Taking a Look at the Most Popular Songs of all Time in Classical Music
Like so many other music genres, classical music has a history replete with innovative compositions. The works of the great composers echo across the centuries to this day. We experience classical gems often as the backdrop to wonderful visuals on film. Around the world, there are numerous radio stations devoted strictly to classical music. Of course, CD stores abound with the latest in this genre.
Ask any piano student, young, or old, what their first exposure to music was. More often than not, they will cite classical pieces presented to them in simpler versions. Many a student has developed a love for the various classical styles from such piano lessons.
With that in mind, we’re going to look at a representation of the best-loved classical pieces. While by no means definitive, this list consists of songs considered by many to be popular. Just as in jazz, country and western and popular music, there are a myriad of impressive compositions to choose from in the classical field. Here are ten that make it onto many top-ten lists.
Beethoven wrote his Bagatelle in A minor or “Fur Elise” (for Elise) in 1810. Beethoven, an influential composer and pianist, did his work between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music. Even as his hearing deteriorated, he continued to compose, conduct and perform. Beethoven scholars are not certain who the “Elise” of the piece was.
Beethoven gets double duty on this list. Moonlight Sonata is a beautiful composition often performed in recitals by piano students. He completed it in 1801. The official name of the whole piece is The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Canon in D Major
This is one of Johann Pachelbel’s most famous pieces of music. The song is often part of wedding ceremonies. It also makes its way onto many “best of” classical CDs. He wrote it during the Baroque period, around the year 1680.
This is a majestic symphonic work by Tchaikovsky. He composed this fairytale-ballet from 1891 to 1892. It is a Christmas favorite around the world. The beauty of this classical composition is the varied tempos, orchestrations, timbres and moods.
The Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi composed this set of four violin concertos in 1723. It is his most popular and a popular part of the overall Baroque canon of music. The feel and mood of each concerto is varied. Vivaldi composed each to represent one of the four seasons.
William Tell Overture
Gioachino Rossini composed the overture to the opera William Tell. The finale is very familiar. People know this song as the theme music for the Lone Ranger radio and television shows. Rossini was an Italian composer who created operas, sacred music and chamber music.
The formal name for this popular classical song is Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K 331. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote this song somewhere between 1778 and 1783 according to scholars. The last movement, Alla Turca, is the Turkish Rondo. It is one of Mozart’s best-known piano pieces.
Clair de Lune
This is a staple among beginning piano students in one form or another. It is the third movement of Claude Debussy’s piano suite, Suite bergamasque. Achille-Claude Debussy was a French composer considered a major figure working within the field of Impressionist music.
Johannes Brahms composed the Hungarian Dances. They are a set of 21 dance tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes. They are among Brahms’ most popular works, with numbers 11, 14 and 16 being entirely original compositions.
Preludes Opus 28 is Frederic Chopin’s most famous prelude work. These received original publication in 1839. Chopin wrote the Opus 28 preludes between 1835 and 1839. These are a set of twenty-four short pieces for the piano, one in each key.
The above is a minute sampling of the most popular songs of all time in classical music. With centuries of composition as its foundation, there is so much to choose from when considering the best in the classical field. It will be interesting to see what contemporary composers and compositions make it to this list in the years and decades to come.