For the sake of clarification, in this article “classical” refers to “non-popular” as opposed to referring to the classical time period. I also claim no ownership of any of these recordings or pieces.
I’m very proud of my music background and I gotta be honest, there’s something therapeutic about sitting down and listening to some Beethoven or Chopin. Now, I’m not saying that these following pieces are the best and top musical compositions of all time, let alone the most popular. They are just some of my favorites I’ve grown to love over the years. Maybe it’ll open up your ears to more than just the mainstream classics. I’ll list the pieces in no particular order and try to offer my own relation to the music. And as always, feel free to comment your own favorite compositions!
1: Beethoven: Sonata “Pathetique” Op. 13
Ah yes, Beethoven. This 3-movement piece is absolutely my favorite piano sonata. It’s exciting, it’s calming, and I’ve cried a few too many times while listening to it. I love it to the point of actually transcribing the second movement into an orchestral rendition (yes, I’m that lame) which you can watch here.
2: Franz Schubert – Fantasia for piano, 4 hands in F minor, D. 940
Schubert was such a mad genius, and I love it. This little gem is one I just happened to find in the “suggest videos” section of YouTube. It’s beautiful, it’s engaging, and it’s a classical piece that doesn’t get boring listening to. I highly recommend sitting through the whole thing at least once.
3: Franz Schubert: Erlkönig
I really like Schubert. The Elf King is such a classic, and this YouTube channel created a marvelous video that really en-captures the whole piece. It sounds and looks like the result of Tim Burton and Edgar Allan Poe having a baby together. And best yet, it’s a fairly short piece for those of you that don’t have the patience to listen to entire Sonatas.
4: Chopin: Nocturne Op.72 No.1
I know, it’s a bit mainstream, but how could I not include a Chopin Nocturne? This specific piece just really hits me in the soul. The duple over triple really gives it a slightly scattered feeling with a sense of yearning (which is a style I incorporated into an orchestral piece I’ve been composing, so stay tuned for that).
5: Philip Sparke: Music of the Spheres
This is a piece I played in wind ensemble during my undergrad, and I mean I hated playing it, but it sounded so cool. Just to be that guy, the video I’m posting is of our band playing it. But I’m also gonna post the original brass band version, cause brass band does everything better.
6: Ralph Vaughan Williams – Overture for Brass Band: Henry the Fifth
Speaking of brass band, here’s another piece we did during my undergrad (although I don’t have a recording of our performance). So instead, here’s a recording from one of the top brass bands out there. This piece really is the brass band piece, but I mean, can you expect any less from Vaughan Williams?
7: Henry Cowell – The Banshee
Getting a bit more modern, this piece teases your ears in such an avant-garde way. The performer is manipulating the strings of the piano in different techniques to create a unique sound. This was a part of the atonal period of music, where composers were really trying to break the rules of music theory and, in some cases, play around with what we considered “music” as opposed to just “sound“.
8: Malcolm Arnold: Little Suite No. 1, Op. 80
I know, I’m a band kid. So here’s some more brass band that I’ve performed before! Much like Beethoven’s Pathetique, the real winner in this one is also the second movement (but I guess I’ll post all three movements anyways). The Siciliano has really gotten me through some tough times.
9: Randall Thompson: The Last Words of David
Wow! A choral piece!
I first sang this during District Choir and immediately fell in love. To me, it really is one of the most perfect choral compositions to exist. That powerful beginning throws you against the wall while the later harmonies tuck you into bed. Which, once you start to study the connection between the music and meaning of the text, the two just flow perfectly intertwined down a river of happy ears and sad tears.
Before we reach number 10…
Thank you to everyone’s love and support with my new blog! It’s been a real battle to only post 10 pieces. I wanted to create this list, again not to show people the pieces they already know, but rather just to share some hidden gems that I’ve come to love. Please like and share and always make sure to check out my other posts! The more shares and followers I get, the more I can continue with this project. Thanks again! If you would like to check out some of my own compositions I have for sale, please click here to be redirected to JW Pepper.
10: Alban Berg – Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
Believe it or not, Berg did create an orchestral piece, and at least to me, it sounds like something out of a modern video game or movie. Truly, this composition was ahead of its time. Being from the Second Viennese School of composers, he was able to really mix some of the late-Romanticism techniques with the twelve-tone concept, which kind of set him aside from his mentor, Schoenberg. The piece is different, it’s exciting, and it feels like a predecessor to what we are familiar with in modern scores (although Wagner had already set that idea into motion with his use of leitmotifs).
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