Classical music you never knew you had listened to

I play the violin. I’m no maestro, but I can handle the bow well (but I still cannot play the vibrato!) And this beautiful instrument–which came to me somewhat as a serendipity–has, for some reason, convinced me to spread the word about those great musical masterpieces I listen to everyday. And then I realised people around me hardly ever listen to it. There is no way you can make them listen, but one of the means I just realised was to associate these numbers to some things we are perhaps better aware of than the music itself.

So I sat down and compiled a list of the best pieces which have featured in well-known forms of media, and to which we have probably hummed, all the while not knowing what we were really humming to. The list is in no way exhaustible and it is my humble request that you add to it should you find something I have skipped. And I am aware I have skipped many: these are just those on the top of my list!

Some people find me no longer listening to songs (with accompanying voice,) be it rock or hip hop or pop or whatever else because I have found musical notes speaking far deeply. That is simply the influence of the wonderful music I have come to listen since the past year and half. Now all the pieces presented below are from my own library, in that I have not downloaded/linked to external websites and that is all the more reason to suppose I have left some things out. But you are there to fill it up eventually, after all! These are in the order of my favourites starting from what I consider the best. But  you will understand if I say I often find myself at crossroads when rating these so I prefer to stay away from such work!

O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff

Carl Orff is my favourite medieval composer (not of the time of, say, Beethoven or Mozart) and one word I would use to describe his music is haunting. You would probably know Carmina Burana from Cheaper by the DozenNatural Born Killers or The Bachelor. If you have not watched any of these, you surely would have heard to an extract of it from the new Old Spice commercial (with the ladies playing violins and cellos and the sea striking the rocks hard, and to rhythm) or the 1970s version which also features the same theme song. Here is the full song, and below I provide the advertisement itself.

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Ah, Vous dirai-je Maman!, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My elementary French tells me that Vous dirai-je Maman! means (and you will recognise the song with this) Twinkle, twinkle little star! It was originally a French song for children composed around 1761 and apparently nobody could figure out a rhythm for this until Mozart came along with this masterful tone we still follow today. The melody also applies to the poem Baa baa black sheep and the Alphabet song. Listen to the complete performance below:

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Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183/173dB: 1st Movement: Allegro con brio, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This remarkable piece was written by Mozart in the October of 1776 after the success of his opera, Lucia Silla. The world will recognise it as the opening theme music in Milos Forman’s film on Mozart, titled Amdeus, while most in the Indian subcontinent (including myself, I was overjoyed when I heard this one!) will recognise it well as the theme song from the Titan watch advertisements (observe the tune from 1:28 minutes onwards.)

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Swan Lake, Ballet Suite, op.20, by Pyotr Il’Itsch Tchaikovsky

German legend has it that there was a princess, Odette, who was converted into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. There are similar tales in Russian folklore and it was the setting of a lake from these stories that the Symphonic composer of the Russian romantic era, Tchaikovsky, used to build this beautiful, soothing instrumental which recently won an oscar for the film Black Swan. What I provide below is German Conductor Wilhelm Schuchter’s conduction of the same.

Here is more about Tchaikovsky and Swan Lake from one of my earlier writings.

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Also sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss

The opening (fanfare) of this song has achieved such fame that some people are altering it and re-conducting their versions under their own name, or so it may seem to you when you listen to this. Called Sunrise, the fanfare has featured in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and was used through the ’70s by Elvis Presley in almost all of his live appearances before coming on stage!

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5 thoughts on “Classical music you never knew you had listened to

  • Resources like the one you mentioned here will be very useful to me! I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.

  • Chanced upon your post and found it very informative… I am looking for a piece of symphony that has a haunting mood to it something on the lines of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Could your please suggest something?

    • Thanks a lot!
      Unfortunately, right now I'm not able to recall too many. I would, however, suggest you consider the four pieces I've mentioned below:
      1. Danse Macabre (now this is quite a haunt!) by Saint Saens
      2. Mahler's II, VIII and IX symphonies
      3. Bruckner's IV
      4. Schubert's "Unfinished"
      While I would classify them all as 'haunting' and they are along similar lines as Carmina Burana, they all naturally have unique approaches to the haunting tune itself. I hope this is what you've been looking for. And if any more come to my mind, I'll definitely let you know!

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