Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

LACO newbie

a classical workout!

November 16, 2008

Are you sitting down? It’s time for the long-awaited blog about classical music I exercise to! I say long-awaited not because any of you necessarily knew it was coming, but because I’ve waited a solid two months to write it (and when I say ‘waited,’ I mean ‘procrastinated’).

When I started this blogging gig, I decided I would need to listen to classical music at times other than at LACO concerts. I wear my Newbie badge with pride, but if I didn’t take this as an opportunity to educate myself, I’d be missing out. Maybe, just maybe, in a year or so, I can talk to The Powers That Be about changing the name of this blog from LACO Newbie to something else… but I don’t know what. What’s slightly above Newbie? Tadpole?

But that’s neither here nor there, and, frankly, a LONG way off. Back to the point: Exercising seemed like a good time to listen to orchestral pieces, as I workout 5 times a week, for 45 minutes each time. So, over the past couple months, I’ve developed a classical playlist (of mostly, but not entirely, uptempo and rhythmic pieces) that I love exercising to, and I’m gonna share. If there are composers or pieces you recommend as workout accompaniment, then please type away in the comments section, and I will seek them out. And away we go!

Mad Rush, by Philip Glass. I don’t know much about Philip Glass, except that I’ve heard him described as a minimalist and a lot of his music is repetitive (is that redundant?). This piece is definitely repetitive, and alternates between softer, introspective parts and louder, more aggressive parts. It makes me move, makes me think, and makes time go by pretty quickly – and, at nearly 14 minutes, it’s a nice chunk of my workout!

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, by Franz Liszt. I’ve already written about my love of cartoons, and this piece has been featured in tons of them. I jump past the slow first half and start listening at 5 min., 15 sec. in, when it picks up and evolves into an out-of-control frenzy. I imagine any musician slumping in their chair with a sigh of relief after finishing this breakneck classic, a feeling I love after a good workout.

Serenada Schizophrana, by Danny Elfman. Elfman is best known as a film composer, and this, his first classical composition, sounds awfully cinematic. I like the whole piece, which has 6 movements, but enjoy the 1st movement most – it’s thrilling, and has unexpected turns and tempos. It’s also quite eerie – you could be jogging at the corner of Sunshine St. and Rainbow Blvd., but once you start listening to this, it’ll seem like you’re on Bleak Rd. and Serial Killer Ave. What does it say about me that I don’t mind this?

Overture to Candide, by Leonard Bernstein. It’s the overture to the operetta Candide, but, as Wikipedia says, its “earned a part in the orchestral repertoire.” It’s chaotic and sounds rushed, like the musicians are racing each other towards the end and practically tripping over themselves along the way, but there’s a precision to it all that makes the fury, and therefore the piece, sound perfect.

Pillaging Music, by Nico Muhly. I’ve written about this guy before, and this piece is my favorite on his album. It’s strange and nonsensical and abrupt, but now I’m really comfortable with it, and enjoy waiting for the changes and moments that used to seem awkward and random.

Swan Lake, No. 29 (Scene Finale) by Tchaikovsky. I listen to the very end of the ballet, where the lead swan gets attacked and killed, and the Prince dies of heartbreak. The final 45 seconds, where, in the production I saw (Matthew Bourne’s version), the swan rises to heaven, is my single-most favorite piece of classical music, and every time I hear it, I feel like I’m back in my seat, in the front row of the balcony at the Ahmanson.

Those are the ones I listen to most, but there’s also some pieces that are gaining popularity during my workouts: Holst’s The Planets, Mars and Jupiter; Rachmaninov’s Preludes Nos. 2 & 5; Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5; and Karl Jenkins’ Palladio (part of which was used for years and years in the DeBeers ‘Diamonds are Forever’ commercials).

So, kind readers, what am I leaving out? Share your favorites below. I’ll see you at the next LACO concert!


This is great David! You should make a playlist on iTunes. I would definitely check it out. Thanks.

  • —Anonymous, November 17, 2008 08:13 pm

I actually am struck for the first time by how appropriate it is to work out to classical music - because it really can be a workout to play it. My former boss Nicolette (a dancer) always tells patrons that she likes to sit up front at concerts, "to watch the musicians sweat." I think you guys are onto something...

  • —Kristy, November 19, 2008 11:52 am

shghghshghhg, trying to find the clips on line..hshhrhshs... Hey, you could have provided them for us....
But it's a nice idea!

(exhausted now)

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