The advent of streaming platforms such as Spotify and Pandora gathered music lovers of all shapes and sizes to a massive musical buffet. However, with the vast selection of songs and materials the Internet has to offer, exploring other genres outside your usual tastes can be quite exciting. Not only does it help broaden the palate, but it also creates a richer and deeper appreciation for music. And classical music is an excellent starting point. While classical music may appear as unapproachable and highbrow, most people have had a brush with a classical tune at some point in their life, via a melody from a music box or soundtrack from a favorite movie.
Thus, to diversify your musical taste, here’s a list of some of the best classical music pieces to add to your playlist.
1. Four Seasons
Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi is comprised of four violin concerti, namely Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Considered Vivaldi’s most famous work, Four Seasons was composed between 1720 and 1723 during the Baroque Period. Released in 1725, this classical piece has been used extensively in movies, television commercials, and even in social gatherings. Four Seasons is as timeless as the change of seasons, and certainly deserves a spot in the list of best classical music pieces.
2. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music), or more formally, Serenade No. 13 in G, is a perennial favorite by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This piece was completed in August 1787 but was published posthumously in 1827. While this lavish piece suggests ornate ballrooms and fancy dancers, the tune found its way in mainstream movies like Ace Ventura and Charlie’s Angels.
3. The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a is a two-act ballet score penned by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892. Tchaikovsky culled eight tracks from the ballet production and named the selection The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a. Through concert performances, the suite was introduced to the public. To date, this classical piece has been used in movies, commercials and video games.
4. Piano Sonata No. 14, Op. 27 No. 2
Piano Sonata No. 14, Op. 27 No. 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven, was popularly known as the “Moonlight Sonata.” This piece, supposedly dedicated to Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, was completed in 1801. Back then, the Moonlight Sonata was considered unique and stylistic as it defied the usual forms of sonatas in its day. Have a listen and find out why it should be included in your list.
5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3: I. Allegro is one of the six concertos composed by Johann Sebastian Bach around the years 1708 to 1717. The Brandenburg Concerto was originally titled “concerts avec plusieurs instruments” (concertos for various instruments) and was presented as a gift to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt. While the entire collection showcases the richness of Baroque music, Concerto No. 3’s pulsating energy captured the grandeur and elegance of the era.
6. Für Elise
Für Elise’s original title was Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor and considered as one of the more famous works of Beethoven. The manuscript was dated April 27, 1810 but it was not published until 1867. Historians have been in trying to find out the true identity of “Elise,” to whom the song was dedicated. Perhaps the world will never know, as the original signed manuscript was lost. Nevertheless, Für Elise should be included in the list.
7. Symphony No. 40: I. Molto Allegro
Symphony No. 40: I. Molto Allegro by Mozart was completed on July 25, 1788. Along with two other symphonies – No. 39 and No. 41—it was meant to be presented as one unified work. To date, Symphony No. 40 has been sampled in a number of movies, TV series, and video games.
8. Cello Suite No. 1
Cello Suite No. 1 by Bach puts forth the rich and deep tone of the instrument cello. Suite No. 1 is part of a six solo Cello Suites composed around the years 1717-1723. Bach’s interest in the instrument was not known but the publication of Bach’s Cello Suite has often sparked interest on the cello.
9. Piano Sonata No. 11: III. Alla Turca
Piano Sonata No. 11: III. Alla Turca by Mozart was titled as such due to its attempt to copy the sound of Turkish Janissary bands. What makes this sonata a great addition to the list of the best classical music pieces was its historical context. It was Mozart’s subtle subversion towards the Ottoman Empire and its long-standing conflict with Mozart’s country, Austria.
Gymnopédies by Erik Satie is a collection comprised of three piano pieces published in 1888. Gentle, melancholic and soothing, the Gymnopédies was regarded as an important precursor to ambient music. Brian Eno and the group Blood, Sweat & Tears were heavily influenced by Erik Satie.
Classical music offers a luxurious and opulent listening experience. While the best classical music pieces possess complex and intricate structures, works under this genre have the power to meet listeners’ most fundamental need, which is to nourish the soul. Start with the above list. Be prepared to crave more.