A few months ago I was commissioned to play piano for the U.S. Navy admiralty awards dinner here in San Diego. The gig was to play "light" classical music for a large formal dinner of 900 atop one of the hotels. What they really wanted was just the melodies and themes from familiar classics, not the full pieces.
This was a first for me. I had performed an entire night of excerpts, and frankly it was rather a difficult task of choosing what to play/omit in an impromptu manner. Coincidently, a few weeks later I was requested to to much the same thing for a private garden party.
This seeded my thoughts to develop this approach to a more comfortable performance level by charting these pieces. Basically, this is how I play Jazz, so following the format of Pop and Jazz fakebooks, I used the treble clef melody line with chord symbols to basically layout each piece. I've played these Classical pieces in their entirety for many years, so the abridged fakesheet version just serves to set the performance structure for me.
While I am aware of published collections of Famous Classical Melodies
, I have always cringed at the mere thought of butchering the magnificent works of the masters. However, if I gave it careful editing and arranging on a personal level, without resorting to the commerciality of it, I felt semi-OK with it since this is obviously what a select audience prefers.
So, after a couple months editing, I have developed my Classical Fakebook of themes from the great symphonies & operas, piano concertos, nocturnes and dances, et al. Shhhh, don't tell anyone