The 10 Most Famous Classical Music Pieces
- Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
- The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
- Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel
- Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven
- The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky
- Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Discover the 10 most famous classical music pieces that have been performed over and over again throughout the years.
Classical music is often seen as the epitome of high culture. A product of a refined and educated society, it has been unfairly seen as elitist and stuffy. In reality, classical music is one of the most varied and interesting genres, with a rich history spanning centuries.
There are hundreds of famous classical music pieces, but some have risen to the top and become truly iconic. Below are ten of the most famous classical music pieces, with a little bit of information about each one.
1. “Canon in D” by Johann Pachelbel
2. “Symphony No. 5” by Ludwig van Beethoven
3. “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner
4. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg
5. “Ave Maria” by Franz Schubert
6. “The Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi
7. “The Nutcracker Suite” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
8. “Pomp and Circumstance” by Edward Elgar
9.” Masquerade Waltz” by Aram Khachaturian
10.”Requiem” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one of the most popular and well-known classical music pieces ever written. The first four notes of the symphony (da-da-da-DUM) are some of the most recognized in all of classical music. Thesymphony was composed between 1804 and 1808, and was first performed in Vienna in 1808. It is one of Beethoven’s most important works, and helped to secure his reputation as one of the greatest composers of all time.
The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons is a set of four violin concerti by Antonio Vivaldi. They were written around 1716-1717 and published in 1725 in Amsterdam. The concerti are named after the four seasons of the year: “Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn” and “Winter”.
The Four Seasons are among Vivaldi’s best-known works. Each concerto is in three movements, with a slow movement between the fast first and last movements. The faster movements were written in sonata form.
The first movement of each concerto describes the respective season. For example, the first movement of “Spring” starts with birds chirping, while the first movement of “Winter” starts with hunters on a cold, frozen night.
Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel
Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel is one of the most famous and well-loved classical pieces of all time. Often referred to as a “Good Morning” or “Wedding” song, it was originally written for a three-part harmony. The piece was later expanded to include a fourth part, which added a greater sense of depth and complexity. While the music is simple, the overall effect is one of great beauty.
The piece begins with a stately, march-like theme which is then repeated several times. The second half of the piece features a more lyrical melody which adds to the overall sense of serenity. The Canon in D Major has been featured in countless movies, commercials, and television shows, and has even been adapted for use in popular songs. It remains one of the most popular classical pieces ever written, and its lasting popularity is a testament to its beauty and simplicity.
Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is one of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written. The first movement of the sonata, which is in C# minor, is especially famous. It is often performed as a solo piano piece, although it was originally written for piano and violin.
The “Moonlight Sonata” is one of Beethoven’s most popular piano sonatas, and it has been famously performed by many renowned pianists. Franz Liszt, one of the greatest pianists of all time, was known for his virtuosic performance of the “Moonlight Sonata.” Other famous performers include Vladimir Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Arthur Rubinstein.
The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, tr. Shchelkunchik) is a daemon ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892–1893. The libretto is adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King2 and Marius Petipa’s ballet The Nutcracker. It was given its premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg on Sunday, December 18, 1892, on a double-bill with Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta.
Although the original production was not a success, the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was enormously popular. The first complete performance of the ballet was not given until 1934 in Moscow; this production revived some of the innovations that Serge Diaghilev had introduced for his 1909 Paris production—most notably, sets and costumes by Alexandre Benois and dancing by Anna Pavlova.
The ballet has since become one of the most popular ballets in both France and Russia; it remains one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular scores and is one of the most performed ballets worldwide today.
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, also known as the “Choral Symphony”, is his final complete symphony. Composed between 1822 and 1824, the work was first performed in Vienna on 7 May 1824. It is regarded by many critics and musicologists as one of the greatest compositions in the western musical canon.
The symphony is noted for its unconventional use of the human voice—in this case, four soloists and a mixed choir—in its final movement, which adds words to Beethoven’s poem “An die Freude” (To Joy). The words are sung during the final minutes of the ninth symphony by four vocal soloists accompanied by a chorus. They were taken from the “Ode to Joy”, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and set to music by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1794.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Eine kleine Nachtmusik, (German: “A Little Night Music”), serenade for two violins, viola, and cello by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, K. 525 (K. limits the work’s nickname to avoid confusion with Richard Strauss’sDer Rosenkavalier). Mozart composed the piece in 1787 for an outdoor concert held in one of his patrons’ homes; it quickly became one of his best-known and most popular works. It was originally scored as a string quartet but is often heard today in arrangements for full orchestra or string orchestra.
The piece consists of five movements:
II. Romance: Andante
III. Menuetto: Allegretto
IV. Rondo: Allegro
The first four movements are in sonata form, a standard musical form of the Classical period that featured two contrasting themes—the first presented in the home key and the second introduced in a related key—and variations on those themes. The last movement is a lively rondo, a musical form featuring a recurrent main theme interspersed with contrasting episodes.
Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky
first written for the piano, this piece was later orchestrated by Modest Mussorgsky himself. It is a brilliant display of mood and imagery, and has become one of the most popular works in the classical repertoire.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, is a composition for piano and orchestra written by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. It is based on the caprice 24 in A minor for solo violin, Op. 1, Composed in 1934, the piece is about 22 minutes long and consists of 24 variations on Paganini’s theme. Along with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Third Symphony, it is one of his most popular works.
Rachmaninoff had been struggling for some time to find a suitable project to mark his 60th birthday celebrations. He had composed his last great work, the Symphonic Dances, only the year before and was not interested in writing another symphony or concerto. He considered various possibilities before turning to Nikolai Andreev’s recently published biography of Paganini. This included a record of the last days of the great violinist’s life which Rachmaninoff found moving. He also became intrigued by the idea of composing a set of variations on one of Paganini’s themes.