Ten Best Classical Pieces Of All Time

As I compiled this list in my head, I found that I couldn’t possibly put them in order.  It was difficult enough picking just ten of my favourites.  I have ignored opera and choral pieces for this list; I’ll do them another time.  Heaven forbid including them all – you would probably be reading ‘Fifty Best Classical Pieces Of All Time.’  Don’t expect expert or professional commentaries.  I just listen to some classical, I am clueless about musical composition.

So here are ten of my favourite pieces, in no possible order:

Symphony #7 – 2nd Movement – Allegretto by Ludwig Van Beethoven
Beethoven probably has the most famous Symphonies under his belt, (I’m thinking of his fifth and ninth here, of which I want to bash the fifth to death with a cricket bat) but this is my favourite, and the 2nd Movement from his 7th is dark, broody, mysterious and melancholic but with dashes of light and hope seeping through.  I might be using the adjective ‘beautiful’ a few too many time during this list, but I’m going to first use it here.  Me love. 

Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven
Sometimes music can’t be given any words.  I think this is one of them.  Only a tortured soul could compose this tragic suicidal piece of music.  I imagine if you’re depressed this piece will make you feel that what you are feeling is rather exquisite.  That’s one way of making light of your dark lonely existence.

Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel
Let’s get away from the depressing stuff onto some light hearted happiness.  My heart swells everytime I hear this piece, and it never gets tired as it is so adaptable.  It reminds me of spring time, animals prancing across fields, and buttercups, sunshine, white fluffy clouds and so on.  There are many arrangements of this piece but I have picked an orchestral one for you.  I’ll relunctantly admit that Katherine Jenkins has a lovely arrangement of this on her Serenade album.

Air on a G String by Johann Sebastian Bach
Sticking with the Baroque period comes ‘Air on a G String’.  I think it has the same atmosphere and optimism as Canon for the orchestra, though some melancholy interpretations have come out of it (Sarah Chang, for example).  It’s melodic and hummable and stays in your head forever.  And ever.  Yays.

Requiem – Lacrimosa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Yes.  Let’s go back to “I-Want-To-Slash-My-Wrists” kind of music, or even more accurate: ‘I-Just-Slashed-My-Wrists” kind of music.  And I’m mildly aware that this kind of counts as choral but… meh. Like Moonlight Sonata, I think this piece is simply too big to write about.  It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than the human race.  It’s just awesomeness in a Grim Reaper kind of way.  Just as well really, he did compose this as he lay dying.  Or so legend has it.  Or something.  This piece is death itself.  This is what death sounds like.  Listen only if you’re healthy and you’re sure nobody with an axe is standing behind you.

The Nutcracker: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
MAGNIFICENT.  I use this as a human scale.  The less somebody likes this music, the less human they are.  True story.  Let’s ignore that it’s for a ballet, as I don’t like ballet, I don’t understand ballet; some people in tights repeat the same three moves in different variations for a very, very, very long time.  It eludes me.  Ah, but the Sugar Plum Fairy, it’s all magical, christmassy and, err… fairy like.  I leave you with this girl that spins fifty times in two minutes.  Enjoy.

The Nutcracker: Chinese Dance (Tea) by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
I blame Disney.  The lines are blurred.  Do I truly love this piece or is it because it reminds me of Chinese looking dancing mushrooms that I watched approximately two hundred times in my childhood?  I don’t know.  All I know is that it makes me smile.  You may watch what I was brainwashed with as a child.  Thanks, Mum.

1812 Overture by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Epicness.  I want my own fucking cannon.  Who wouldn’t want their own cannon after hearing this?  I’ll use it on the Big Brother House, it will be awesome.  I’ll blow that shit up to this music like V did for the Houses of Parliament.  You know it makes sense!  It’s like, twenty minutes long, but I’ve found the finale part for you.  Because I’m that sort of person.

Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie
If I were doing this list in order, this would be somewhere near the top of the list, or perhaps the top.  It struck me the very first time I heard it, and that was when I was fifteen (I liked Backstreet Boys back then).  I only heard it the once, and since I did not know the title or composer, I didn’t find it again until much later on, like, seven years on; but I recognised it instantly when I heard it again.  I will never let it out of my hearing again.  Not ever.  It makes me well up and stuff. <3

II Lento E Largo – Transquillissimo – Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki
I only discovered this piece in mid-2008.  I just had one of my classical compilations CDs playing in the background, but when this came on, I stopped everything I was doing.  It’s more commonly known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs and was composed in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the general tragedy of World War II.  You can trust that it lives up to its name.

