1) Ombra mai fu from Serse – Handel
I've always loved Handel's music - especially the operas (he composed over 40 of them). They contain an endless stream of hit arias. Here is one of the most famous from the opera Serse, beautifully sung by the incomparable Andreas Scholl.
2) Whiskey in the Jar – Thin Lizzy
As a teenager, growing up in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, most of my friends were fans of Irish hard rock whilst I was mainly listening to Radio 3! However, I loved the Dublin-based band Thin Lizzy - here they are with a unique take on the Irish traditional song, Whiskey in the Jar.
3) Czárdás - Monti
Roby Lakatos is a fantastic Hungarian violinist who combines elements of jazz, classical and Hungarian Romani (Gypsy) music. Here is his version of Monti's Czárdás. As well as the incredible fiddle playing, listen out for the unique timbre of the cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument from the dulcimer family.
4) One for my Baby – Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra has always been one of my musical heroes with his easy swing and expressive vocals. This track which we at Birmingham Royal Ballet know well from Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, represents him at his best. It has the added bonus of some beautiful piano and sax playing.
5) Blue Light, Red Light – Harry Connick Jr
Harry Connick Jr could be described as a pretender to Sinatra'a throne but one of the things that makes him stand out from the crowd as a recording artist is the phenomenal quality of the band he employs. The lead trumpet playing on this track is a very good example of this. It is best enjoyed at a high volume in my opinion!
6) Praeludium and Allegro - Kreisler
When I was 14, I moved from learning the violin to the viola. I became obsessed with the instrument and, in particular, its great exponents. The English violist Lionel Tertis (1876-1975) was one of the players to give the instrument true solo status and commissioned many new works to that effect. Fritz Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro, originally written for the violin is transcribed here by Tertis. To some, his playing would be deemed old fashioned now because of the extensive use of portamento and rubato but his sheer virtuosity is undeniable.
7 – 11) Little Suite – Richard Rodney Bennett
I first conducted the Royal Ballet Sinfonia in the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury in 1992 and it's been a great privilege to carry on the relationship to the present day. One of the Sinfonia's many strengths is an incredible musical versatility combined with the ability to capture any idiom perfectly. This charmingly reflective piece by Richard Rodney Bennett is a very good example of these attributes.
12) Vorspiel from Parsifal - Wagner
As musicians, we are often asked who is the greatest composer of all time or which is the greatest piece ever written. I never know how to answer this but surely this, Wagner's last opera comes pretty close. Parsifal has a pretty daft plot centred around the Holy Grail and with around four and a quarter hours of music plus two long intervals, it's not a piece for the fainthearted. For me, the music is miraculous and I'm lucky to have heard it live quite a few times. Here is the Prelude so settle back for 15 minutes of glorious beauty played by the mighty Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan.