Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Greatest Classical Riffs (All Time)

So I was reading someone else's top ten list of best rock guitar riffs and, of course, I thought to myself: "Hell, I could come up with a list that ten times better than that." I began wondering who I would put on my list: "Do I include Chuck Berry? Do I include the Grunge era? Do I include that obscure-but-killer riff from the song 'Every 1's a winner?'" When I thought to myself: "There must be a thousand other people who think they know all the best guitar riffs from any or all rock eras. Maybe I should dare to be different" So here it is, my top ten list for BEST RIFFS, not from Classic Rock, but from CLASSICAL music:

10. Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata, 1st movement: This list could be filled with just Mozart & Beethoven, so I thought I'd get one out of the way early. This emotional 'riff' is instantly recognizable from the beginning of the piece, but holds your attention and heart through the whole movement. The mood seems almost tangible when it's listened to without distraction.

9. Rossini: William Tell Overture, Finale: A trumpet riff starts us off, and then, depending on how you were raised, you associate the rest with either the Lone Ranger or some kind of animal race. Cavalry or no cavalry, the William Tell Overture is one of most morale-boosting and recognizable riffs of all time.

8 Mozart: Rondo alla Turca. Soundingly slightly humourous and light-hearted in comparison to the seriousness of Mozart's symphonies, Rondo alla turca will grab your attention from the opening riff.

7. Beethoven: Fur Elise: I don't know who Elise was, but i doubt this is the first piece of music written for a music groupie or secret love affair (it's possible). It is, however, at just under three minutes running time, the closest that Beethoven has come to writing a 'radio-friendly hit single', with the signature intro/riff that suggests that Elise is someone special to Ludwig.

6.Franz Lizst: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2: The most recognizable 'riff' of this rhapsody begins about thirty seconds in. There are numerous 'jokes' on this riff (Victor Borge and others) that I could have chosen, but this one is an actual serious rendition of one of the coolest classical riffs ever. (And yes...Lizst makes the list!)

5. Rossini: The Barber of Seville, Overture: The first time I heard this classical riff was in an unusual but funny cycling movie called 'Breaking Away'. Sometimes I think this riff sounds so traditionally italian, that it might force some of the paesanos nearest you to reach for the grappa and espresso as they listen to it. Bugs Bunny, however uses it as an opportunity to make a salad on Elmer Fudd's head:

4 Beethoven: Symphony #5, 1st movement: Four notes that immediately take hold of your mind and attention, and though they might be repeated they never seem to lose their importance. Watching the conductor is fun during Beethoven's 5th, especially because the conductor can't control those four notes, all he can do is tell the whole orchestra when to start, so it kinda looks likes he's praying or suggesting 'just give it to me'

3. Mozart: Symphony #40, 1st movement The most recognizable and intriguing of Mozart's beginnings. This piece is probably one of the more popular for the average music fan, partly because of the movie Amadeus and also because of the big crescendos of volume from high to low and back again.

2. Bach: Toccata and Fugue: If ever there were a piece of music written for those giant, old church pipe organs that only a handful of people truly know how to play, it would be Bach's Toccata and Fugue. However, to show one of those videos of the big old churches wouldn't truly capture the popularity of Bach's ear-catching opening riff. So here, I'm showing a bunch of mall-shoppers being entertained by one of those giant toy-pianos being played by foot. (the foot-players make a few mistakes, but just to be fair, some guy in the audience starts clapping loudly and off-time at about 1 min)

1. Beethoven: Symphony #9, Finale, Ode to Joy. Beethoven's celebration of the brotherhood of all mankind is the riff of all riffs; Easily recognizable and immediately ear-catching. Unfortunately, beautiful music is used to sell crap. I've linked to a you-tube video that is actually a bank commercial, because when I think of peace, joy, and the brotherhood of mankind, I think of a bank (and then I vomit). And yet...Despite having his symphonies used and abused by Napoleon, Nazis, Bankers and even Bruce Willis... Beethoven's seemingly heavenly music resonates only brighter and more powerful.