The Classical Music You Must Hear Before You Die
A look at the top classical pieces that everyone should hear at least once in their lifetime.
Classical music is a timeless art form that has been around for centuries. There are many different styles and genres of classical music, and it can be hard to know where to start when you’re trying to explore this genre.
This list is a great starting point for anyone who wants to discover classical music. It includes pieces from various periods and styles, so you can get a taste of what this genre has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of the great composers like Bach and Beethoven, or you’re more interested in modern classical music, there’s something on this list for everyone.
1. Bach – “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major”
2. Beethoven – “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor”
3. Brahms – “Symphony No. 4 in E Minor”
4. Chopin – “Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor”
5. Debussy – “Clair de Lune”
6. Dvorak – “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor”
7. Elgar – “Pomp and Circumstance Marches”
8. Grieg – “Piano Concerto in A Minor”
9. Handel – “Messiah”
10 . Haydn – “Symphony No 91 in E Flat Major”
The Baroque Era
The Baroque era was a time of great change and transformation, not only in music, but in all the arts. It was a period of great creativity, and some of the most beautiful and moving music ever written was composed during this time. If you’re a classical music lover, here are some of the pieces you must hear before you die.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach was born in Eisenach, in the duchy of Saxe-Eisenach, into a great musical family. His father, named Johann Ambrosius Bach, was a violinist and trumpeter, employed by the court of Eisenach. His uncles were all musicians, ranging from church organists to court composers. One uncle, Johann Christoph Bach (1645–93), taught him a great deal about clavier playing; another, Johann Michael Bach (1648–94), introduced him to the works of the great master of the German organ tradition, Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637–1707).
Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21st 1685 in Eisenach, Germany. He was the youngest child of eight born to his parents. By the age of ten both of his parents had died and he went to live with his older brother Johann Christoph Bach who was an organist at Ohrdruf Castle.
Sebastian showed such talent for music that he was soon accepted as a choirboy at St Michael’s church in Luneberg where he received a first-rate musical education. After spending some time working as a musician in Weimar and Cothen, Bach settled in Leipzig in 1723 where he became music director at St Thomas’s Church and later at St Nicholas’s Church. It was during his time in Leipzig that he wrote some of his greatest works such as The Well-Tempered Clavier (a set of keyboard pieces) and The Goldberg Variations (an aria with 30 variations).
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque composer who is famous for his operas, oratorios and concerti grossi. Handel was born in the same year as J.S. Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, in the city of Halle in Germany. He received musical training in Halle and Hamburg before settling in London, where he spent most of his career. He later became a British subject.
Antonio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was an Italian baroque musical composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric. Born in Venice, the capital of the Venetian Republic, Vivaldi was taught to play the violin by his father, Giovanni Battista Vivaldi, who was a master of the instrument. After studying music at a seminary school in Padua, he was ordained as a priest in 1703. He lived most of his life in Venice, composing many instrumental concertos, as well as other works. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.
The Classical Era
The Classical Era was a period of music history that spanned from the mid-1700s to the early 1800s. It was a time of great change and innovation in music, and some of the most famous classical composers were born during this time. If you’re a fan of classical music, or if you’re just curious about it, there are certain pieces that you must hear before you die.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. Mozart showed prodigious ability from an early age. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital instead, later remarking: “The truth is I like no one but myself better than I like you.”
Mozart applied himself to the study of counterpoint, quickly becoming one of the leading compositional voices of his generation. His influence spread beyond Austria, proving strong in Germany, France and England. In 1791–92 he composed The Magic Flute for a Viennese theatre submission to Emperor Joseph II; this work continued to enjoy enormous success throughout the 19th century. After his return to Salzburg that summer, Mozart learned he had been passed over for an appointment to Münster; enraged, he returned home and marble-hearted Salzburg never heard from him again. On 5 December 1791 Mozart died suddenly at home in Vienna at age 35 by unknown circumstance. Even though he only lived to be 35 years old his name still stands out today as one of the greatest composers classical music has ever seen Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart will always be remembered as one of if not the greatest composer of all time.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in 1770 in the city of Bonn in the Electorate of Cologne, a principality of the Holy Roman Empire. He displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father and several famous organists. He quickly gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist and an expert organist. When he was 21, he travelled to Vienna to study composition with Joseph Haydn.
