A Classical Trove on YouTube

Friday, January 28, 2011 - 06:05 PM

Family watching television 1958 (National Archives/Evert F. Baumgardner)

Ok, I admit it. One of my guilty pleasures is getting lost on YouTube. While I hear most of America zeros in on cats doing funny things or the latest teenager doing something stupid, I find myself drawn to old TV shows. How could you not watch Salvador Dali on What's My Line? These clips give us a window into a different time and culture and there’s plenty about classical music to watch.

I was spellbound in discovering John Cage on I've Got a Secret. They don’t even play the game or try to guess his "secret"; they just let him play his music in a studio full of props. It is very early performance art. I loved seeing a very young Seiji Ozawa on What's My Line with Woody Allen on the panel and an extremely funny Van Cliburn on the same show. We hardly see classical music on prime-time TV anymore.

Recently some of the many talent shows have included pianists and singers, which is great. But there was a time when classical musicians were on all the time, particularly The Ed Sullivan Show. Click below to see Itzhak Perlman at 19, or Anne Akiko Meyers at 11 with Johnny Carson. I had a TV show on A&E for more than 12 years featuring some of the best in classical music. One viewer posted an episode featuring Lang Lang’s first time on American television. Let’s just say we were both younger then.

I knew the music from Lieutenant Kije, but have you seen the Russian movie from 1934? Well truth be told, I have not sat through the whole thing either, but you could, because it is online.

Below are some of my favorite online video links. What are yours? Please share your favorites, guilty pleasures, rarities and surprises.


John Cage on I’ve Got a Secret:

Marilyn Horne on the TV Show The Odd Couple:

Van Cliburn playing at the Tchaikovsky Competition:

Van Cliburn on What's My Line:

Itzhak Perlman at 19 on The Ed Sullivan Show:

Lang Lang on Breakfast with the Arts:

Salvador Dali on What's My Line:


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Comments [14]

concetta nardone from Elmont, NY

A guilty pleasure for me was watching cats doing funny things.

Apr. 11 2011 02:37 PM

How fun is this?! Perlman, Barenboim, Mehta and Du Pre clowning around before a concert, with Itzhak mimicking Jackie. And then Jackie's heartbreaking performance.


I write about her every January, partly for MS awareness and partly for Du Pre awareness. :)


Feb. 12 2011 03:00 PM

My favorites are classic, but only to children and mothers who watched Sesame Street in the 1970's and 80's.

The Oinker Sisters on Deutsche Hamaphone Records. Deutsche Hamaphone!! That still makes me laugh after all these years.


And the orange singing Carmen was riveting too. In those days, up to my eyeballs in toddlers, I took my culture where I could get it.


Feb. 06 2011 01:11 PM

Youtube is also a great place to find the future stars. Listen to Meditation by Nicola Benedetti


Feb. 01 2011 07:44 AM
John J. Christiano from Franklin NJ

How forntuate we are that someone has taken the time to transpose these old clips (and create new ones) to the digital media.

I have no particular favorite, but occasionally a piece will pop into my head that I recall I have not heard for some time on WQXR. A few keystrokes and I'm plugged in, plus I can have a few variations with video. Not bad.

Jan. 31 2011 02:20 PM

Ah! Have just been reminded through this morning's programing that Fantasia was our first music video ever, preceding MTV and YouTube by MANY years. I wonder how many of us, not counting the influence of cartoon soundtracks, were first hooked by it. There has to be a wealth of YouTube videos with similar story narrative format.

Jan. 31 2011 08:29 AM

Try picking up Emil Gilels playing the Brahms Ballades in a Moscow auditorium in 1977. By the last installment (there are four) you will think you are actually there . . . the performance is terrific, of course.

Jan. 30 2011 11:11 PM

For longer form pieces, search video.google.com. It's hit or miss, but I have gotten concert videos there which are over an hour and high quality.

Jan. 30 2011 09:51 AM

and another example of what one man can do to the New York Philharmonic....

Jan. 30 2011 07:07 AM
KateLadyG from Old Bridge NJ

I love Danny Kaye, who sometimes appeared as 'guest conductor' on stage though he did not read music. One of my favorite YouTube vids follows, though there are several other examples of his conducting to be found around, too. Just for fun!

Jan. 29 2011 07:19 PM
Betsy from Brooklyn

Elliott, do you think there's just as much happening today with classical music in pop culture but it's just less obvious and personality-driven? Think about Beethoven in The King's Speech, or Carmina Burana in sneaker commercials. Video games have big orchestral scores, which sound like classical music even if they're more hard-driving. There are a lot of examples of this despite the manifold problems the classical music field is having at the moment. Food for thought!

Jan. 29 2011 03:19 PM
cejnyc from New York, NY

Edda Moser, Mozart, Die Zauberflotte, der Holle Rache. Fearless & terrifying, as though she is about to go off a "musical cliff" - but extraordinarily wonderful. Unforgettable!!

Jan. 29 2011 11:08 AM
Dirk from UWS

My favorite classical TV oldies are the Philip Glass music videos he scored for Sesame Street in the 70s.



Little did kids know in that era that they were getting their first taste of the classical avant-garde.

Jan. 29 2011 09:32 AM
Michael Meltzer

I don't remember the year, but I was waiting for a light, about to cross 57th Street at Sixth Avenue and looked to my left. I was standing next to Salvador Dali. I believe he must have been the most recognizable person on the planet Earth, there was not the remotest chance of mistaking him for anybody else.

Jan. 29 2011 06:19 AM

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