Keith Richards names his favourite composer

The music of The Rolling Stones is firmly rooted in American blues. As a child, Keith Richards was exposed to the jazz music of Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, and Duke Ellington, paving the way for his adolescent passion. “That’s what was around the house,” Richards explained during his Desert Island Discs interview. “There’s a lot of blues in jazz. And so, in a way, it was in the bones before I actually got to hear country blues – I already felt familiar with it.” It comes as something of a surprise, then, to learn that Richards is also an avid classical music fan. Here, he names his favourite composer of all.

Born in Dartford in 1943, Keith Richards formed The Rolling Stones in 1962 with his close friend Mick Jagger. He spent the next two decades embodying the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, cheating death countless times. In his lifetime, he’s been bombed, shot at, set on fire, electrocuted and injected with lethal doses of heroin. And yet, remarkably, he’s still standing. During that same conversation with Kirsty Young for Desert Island Discs, Richards concluded that he really must be “indestructible”.

His music selection echoes that same fearlessness, with tracks by Chuck Berry, Etta James and Hank Williams all making it onto his list of favourite records. But there’s a softer side to Keith Richards, as demonstrated by his love for Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi. “Suddenly, I got classical,” Richards said of his evolving music taste. “I was agonising about this as Mozart was my man, basically. But I found out, while reading some of his letters, that the only good word he had to say about any composer in the world was Vivaldi.”

Born in Venice in 1678, Vivaldi left an indelible mark on late baroque instrumental music, perfecting what would come to be known as the three-movement concerto. As a talented violinist, he recognised the difficulties of placing solo string instruments in competition with chamber orchestras. His solution was to employ what is known as the ritornello form, in which repeating refrains are juxtaposed with episodic passages featuring the solo instrument, giving birth to a musical dialogue between ensemble and soloist. His Four Seasons are the most widely known of his concerti, with Keith Richards selecting the ‘Spring’ section as his favourite. Check it out below.

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