Alt Classical: Cover Tunes

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Nothing Else Matters – Apocalyptica (Metallica)

When I was a child, my parents listened almost exclusively to classical music –it was years before I realized their radio could tune in other stations!  As I reached middle school, however, I finally discovered pop music, and never looked back.

Recently, however, I’ve become a fan of what’s often called “alt classical” music –music which combines the vitality and freshness of pop music sensibilities with the sophistication and classic instrumentation of classical.

This week I’ll be looking at some of my favorite classical covers of popular music.  String and piano covers of pop music are nothing new –but it takes real talent to elevate the music rather than create elevator music.  These performers rose to the challenge.

Two classically trained pianists take on Michael Jackson with Billie Jean – Anderson and Roe (Michael Jackson)


My favorite track by the Turtle Island String Quartet is their absolutely transcendent reading of the Beatles’ “Because” –but I couldn’t find any publicly accessible audio, so here’s their version of Hendrix’ “Hey Joe”:

I’m not a huge hard-rock/heavy-metal fan, but the Scandinavian cellists Apocalyptica bring out the melody richness hidden underneath the clashing guitars of many a heavy rock hit, most memorably in their cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” (above).

I also have to admit –I do have a fondness I can’t shake for at least one of the old schmaltz classics:

Love is Blue – Paul Mauriat

Other strong performers with a classical take on popular music include YouTube sensations 2Cellos and ThePianoGuys, both of whom have lengthy (and frequently updated) catalogs available on YouTube and iTunes.

The Piano Guys “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele

More Michael Jackson (2Cellos – “Smooth Criminal”)

2 Responses

  1. November 13, 2014

    […] month or so ago, I explored the “cover songs” side of alt classical music, a genre that combines the pleasures of classical music with the […]

  2. January 1, 2015

    […] past weeks, we looked at classical music versions of pop hits, and classical music with jazz sensibilities.  This week, we’ll take a look at a few […]

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