49 Responses to “Ten Best Classical Pieces Of All Time”

  1. Wow, great list man. Thanks for bringing Gymnopedie No. 1 to my attention. I recognize it from something but I don’t know from what. I have to say I like the “depressing” pieces the most. I can really lose myself in those pieces, not in a suicidal kind of way if that is what you were thinking;)

  2. I’m really glad I stumbled upon this web page.
    Whoever you are, you have wonderful taste in music.
    I thought your description of Requiem – Lacrimosa was dark and deep and inspired.
    Thank you.
    Regards Ape.

  3. A very good taste you have for music. Even better for you that you haven’t been “virused” with the contmporary music “culture” which has P.Diddy and Miley Cyrus on the top of the lists.
    And thanks for the moonlight sonata. Didn’t listen to it until now:D.
    P.S. If you like “the dark side” of the classical music I suggest you listen to Wagner. His music is grater then anything you’ve ever listened to. Even the the Moonlight Sonata. Carmina Burana and The Ride Of The Valkirias are really impressive.

  4. And another reccomedation is Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings. It was used by Oliver Stone in Platoon. After me, the best piece of music ever written.

  5. Fantastic list :) It makes me so happy when people still appreciate classical music. I knew a lot of them and definately agree. I’d never heard of the Gorecki piece before, so I looked it up (video removed) :( It’s so gorgeous.
    You’ve probably heard of these pieces before :) but some other fantastic ones are:
    “Blessed are They” by Brahms
    “Prayer of the Children” (I’m honestly not sure who this ones by)
    “Grechen am Spinnrade” by Schubert
    “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre (this is the only song I actually cried during when I performed it)
    They’re just some of my favorites. :)

  6. PiterJankovich Says:

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  7. Le Carnaval des Animaux’ (The Carnival of the Animals): The Aquarium by Camille Saint-Saëns is another excellent piece to check out if you enjoyed Moonlight Sonata and Mozart’s Requiem.

  8. Okay so I think you left two out that should be in there.
    One adagio for strings by samuel barber aka, saddest classical music in history.
    Two. Babi yar(13 symphony) Shostakovich part 3.
    But other then that its great dude.

  9. Just to put something out there that you definitively haven’t heard before, i would propose the norwegian work Kjempeviseslåtten (or Ballad of Revolt) by Harald Sæverud. Its a resistance piece written by Harald Sæverud during a fit of rage over the occupation of norway during the second world war. The song itself is great, but the version performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra is simply amazing. Unfortunately the only place i can find that version is on Spotify, so if you don’t have access to that, it might be a problem. Otherwise you can find a similiar version on youtube performed by the royal guard orchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a060sMnMP0I . If you have access to spotify though, please don’t listen to that version as the sound quality is not the best, and it really kills some of the subtelties of the song.
    The song itself is really just a beautifull suspense build with one central melody that is progressively taken from a dark pit, to a hopefull whisper and finally into a powerfull roar.
    When i was learning piano as a kid, this was the first song i learned to play. I later stopped and forgot all about it, untill i recently rediscovered classical music and thus this song. Definetively a fav :D

  10. We had a local violinist to play “Air” in my grandpa funeral. It was the sadest thing I’ve ever have heard before. The atmosphere was also realy sad when I was realy close to him. Tears just kept on falling. Wonderfull song

  11. By the way isn’t Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie a song in the game Alan Wake. Seems really familiar

  12. thatdoesntsoundright Says:

    Another addition that I would like to suggest here is Tomas Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. Wonderful list.

  13. Excellent choice of Ludwig’s #7, 2nd movement. To further the heartachingly beautiful aspect, take a listen to Jacques Loussier’s jazz treatment of this movement. It’s an entire album dedicated to multiple variations of the basic theme. It makes you realize the improv genius of Ludwig.
    Great list!!

  14. Ben Etkin Says:

    I love your tastes, I have the same love for the depressing stuff. Mozarts requiem is my favourite piece of music. You should also try listening to some Sigur Ros, try Von.

  15. Awesomeness!

  16. Thanks for posting our video :)

  17. Great list, and also I checked out that camille saint-sean piece because I have always loved beethoven’s darker stuff and it is fantastic too, I feel like I’ve heard it in movies or something.
    I love that you posted videos with your list, so convenient.

  18. hall of the mountain king?

  19. This is a good list, but if you are really into classical music then you should listen to some less famous but just as good if not better classical pieces such as:
    -Scheharazade by Rimsky-korsakov
    -Piano concerto no.1 by Tchaicovsky
    -Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony
    just to name a few.

