Sporting Music for Wimbledon Champions, with the Possible Exception of Andy Murray

By James Inverne on Jul 08, 2013 11:58 PM EDT

According to NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION Andy Murray--he's the NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION, by the way--90 per cent of players listen to music in the locker room.

And although NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION Andy Murray has told the BBC he has a penchant for John Mellencamp, one wonders how many of his colleagues pump themselves up with something classical?

Not many, at a guess.

No, as a breed, sportsmen tend to go for things with lyrics about iron-pumping and pounding rock beats they can jog along to like, err, "Eye of the Tiger." (Please note: This may be piffle, I've never been much of a sportsman, and when I do I tend to listen to Neil Simon plays--for distraction--or the Rocky IV soundtrack).

However, there are sportsmen known to love classical music--English rugby legend Brian Moore, for instance, famous football coaches Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren, former Olympic rower James Cracknell and, well, Roger Federer looks refined enough to know some good music when he hears it.

Although Dowland or Purcell may be too mellow, there are plenty of classical works that are perfect for honing that competitive edge.

Here are some suggestions:

"Nessun dorma" from Puccini's Turandot

"None shall sleep," thundered Luciano Pavarotti for the 1990 Football World Cup. It worked. None of the footballers fell asleep mid-match. But here's a hint: Pavarotti was one of the great interpreters of the role of Puccini's oriental anti-hero Calaf. But for a "Nessun dorma" with real welly, with power enough to propel you across that last hundred meters, try Franco Corelli. Ignore the bad dubbing.

"Mars" from Holst's The Planets

From the prowling, ritualistic beats that start the first movement of Holst's famous suite to the musical cataclysm at the end, you're running for your life. Which is all to the good if you are actually out running. My favorite recording is this quite recent one from the London Philharmonic and their superb music director Vladimir Jurowkski.

Graffiti by Magnus Lindberg

Among today's composers, the Finn Magnus Lindberg stands tall as a visionary who charts new landscapes. And this 2009 work for chorus and orchestra has an intense, spiky determination at its center that, at points, would entirely suit an athlete with his eye on the prize (though I suspect Lindberg might be rather dismayed to hear it). There's a great recording from the Ondine label. This one might, I grant, seem a weird choice, but it's a sports psychology thing. I think.

"Di quella pira" from Verdi's Il Trovatore

Well, this Verdi cabaletta really is about pumping adrenaline and, you know, going off with sword in hand. Verdi's heroic troubadour and rebel, Manrico, hears that his mother has been kidnapped by his arch enemy. Or, to put it another way, the poor tenor has just slogged through the beautiful and testing aria "Ah si, ben mio" and now, less than five minutes later, has to somehow find the reserves for a testosterone-fired promise of vengeance. And death--death usually follows vengeance in opera. In this one, Manrico gets death and not much vengeance. But then, he's not NEW WIMBLEDON CHAMPION Andy Murray. Still, few have the voice for this ultra-macho aria the way Corelli had. (It's a Corelli day.) Listen, marvel, then buy the complete recording!

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (incidental music) from Grieg's Peer Gynt

My generation first came across this as the ubiquitous soundtrack, on eternal loop, to the 1981 ZX Spectrum computer game Manic Miner (Look it up, kids.) A new generation know it as the synced-up, computer-pumped version used to accompany the big boat race scene in David Fincher's 2010 movie The Social Network. But Grieg's original has plenty of fire in its belly, plenty of the dread of not emerging victorious, to work some sporting magic. And it doesn't get much more exciting than here, with Neeme Järvi and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

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TagsJames Inverne, Wimbledon, Andy Murray, Puccini, Holst, Magnus Lindberg, Verdi, Grieg

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