Having always been a fan of a variety of music and having known that some great sounds appear initially to be beyond your taste or that your perspective on those sounds change over time, I was a willing guinea pig and complete novice as I began my work back in 2010 to conquer the vast universe known as classical music.
What took me so long? Classical music is intimidating - that's what. With literally hundreds of worthwhile composers, thousands of symphonies and concertos, it's hard to know where to start. With centuries of history involved, there was no way of knowing what it would take to actually become comfortable with a fraction of this music.
But as a lifelong rock, blues and jazz aficionado for nearly 30 years, I decided to give it a shot.
The key? Learn not to worry about all of it and follow what you like - trust your own instincts.
My entry point? The twin local institutions known as the Utah Symphony and Randy's Records. I also had a willingness to plunk out cash for loads of cheap classical cds that represent one of the best bargains for music buyers.
And then the Utah Symphony announced last spring it would tackle all nine of Beethoven's symphonies starting this fall. Well, that sounded like a challenge - so I took it.
With help from Randy's, I rounded up all but one of the symphonies penned by "The Greatest Composer" and started preparing. The first thing I noticed was that I could indeed get my head around Beethoven and its vastness. The melodies and rhythms weren't that much more "out there" than the bebop jazz I swooned for back in '08 and I appreciated the fact there's so much literature out there about the content and its legendary composers. Going clear back to sixth grade when I read religiously everything I could find about hair metal bands, reading about music is not what I consider an intimidating task.
All of this helped prepare me for the first two rounds of the Beethoven cycle, the Ninth back on Sept. 10 and the Eighth Symphony on Saturday night.
And although the Ninth was wonderfully played, it was actually a bit anti-climatic after the haunting beauty of John Adams' Sept. 11 tribute piece called "On The Transmigration of Souls."
And then Saturday, it was time for the Eighth, which as any cursory research tells you, is often overshadowed by the more revered Ninth and Seventh symphonies - but as the research does not tell you, I don't think it's overshadowed one bit, I love it. Ever the contrarian, I instinctively took to this piece from the get-go, it's bombastic violin segments early in the piece (which somehow remind me of Led Zeppelin) followed by a lush pastoral feel contained in many passages made this feel like I'd always pictured classical as being - wild, long, dense and wonderful.
So, I was hooked on this piece -which premiered in 1814 - and circled this particular date of the Symphony's Beethoven countdown on my calendar at the start. Saturday's performance was awesome - as I expected - but it also revealed that one of classical music's great strengths is that even though a listener may have heard a piece dozens of times - seeing it live brings out nuances and even whole segments that hadn't emerged until I was fortunate enough to watch the skilled musicians of the Utah Symphony bring the piece to life inside Abravanel Hall.
The next round of Beethoven, courtesy of the Utah Symphony, is the Seventh on Nov. 4. I'm already looking forward to hearing that grand piece live and hope that others who read this can overcome their own possible intimidation factors and join in on this ongoing rare treat.
Follow Salt Lake Arts/Entertainment writer Scott Murphy on Twitter @murphyinfo.