of it have become a Christmas tradition with thousands of singers gathering to lend their voices to Schiller's Ode.

But the 'best of the boy from Bonn' isn't restricted to selected symphonies and piano sonatas. It also includes the exuberant 'Triple Concerto' - a remarkably tricky piece to pull off in concert.

" (There's) an infamous Herbert von Karajan recording from 1969 with David Oistrakh on violin, Sviatoslav Richter on piano, and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: it's a nadir of gigantic egos trying to trump each other, a bonfire of the vanities from which Karajan and the Berlin Phil still somehow manage to emerge victorious." - Tom Service (Guardian)

Another concerto for multiple instruments has proved popular - Bach's 'Double Violin Concerto' made the top 40.

This work helped cement the friendship of two legendary violinists - Yehudi Menuhin (America) and David Oistrakh (Russia) whose common language was music. Menhuin called Oistrakh "a prince, the best colleague I ever had". They became friends in 1945 and shared the stage together until Oistrakh's death in 1974.

British composers are well represented from Tallis and Purcell to Elgar and Vaughan Williams, but the question on everyone's lips is will Vaughan Williams's 'The Lark Ascending' be number one again? We know that this how many of you feel about that prospect.


The Minister of Broadcasting, Claire Curran will be pleased. She voted for Górecki's 'Symphony No 3, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' and it's made the grade.

The person who fraudulently tried to use Guyon Espiner's work email address to vote for Walton's 'Crown Imperial' will also be pleased, it's slipped in among the top 50.

We had a great chat with classical cabbie Maurice who's a big fan of RNZ Concert, and while his choice of Arvo Pärt's ‘Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten’ didn't make the top 80 another of the Estonian minimalist composer's works did - expect to hear the crystalline 'Spiegel im Spiegel’ in the Top 20.  

Some of opera’s biggest and most beautiful tunes have made the grade. On ‘You hum it, we play it’ with Jesse Mulligan we discovered that many listeners enjoy humming, singing and whistling distinctive operatic melodies but don’t know where they come from. Jean from Raumati will be thrilled to hear that 'Au fond du temple saint’ from Bizet’s ‘The Pearl Fishers’, which she knows from a train ad, is in the Top 20.

There’s a great range of choral music too, with early sacred works by Tallis, Allegri and Bach, along with Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and a mass by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins.

And art song repertoire features as well, with moving and memorable pieces by Schubert and Strauss including this  homage to the art of music.

“You, noble Art, in how many grey hours,
When life's mad tumult wraps around me,

Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Have you transported me into a better world,
Transported into a better world…”

We couldn’t have said it better.

We really enjoy playing the works in our annual ‘Settling the Score’ countdown. It's a wonderful New Year tradition and a great way to find out what people love listening to. Tau hou hari - Happy New Year!