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Classical 101

Conductors guilty pleasures

We all have guilty pleasures. Secret indulgences which, if others knew, they might think less of us.  A personal trainer who has a secret cache of Hostess Twinkies.  A haberdasher who buys his clothing at a secondhand shop.  A chef who eats macaroni and cheese out of a box.  You get the picture.  The music world has it's same kind of secret pleasures. What do orchestra conductors, (and musicians in general, for that matter), listen to when they're not preparing to conduct? I have been asked that question many times.  There is also the non-stated version of that same question, which goes something like this. "It must be wonderful to be able to be surrounded by classical music all day!"  Well, it is! There are many classical works, old and new, that I really never tire of hearing and I could never imagine being without.  A case in point is Beethoven's 5th Symphony.  It may sound cliche, but it's absolutely true.  I have heard a live performance of that work twice in recent years.  Each time, I have heard it differently.  Maybe it was the ensemble, the conductor, the hall, my mindset that day, but I heard and enjoyed the work in two entirely unique ways during those two performances. However, just as I would not be without a regular dose of Beethoven, I would also not be without regular servings of The Beatles.  Then there's Adele, Big and Rich, Maroon 5, Sugarland, and The Black Keys.  My listening habits change with the weather, my mood, circumstances, and sometimes just what pops up on Pandora or is suggested by a friend. ProMusica's Timothy Russell likes to say that his favorite piece is whatever he's conducting at the moment, but I'm sure he has a long list of favorites, based on his many years in the music business. The L.A. Times checked in with 10 well-known conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Richard Egarr, and Michael Tilson Thomas to see what's in their iPod. What are some of your favorites? Read They conduct classical, but they love pop and rock too (L.A. Times) Listen to a rock/classical amalgamation of Beethoven's 5th above