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POP MUSIC | POP EYE

It's Got a Good Beat, Let's Give It a 93

May 26, 1996|Steve Hochman

What famous music figure said this about Spanish composer Manuel de Falla's "Ritual Fire Dance"?

"It's not only the weaving together of the 12-note scale that sparks a rainbow of emotions in anyone that listens to it--it's the overtones dancing between the notes that create its life force and spirituality. That's what touches the very core of my soul."

Sir Georg Solti?

Esa-Pekka Salonen?

Try Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler--a name not normally associated with 20th century Iberian ballet.

That quote is from the liner notes to "Exile on Classical Street," an album being released in August by London Records' classical wing. The CD collects classical pieces named as their favorites by pop music stars Tyler, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Bono, Michael Stipe, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Marianne Faithfull, Bruce Hornsby, Yes' Trevor Rabin and even Frank Sinatra.

The choices aren't the obvious Beethoven 'n' Bach warhorses, but mostly challenging pieces that reveal a knowledge of music, from McCartney's pick of English composer Benjamin Britten's courtly dances from "Gloriana" to Bono's choice of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8, inspired by the Nazi invasion of the Russian composer's homeland.

"What we're hoping is that if you've got Keith Richards and Bono saying it's cool to listen to this stuff, their fans will want to give it a try," says Steve Singer, London's classical product manager, who conceived and oversaw the project.

The success of recent crossover packages such as "Heavy Classics" (featuring much familiar bombast) and the gay-oriented "Out Classics" bolster Singer's hopes. And such mega-sellers as the Three Tenors and the "Chant" albums have expanded the potential audience for a classical crossover.

But do such gimmicks water down the "real" classical market?

"Anything that opens the door for younger people to classical music, we're for," says Martin Perlich, on-air host and producer at Los Angeles radio station KUSC-FM (91.5), which itself has broadened its programming to mix more jazz, folk and pop with its classical core. "These records are just an additional way of leading people to places they might not otherwise go."

Or, as Richards, who selected a portion of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4, K. 218, says: "Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Handel, J. Haydn--I could go on and on. Check all these cats--and then some!"

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