Beethoven’s earliest works were mostly in the vein of Rococo-influenced classical music, but he rapidly developed his own style after coming into contact with the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and other contemporary writers. His first important work was the opera Fidelio, which premiered in 1805. This was followed by a series of increasingly ambitious works for both orchestra and solo piano, including six symphonies (of which the Ninth is the best known), five piano concerti, 32 piano sonatas, 16 string quartets (including the late Grosse Fuge), seven violin sonatas (including the Kreutzer Sonata), five cello sonatas, six songs for voice and piano, four overtures, four trios for piano, clarinet and cello, two sextets for piano and winds, 72 songs, six trios for violin, viola and cello, eleven string overtures (most notably Leonore Overture No. 3) and numerous other smaller pieces.
In his later years, Beethoven’s hearing began to deteriorate, but he continued to compose music until his dying days. He is universally recognized as one of history’s greatest composers, and his work has had a profound influence on subsequent generations of musicians.
Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer. In a short lifespan of less than 32 years, Schubert was a prolific composer, writing some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous “Unfinished Symphony”), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music while he was alive was limited to a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna but interest in his work increased significantly in the decades following his death. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers of Western classical music and his compositions continue to be popular.
The Romantic Era
Among all the music composed during the Romantic era, there are a few pieces that stand out and have become some of the most well-known classical pieces in the world. If you’re not familiar with the Romantic era of classical music, it’s worth taking some time to listen to some of these iconic pieces.
Mendelssohn was a key figure in the Romantic era, and his work helped to define the genre. He was a master of melody, and his music is both tuneful and lyrical. He also had a strong sense of structure, and his pieces are well-crafted and elegant.
Mendelssohn was born into a wealthy family, and he was exposed to music from an early age. He began composing when he was just a child, and he quickly became a prodigy. His first symphony, which he composed when he was just 15 years old, received rave reviews.
Mendelssohn’s most famous work is probably his “Violin Concerto in E Minor.” This piece is one of the most popular concertos ever written, and it has been performed by virtually every major violinist. It is a beautiful work that showcases Mendelssohn’s gift for melody.
Other notable works by Mendelssohn include his “Octet for Strings,” which is considered one of the finest works ever written for string ensemble, and his oratorio “Elijah,” which is considered one of the greatest works of the Romantic era.
Though born in Poland, Frédéric Chopin was one of the most important composers of the Romantic era. He is most well-known for his solo piano music, which includes mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, études, impromptus, scherzos, preludes, and sonatas. His unique style blended Polish folk music with influences from other composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven. Many of his works were published posthumously; some were only published decades after his death.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Russian composer who wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the world. His ballet Swan Lake (1876), Sleeping Beauty (1889), and Nutcracker (1892) are among his most famous compositions. Other major works include the symphonies Manfred (1885) and Pathetique (1893).
The Modern Era
The 21st century has seen a lot of changes in the world of classical music. Traditionalists may bemoan the fact, but there’s no denying that classical music is evolving. Some of the greatest works of the modern era have been penned in the last 20 years. So, if you’re looking to get into classical music, where should you start? Here are 10 pieces of classical music you must hear before you die.
Arnold Schoenberg (13 September 1874 – 13 July 1951) was an Austrian composer and music theorist. He created the influential twelve-tone technique, developed further by his followers Anton Webern and Alban Berg, and also formulated the ideas of serialism, which were elaborated upon by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and others.
Schoenberg was a painter in his youth, but he gave up art to pursue music, although he did not begin composing until the age of twenty-one. His first composition was finished in 1897; it was a string sextet called “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), which was inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel. After a few early works that were influenced by the style of Gustav Mahler, Schoenberg broke away from late Romanticism and developed what would later be known as atonal expressionism in his “atonal” period between 1908 and 1918. His once controversial atonal style had fully matured in his orchestral work “Pierrot Lunaire” (1912), which is considered one of the seminal works of 20th-century music.
Igor Stravinsky was one of music’s truly revolutionary figures, a composer who overcame all kinds of obstacles in his path to creating some of the most influential and groundbreaking works of the 20th century. He was born in Russia in 1882, and his early compositions were informed by the vibrant musical culture of his homeland. He later moved to France, where he became associated with the group of avant-garde artists known as Les Six. He eventually settled in the United States, where he composed some of his most famous works, including The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky’s music is characterized by its energy and dynamism, as well as its use of unconventional harmonic progressions and rhythmic patterns. It has had a profound impact on subsequent generations of composers, and his influence can still be heard in many works written in the 21st century.
Alban Maria Johannes Berg (February 9, 1885 – December 24, 1935) was an Austrian composer. His compositional style combined Romantic lyricism with twelve-tone technique. Berg was a part of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced works that combined post-Romanticism with atonality. Among his works are the Wozzeck (1914–1922), Lulu (1937), and Violin Concerto (1935).