On Music: 5 Rock Songs Played By Classical Musicians


It's much more common for rock groups to try their hand at classical pieces. ELP, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Spinal Tap, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Rainbow, the list goes on and on. Some of you might even recall another On Music post in which I showed how Sting re-arranged a Prokofiev tune in his song "Russians."

Turns out, though, it's a two-way street. Here are five excerpts of recordings I like (for reasons both serious and comical) of rock tunes covered by classical musicians.

1. "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix This recording was made by the world-famous Kronos string quartet, who made a name for themselves by playing unusual, colorful versions of old tunes by stodgy old composers, premiering thorny music by new composers, and playing arrangements of rock songs like this one by Hendrix:

2. "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC Have you heard of the "String Tribute" albums? There's a whole humorous series of them with various musicians playing everything from Coldplay to, yup, AC/DC. This recording comes from a CD called Back In Baroque: The String Tribute to AC/DC. Funniest thing about this? They expect us to take it seriously. Er, okay.

3. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by The Rolling Stones For reasons I've never understood, every long-standing rock outfit that takes itself seriously has, it seems, at one point or another, collaborated with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). This excerpt comes from an interesting album called Symphonic Music of the Rolling Stones.

4. "Nights in White Satin" by The Moody Blues It's another recording by the LSO, folks. This was an obvious choice for them seeing as the original recording featured the London Festival Orchestra playing many of the backing tracks of the song penned by 19-year-old Justin Hayward after a friend of his gave him some satin bed sheets.

5. "Fortress Around Your Heart" by Sting Yet another LSO recording! This one comes from an album called Fortress: The London Symphony Orchestra Performs the Music of Sting. Trust me when I tell you this is the best cut on the album. The version of "Synchronicity II," for instance, sounds like a Sondheim musical gone terribly wrong.