  20. Not sure how Mozart’s Serenade 13,
    Beethoven’s 9th Sympothy (Ode to Joy)
    and Vivaldi’s “Spring”
    Could be overlooked but I gues that’s why it’s called an opinion

  21. patscrabeck@hotmail.com Says:

    I saw Van Kliburn play when I was 12 years old and was blown away. He was like 20 years old and it was before he won in Russia. Going through the 50s, 60s, 70, and 80s music was my main concern during the intervening years. However, at 70 years of age I have rediscovered classical. Thank you so much for you recommendations. I love all your selections.

  22. I feel like i just found my classical music doppelganger! Wow!! I’m blown away by your list and ofcourse your blog. I think your list is great and totally unpretencious…just 100% enjoyeable classical pieces that touch the soul. Thanks also for finally putting a name tthe Erik Satie piece that i thought was so hauntingly beautiful the first time i heard it years ago on the soundtrack of A.I. I’d also add Antonio Vivaldi’s Summer and Winter Adagio from the four seasons to the list (yeah…i know…a bit too popular and overused…so sue me..lol!) and a personal favourite from sundays spent in Church: J.S Bach’s Sheep may safely graze Cantata no. 208. keep up the great work and even greater taste!

  23. Matt Mac Isaac Says:

    I love the theme from One Flew Over the Cu-Koo Nest immensly.
    Check it Out!!

  24. Great list man! I loved to see on your list Lacrimosa and Gymnopedie, excellent choices

  25. Valerie Says:

    Nice choices! I love all those pieces! On my list, I would also add Pelleas et Melisande by Gabriel Faure, and also Chopin’s Prelude in E Op. 28 (no.1 and no.24 …but they are all good). Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto 1 B Flat Minor, and Matteo Carcassi’s Etude Op 60 No. 3.

    Thanks for your terrific blog!

  26. This list made me physically ill. This was created by someone who took a 100 level music course in college obviously. Really? The 1812 Overture? That piece of crap? Tchaikovsky himself hated the piece. Pachelbel’s Canon? That is just the worst! Air on G? Come on!

    It is impossible to make a true top 10, but those three certainly don’t deserve a place. I doubt Tchaikovsky or Beethoven deserve to be on the list either. Both are great, and I really enjoy their music, but come on! Where is Bach’s B Minor Mass, perhaps the greatest piece of art, nay, the greatest work of the human mind by any person of any culture ever. That includes the Pyramids of Egypt and the works of Confucius. Or perhaps Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, a close second to his B Minor Mass in order of his works.

    We can go even earlier in time too. Where is Thomas Tallis on this list, or William Byrd, or Thomas Luis de Victoria, or Orlandus Lassus, or Palestrina (I personally wouldn’t put him on this list. He had a few good pieces, but most of his stuff was eh), or Ockeghem, or De La Rue, or Josquin? How about Lobo? Has the author of this article ever even heard of any of these composers? This list is incomplete.

    • I have so enjoyed this article.it gives me starting points!Oh, and Adrian(above),thank you so much for sharing your fine intelligence with the rest of us here.You are so pompous and mean!!If it made you ill,go puke and never come back to this site !!(or any others,) because no one will please you and you will try to tear others down with your sarcastic “wit” and great “know all”. In my 46 years of experience I have discovered that people like you who appear so frikin’ bright, are really the sad ones in life.You really are NOT as smart as you are-just a mean,unhappy person who probably has no friends and sits at the computer all day to compensate for all they lack.I feel sorry for you and I will pray for you because I think people can change,but the person who wrote this article just wanted to share some lovely pieces for the “rest of us” to enjoy or to introduce us to the classic genre.And I am VERY grateful for the time they took to do this article.Now go work on your OWN article and include those composers you mentioned that we all are certainly unfamiliar with and enlighten us as to their works..this will be a positive step for you to help others and we will all have other beautiful works to add to our libraries….

  27. I’ve been looking for a write-up on classical music like this for so long! Not at all pompous, zero-fluff and (best of all) amusing to read! That’s quite a skill you have there.

    Unfortunately I’d already found (and love) those that you rate most highly: Satie’s Gymnopedie, Ludwig’s Symphony no. 7 & Moonlight Sonata, to name a few.

    I think this means you need to write more lists/reviews like this. Yeah, go on! I so badly want to expand my classical music collection but I’m struggling to find anything as good as those mentioned above. Please write more.

