It says here in the brain book that we form our tastes by 12 or 13 years of age and ever after love only the same kinds of music. Wow! As a young person I loved Judy Garland, so I suppose ever after I have been looking for someone who could sell a song like Judy. Liking Cecilia Bartoli, the modern singer most able to sell a song, only seems logical.
But virtually all I know of classical music came later, some of it much later. I loved the "Erbarme dich" from Bach's Saint Matthew Passion from the time that I sang it in college. Janet Baker's recording is definitely the one to hear. When I bought a synthesizer, I created a setting for it using muted strings that was powerful and heart rending, my best achievement in that medium.
There is a very deep place in my heart for Brahms' Requiem. I can sing along through the entire piece. Robert Shaw's recordings of this are fine but do not approach his live performance with the San Francisco Symphony in the early 80's, a performance that featured Kathleen Battle singing "Wir hab' nun Trauerigkeit." Awesome. I used to have a tape of it, but it was stolen from my car.
And how does this explain my taste for the organ music of Olivier Messiaen? Or Glenn Gould's Bach? Or Gorecky's Third Symphony? I would never have listened to bluegrass as a young person, so why am I listening to it now? I admit Kelly Clarkson is definitely a throwback to early soft rock. That fits. And a passionate love for Die Fledermaus and Der Rosenkavalier fits a childhood that included J. Strauss' "Tales from the Vienna Woods."
But the recording I love best of Cecilia's is the Rossini "Heroines" album. What from my early teens would have prepared me to appreciate this stunning work? Perhaps it does all make sense. Does a deep love of Janet Baker's performance of Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" fit this picture?" Does she sell Mahler like Judy? Perhaps. The musical tastes of my youth were sketchy at best. Music has been a gift of my adult life. I continue to discover new things to love, like Rolando Villazon's French album. He has recently signed a long term contract with Deutsche Grammophon.