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Baker's Dozen

Gold Dust Of Our Musical Worth: Ian Anderson's Favourite Albums
Barnaby Smith , June 6th, 2013 06:47

Ahead of a one-off show at the Royal Albert Hall, the Jethro Tull man picks out his thirteen finest albums


Beethoven: Symphony No.9, conducted by von Karajan with Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
This was originally going to be last but instead I put Alfie Boe last, and I thought I’d bookend things with classical music, without wanting to sound snobbish. Actually I do want to sound snobbish – there’s nothing wrong with being snobbish when what you’re being snobbish about is the gold dust of our musical worth.

Beethoven to me is the consummate classical composer. He learnt stuff from Bach, and Mozart, but he came at a time when he could bring all of his many influences together and not only from the classical tradition. He had an awareness of folk music and rhythm that I think is demonstrated in the ninth. The scherzo from the ninth symphony is a very rhythmic affair and one of those occasions where he utilised elements of rhythmic folk music, which is kind of interesting I think. A lot of composers looked down on the traditions of more naïve music forms but Beethoven seemed to recognise their worth.

And of course towards the end of his days he would leave the symphonic work behind and concentrate on string quartets, and that again is a very disciplined, controlled fine art in music, to work with finite musical resources and treat them almost as if they are a symphony orchestra. So Beethoven is kind of the guy for me, he’s the top man. I probably first became aware of Beethoven’s ninth through A Clockwork Orange and that took me through the electronica versions of Walter - now Wendy - Carlos, and then to the original score by von Karajan. That is the one I still enjoy best to this day, the Sixties Deutsche Grammophon recording, where the tempo’s just right. I’ve listened to lots of other variations that are too fast, too slow, a bit sloppy, too cacophonous, but von Karajan in spite of his rather dictatorial nature, did the job.