Hit songwriter (Miley Cyrus, The Weeknd, Céline Dion) turned peaceful pianist Stephan Moccio shares six of his biggest musical influences from the worlds of pop, jazz, and classical music.
The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky
I am going to say the entire suite has influenced me and forever will. It is one of my earliest memories of music. I experienced my first production when I was three years old, subsequently I have seen it approximately fifteen times since. Tchaikovsky is one of the most colorful composers in classical music.
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber
I don’t ever remember being paralyzed upon a first listen with any piece of music. The rich beauty, harmonic tension which leads us to one of the most intense climaxes in string orchestral music leaving you paralyzed, holding our breath until the strings return in sublime fashion comforting, and reminding us that contrast is necessary to appreciate all things in life. This piece always leaves me breathless and inspired, reminded me that there is something bigger than us.
The Goldberg Variations by Bach played by Glenn Gould in 1956
This specific performance, combined with the brilliance of this composition, feels as though Gould is lending his talent to a higher power above to speak through him. There is something transcendental about this recording. It is as close to perfection as one can achieve.
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Similar to Gould’s recordings of the Goldberg Variations, we have Miles and his formidable musicians (Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Julian Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb) giving us one of the greatest albums of all time. I see a pattern with all of the music which has inspired me – I never tire of hearing them, ever.
Upon every listen you hear something different. I use the spirit of this album to remind me not to overthink music. As Miles said himself: “Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent.”
‘Eleanor Rigby’ by The Beatles
There are at least twenty plus Beatles songs which have influenced me. I chose to highlight Eleanor Rigby as it marries classical music, pop music, great songwriting and great lyric writing so brilliantly. There is an immediacy to the performance – the string arrangement is fresh, classical and modern all at once…
Theme from Schindler’s List
I was a student in university studying music when I first heard this. I was riding the train back home to visit my family during the Holidays and I must have listened on repeat for over two hours to this gorgeous theme. I believe John Williams played the piano accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Vivid memories of staring out the window to the countryside as the train moved, and hearing the entrance of the orchestra take over post the piano establishing the theme… it does not get any better in film music, or all of music.
The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Transfixed and comforted are words I would use to describe my feelings of this piece. I honestly believe I was English and Irish in my previous life. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s harmonic language speaks to me in the same way that Thomas Newman’s does. Perhaps, it is because we are all born in the month of October, perhaps it is because we love open tenths in harmony, or none of the above… regardless, there is a pastoral element to this piece.
The lonely lark played by the violin, supported by the rich harmonic palette which Vaughan Williams provides us with is nothing short of breathtaking. It is as modern today, as it was one hundred years ago when it was first performed in 1921. RVW speaks to me and through me, he stands as one of the top classical composers who have influenced my piano harmonic language and voicings.
Follow Stephan Moccio at www.stephanmoccio.com