The Telegraph's brilliant critic Ivan Hewett tells the history of classical music in 50 short pieces. Each track is under six minutes long and you can listen to them all here (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classical-music-guide/) thanks to Spotify. Register for Spotify's digital music service for free at www.spotify.com. Please add #ivans50 to your tweets about the series.
"What exactly is classical music? Listen to Classic FM, or look for guidance to classical compilations on CD, and you could easily get the impression that classical music is just a few dozen pieces, endlessly recycled.
I certainly can’t hope to plumb it in a series of 50 pieces. What I can do is give some idea of classical music’s immense range. I’ve been guided by some very simple principles. First, no opera. That’s another series. Second, these are all pieces that I simply love as music. I’ve avoided Towering Masterpieces. One gets a crick in the neck from looking up at Towering Masterpieces, and they do tend to go on a bit. Which led naturally to my third principle: nothing longer than six minutes.
At the same time I’ve tried to squeeze as much variety of style and sound in as possible. This has involved roaming over the whole of classical music, from medieval to modern, from Russia in the North to Australia in the South, from solo piano to huge orchestra. What the pieces have in common for me is that shock of pleasure and recognition you get from certain works of art, almost as if they were waiting for you to discover them.
In that sense, appreciating classical music (as with any sort of music) is very like love. We can’t all love the same things, and I expect you’ll probably detest some of my choices, just as in life we find ourselves saying, “I can’t see what she sees in him.” But I hope you will fall for at least some of my 50 six-minuters."