  28. lemonwedgie Says:

    Ha! Awesome list of awesomeness. Stumbled upon this totally by accident (I was trying to find out the name of the piece in Platoon – Adagio for strings, Samuel Barber) you have listed some GREAT pieces but your descriptions were the deal-breaker for me. Laugh out loud FUNNY! Thank you :-)

  29. Bash the 5th with a cricket bat?! what?! Some nice pieces you listed. I would recommend you listen to Beethoven’s 5th more till it is drilled into you that it is one of (if not the) greatest musical achievements of all time. :D

  30. Ken Carpenter Says:

    You have a great experience ahead of you. Listen to Bach’s B-minor Mass, preferably done by Bach Collegium Japan. Musical scholars have on occasion said it’s the greatest of all musical compositions.

  31. Talking about sad classical music, you left out ‘But who may abide’ by Handel. Other than that, the list is perfect.

  32. Nothing compares to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2

  33. Here’s-a my top Ten:
    1. Hungarian Rhapsody #2 – Franz Liszt
    2. Night on Bald Mountain – Modest Mussorgsky
    3. Dance of the Hours – Amilcare Ponchielli
    4. The Thieving Magpie – Gioachino Rossini
    5. “Moonlight” Sonata (all three movs.) – Ludwig Van Beethoven
    6. Fantasie Impromptu Op. 66 – Frédéric François Chopin
    7. Toccata in D Moll – Johann Sebastian Bach
    8. Rite of Spring – Ígor Stravinski
    9. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Paul Dukas
    10. Symphony #6 “Pastoral” – Ludwig Van Beethoven

  34. I love this list! Very similar to my top 10, except I have Debussy.

  35. malin haque Says:

    Great, specially Gymnopedia one! your choice is one of the best

  36. If you like dark and moody than you’ll love Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights even though he’s Neo-Classical

  37. another great song:
    clint mansell – Lux aeterna
    from movie: Requiem for a dream

  38. Jon Montgomery Says:

    This selection is that of considerable plebian traits, I was disappointed not to see more of Beethoven and such composition. However, I have come to reckoning that some don’t possess a similar taste in music to myself.

  39. Are the people complimenting her taste doing so sarcastically? I really hope so. Between listening to and listing single movements of pieces, offering no insights re: preferred recordings/performances, and ignoring all classical music which doesn’t get played on the radio or in film soundtracks, I don’t even know where to start tearing her down.

  40. john terry Says:

    Love the post

  41. Fabijan Kramarić Says:

    Sorry, but those aren’t the best pieces ever composed. It’s like saying that King’s “Carrie” or Coelho’s “Alchemist” are the best novels ever written. They are enjoyable, easy to listen to, but nothing more than that. I see you have put two Ludwig van’s compositions on the list. Check his “Hammerklavier” sonata and his String quartet op. 131. Those compositions are complicated and you might find them boring, but after multiple hearings you will certainly change your opinion and consider them the greatest produces of the human mind and spirit. Also, you will find out that you were terribly wrong with your list.

  42. Love this list. I made a 21 best list, myself, so other than the ones you’ve already listed, I’d include:

    Vivaldi – The Four Seasons: Concerto No. 2 in G Minor (Summer)
    Bach – Cello Suite BMV 1007: Prelude, The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
    Chopin – Nocturne in Eb Major Op.9, No. 2
    Mozart – Symphony No. 40 in G Minor: Allegro molto
    Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor: IV: Ode to Joy
    Tchaikovsky – Waltz of the Flowers, Swan Lake: Finale
    Verdi – Messa da Requiem: Dies Irae
    Ravel – Bolero, Tzigane
    Gershwin – Rhapsody In Blue
    Debussy – Clair de Lune
    Barber – Adagio For Strings

    The piece that especially means something dear to me is Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” most especially the Finale. A fantastic version of it is Clint Mansell’s “Perfection” from the movie Black Swan. That piece and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Last Movement: Ode to Joy. That one is just so fun and special and it puts me in a good mood. I find myself trying to conduct it with my hands flailing about cause its fun, like playing air guitar or drums.

    The other pieces you’d have to include if this list could be bigger would be Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Bolero, Rhapsody In Blue (Oh definitely), Clair de Lune, and Adagio for Strings. Each piece special because of brilliance and emotion, especially Swan Lake + Ode to Joy, or in magical nostalgia. Like when I was about 10 years old, my parents bought my brother a piano that played demos of the most popular pieces to play on the piano..and I remember hearing so many of these songs like Greensleeves, Carol of the Bells, Gymnopedie, Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata, Claire de Lune, Chopin, or modern stuff like Imagine by John Lennon.

  43. luciano avila, thank you for putting in rite of spring… one of my favorite of all time and often overlooked piece… as it was quite controversial in its time

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