Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical – #15 Coltrane My Favorite Things

Coming in at #15 on my Top 50 Favorite/Best Classical is John Coltrane, the amazing saxophonist, with his rendition of My Favorite Things, composed originally by Richard Rodgers for My Fair Lady, the musical. I’m not sure how to properly indicate composer for this piece, because the original idea came from Rodgers, but what I just absolutely LOVE is what Coltrane does to this melody on the soprano saxophone, the utter calming beauty, the serene yet hypnotic and fast waltz. 

John Coltrane loved playing the saxophone so much that he practiced 25 hours a day! At least that’s the joke. He played so much that once when he was at a hotel, people complained, and he took out the mouthpiece but continued fingering the instrument. One need only look at his various pieces, such as Giant Steps, to see how well he practiced. What I mean by practicing is not just a mastery of the saxophone but of music theory. He found a different way of exploring the circle of fifths and jazz chord progression with Coltrane changes, basically substituting the traditional jazz ii – V – I chords to add a more complex harmonic progression, borrowing from chromatic third relations, such as going from B major to G major to Eb major. It gets highly chromatic and requires a player/composer to to be well practiced to do it at the speeds of John Coltrane. 

Coltrane and a lot of other jazz artists of the late 1950s and early 1960s explored the old church modes for more color and harmonic complexity. This album is considered part of the modal jazz, with their interpretation of My Favorite Things in E dorian, but mixing in E Ionian.

In 1959, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II opened on Broadway and became an instant classic with a great story and amazing music. Rodgers wrote a song to help Maria assuage her fears and anxieties before she was to leave for the von Trapp family house. In the film, the song was moved to the icebreaker with the children during the thunderstorm (which works better, in my opinion–another instance in which the creators changed from the Broadway version in a way in which the story and music becomes better; the other being the song America from West Side Story, which works so much better as a sensuous duet between Anita and Bernardo, so fantastically done by Rita Moreno and George Chakiris in the film!). 

Coltrane apparently really enjoyed the melody and, with his newly formed quartet, extended the melody for almost fourteen minutes. The first three minutes or so is Coltrane on the soprano saxophone Miles Davis had recently purchased for him, introducing the theme. He then steps aside and lets McCoy Tyner on the piano send us through the magical musical land of serenity for an additional three minutes before Coltrane comes back and lets loose on the soprano.

I’m glad he chose the soprano saxophone for the piece. It sounds really lovely and I think it would sound too low on the tenor. I love playing this myself on my soprano, though I’m nowhere near the level of Coltrane and can’t get through the entire solo at this point. It’s just lovely to play and to listen. As for recordings, how about the great John Coltrane himself. Enjoy this long, wild ride through My Favorite Things. 

#15 – Coltrane My Favorite Things

#16 – Dvorak Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70

#17 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30

#18 – Mozart Don Giovanni, K. 527

#19 – Liszt Les Preludes, S. 97

#20 – Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, K. 492

#21 – Tchaikovsky Swan Lake, Op. 20 

#22 – Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor

#23 – Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11

#24 – Williams Empire Strikes Back

#25 – Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in Eb major, Op. 73

#26 – Bernstein West Side Story

#27 – Enescu – Octet for Strings in C major, Op. 7

#28 – Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

#29 – Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain

#30 – Webber Phantom of the Opera

#31 – Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky

#32 – Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor, Op. 9, No. 1

#33 – Debussy Images, Book 1, L110

#34 – Debussy Pour Le Piano, L. 95

#35 – Chaminade Guitare, Op. 32

#36 – Chopin Berceuse in Db major, Op. 57

#37 – Boulanger Nocturne pour violon et piano

#38 – Schönberg Les Miserables

#39 – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

#40 – Miranda Hamilton

#41 – Strauss Salomé

#42 – Britten Peter Grimes

#43 – Loewe My Fair Lady

#44 – Liszt Mephisto Waltzes

#45 – Webber Evita

#46 – Poledouris Conan The Barbarian

#47 – Bernstein Trouble in Tahiti

#48 – Beethoven Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

#49 – Chaminade La Lisonjera, Op. 50

#50 – Beethoven Coriolan Overture, Op. 62

Honorable Mention

Schubert Symphony No. 9 in C major, D 944

Saariaho L’Amour de Loin

Schubert String Quartet No. 14 “Death and the Maiden”

Desmond Take Five

Wagner Die Walküre 

Puccini Tosca

Davis So What

Stravinsky Petroushka 

Wagner Tristan Und Isolde

Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings

Williams Raiders of the Lost Ark

Verdi Aïda

Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht

Grisey Les espaces acoustiques

Gade – Octet for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 violoncellos in F major, Op. 17

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D759

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.