The Top 100 Classical Music Pieces of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

A list of the top 100 classical music pieces ever composed, according to classical music experts.


The History of Classical Music in 100 Pieces is a book by musical historian RichardTaruskin. It was first published in 2006 by Oxford University Press. The book is a chronological survey of classical music, from the 8th century to the 21st century. The 100 pieces are arranged in 10 sections, each devoted to a particular period or genre.

The book has been praised for its accessible and engaging style, as well as for its breadth of coverage. It has been criticized for its focus on Western art music, and for Taruskin’s sometimes controversial opinions.

The Top 100 Classical Music Pieces

Here is a list of the top 100 classical music pieces of all time, as voted on by the public. This list includes a variety of classical music pieces from different eras and composers. If you are a fan of classical music, then you are sure to find a few of your favorites on this list.

Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 – Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor is one of the most popular and well-known classical pieces ever written. The work has been called the “key to music history” and the “most important work of the Western musical canon.” It was composed in 1804–1808, and first performed in 1808. The symphony is in four movements, and is notable for its use of a four-note motive, which recurs in all four movements.

The first movement, Allegro con brio, is in standard sonata form and is widely considered one of the most memorable movements in all of classical music. The second movement, Andante con moto, is a gentle and lyrical piece that contrasts with the intensity of the first movement. The third movement, Scherzo: Allegro, is a light and fast dance that leads into the final movement, Presto – Allegro assai. This finale is one of Beethoven’s most famous sections of music, and features a stirring melody that builds to a triumphant conclusion.

The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 1 in E Major, RV 269 “Spring” – Antonio Vivaldi

The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 1 in E Major, RV 269 “Spring” is a concerto composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1723. It is the first of four concerti that make up The Four Seasons, a set of four violin concerti that each give musical expression to a season of the year. Spring, the first of the four concerti, was written to describe the sounds and sights of springtime.

The concerto is in three movements:

Allegro: The first movement is in Sonata form and Allegro tempo. It is characterized by a fast pace and cheerful mood, conveying the freshness and happiness of springtime.

Largo e pianissimo sempre: The second movement is a Largo, or slow movement. It is written in 12/8 time signature and marked “pianissimo sempre”, meaning “very soft throughout”. This movement provides a contrast to the first movement with its slower pace and more subdued mood.

Allegro pastorale: The third and final movement is again in Allegro tempo, but in 6/8 time signature. This marking indicates that it should be played “in the style of a pastorale”, or countryside dance. This movement portrays the sound of shepherds and their flocks bleating in the meadow on a spring day.

Canon in D Major – Johann Pachelbel

Coming in at number 100 on our list is Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major.” Written in the early 1680s, the piece was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo and was intended to be played continuously in the background. The piece gained popularity in the 20th century when it was arranged for different instruments and became a staple at weddings. The simple, yet elegant melody has made it one of the most popular classical pieces of all time.

Moonlight Sonata (Adagio sostenuto) – Ludwig van Beethoven

As the title suggests, the Adagio sostenuto movement of the Moonlight Sonata is marked by a slow, sustained tempo. It is written in 3/4 time and is in the key of E-flat major. The left hand plays a simple arpeggiated melody while the right hand plays broken chords. The melody is echoed a beat later by the left hand. This movement is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful pieces of classical music ever written.

Air on the G String – Johann Sebastian Bach

This beautiful and soothing melody was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in the early 18th century. It is one of the most popular classical pieces ever written, and has been adapted for use in a wide variety of settings, including ballets, films, and television commercials. The original version was written for solo violin, but it has since been arranged for a variety of other instruments, including piano, guitar, and orchestra.

The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The “Nutcracker Suite” is one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular pieces, and it’s easy to see why. This charming suite is full of festive melodies and cheerful rhythms that are guaranteed to put you in a good mood. The suite was originally written for the Christmas ballet “The Nutcracker,” which was first performed in 1892. However, the suite quickly became popular in its own right, and it is now one of the most commonly performed pieces of classical music.

Ave Maria – Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria is one of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written. The haunting melody and beautiful words have touched the hearts of people all over the world.

The piece was originally written for voice and piano, but has been adapted for many different instruments and ensembles. It has been recorded by some of the world’s most famous singers, including Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli.

Despite its popularity, Ave Maria is actually a fairly simple piece of music. The melody stays within a range of just a few notes, making it easy to sing or play on the piano. The lyrics are also fairly simple, but the meaning is profound.

Ave Maria is a prayer to the Virgin Mary, asking for her intercession. The first half of the prayer is in Latin, while the second half is in German. The German text is as follows:

“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.”

This translates to: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Amen.”

Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), is a 1787 composition for a chamber ensemble by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German title means “a little serenade”, though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as “a little night music”. The work is written for an ensemble of two violinists, viola, and cello with a optional double bass, but is often performed by string orchestras with only first and second violins, violas, and cellos.

The piece was completed on 10 August 1787, two months prior to the composer’s untimely death at the age of 35. It consists of four movements:
Allegro – in G major and common time
Menuetto – Trio elisoé in G major and 3/4 time
Romance: Larghetto in F major and 6/8 time
Rondo: Allegretto in G major and 2/4 time

Although commonly thought to be intended as entertainment for an evening musical gathering (hence its alternative name), the serenade was actually composed for string quartet or string orchestra. There is no evidence that it was ever performed in Mozart’s lifetime.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – Ralph Vaughan Williams

This beautiful movements was composed in 1910, and is based on a 16th century Welsh melody. Vaughan Williams was deeply influenced by English Folk music, and this is one of his most famous works. It is often played at weddings, and has been used in many films including The Heat of the Day, Pride & Prejudice, and Master and Commander.

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 – Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 – Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor who is considered one of the greatest performers of his time. He is best known for his compositions for piano and orchestra, including his most famous work, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The work was inspired by Niccolo Paganini’s 24th Caprice, and it consists of 24 variations on that theme. It was first performed in 1934, and it remains one of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written.

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