Classic FM says John Williams' music to Harry Potter is "the most loved children's music, as voted for by you." Well, maybe not you. There's an annoying lack of details in the apparent poll, taken by the U.K. classical broad- and webcaster. Which music from Harry Potter do they mean? Who voted, how many children, what ages?
Even so. Kids are so smart. Take "Hedwig's Theme." The main melody has the kind of twists and turns that stick in your memory, and yet if you listen to it slowly individual notes aren't exactly the obvious ones you think they are. Harmonically, the movement unveils a series of lovely, haunting moves. The orchestration is some of the brightest and most evocative in the repertoire. Don't you love the way the strings sound like gusts of wind? And a celesta representing a snowy owl. There's a touch of evil, or at least naughtiness, in those woodwinds.
Whether or not the Classic FM poll is meaningful as a reliable indicator of what children in the U.K. are really spending time thinking about, the list is a handy thing for parents. It's all great music. Each one of these pieces opens doors to other worlds. From Peter and the Wolf your next stop might be Romeo and Juliet, and from there it's a straight shot to the Symphony No. 5. "The Flight of the Bumblebee" takes you to Scheherazade, and then to the Russian repertoire generally.
Not to mention how a little obsession with almost any one of these pieces leads to literature and dance. The list goes on for 39 pieces. By the way, don't you love the way Classic FM has attributed The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the Elgar to Fantasia? They ended up in the movie, but they didn't start there.
Here are the first ten:
1 John Williams, Harry Potter
2 Howard Blake, Walking in the Air (The Snowman)
3 Sergei Prokofiev, Peter's Theme (Peter and the Wolf)
4 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (The Nutcracker)
5 Sergei Prokofiev, The Duck Scene (Peter and the Wolf)
6 Paul Dukas, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Fantasia)
7 Edward Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance Op. 39, No. 4 (Fantasia)
8 Johann Pachelbel, Canon
9 Sergei Prokofiev, Romeo and Juliet
10 Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Flight of the Bumblebee