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10 Best lists for classical music

The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, Otello, Trout Quintet – everyone would agree

Dover Quartet playing Dvorak
Dover Quartet playing Dvorak

In speaking with a friend the other day, the topic of “10 pieces of classical music everyone should hear before they die” came up. We came up with three pieces before the parameters of the list began to fall apart. Does this list include opera? Is this a list for people who don’t know classical music at all or for those who know György Ligeti exists?

Should the list include music which people have heard but might not realize they have heard? If so, here’s that list in more or less chronological order. To clarify this is music people have probably heard in popular media but if they haven’t they should listen to this list.

Video:

"Contessa perdono"

From Mozart, <em>The Marriage of Figaro, </em> Act IV

From Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, Act IV

  • Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major
  • Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor
  • Handel: “Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah
  • Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  • Mozart: “Contessa perdono” from The Marriage of Figaro
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 16: Moonlight
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
  • Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries
  • Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
  • Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

How about a list which excludes the somewhat ubiquitous music above but is still friendly to the uninitiated?

Video:

"Pines of Rome"

Freom Respighi's <em>Pines of the Appian Way,</em> Movement IV

Freom Respighi's Pines of the Appian Way, Movement IV

  • Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
  • Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
  • Mozart: “Overture” from The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Ave verum corpus
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6
  • Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 5
  • Respighi: Pines of Rome

What about opera? Here are 10 operas everyone should hear before they die but are also friendly to basic people.

Video:

Pagliacci

"Vesti la giubbia" sung by Mario Del Monaco

"Vesti la giubbia" sung by Mario Del Monaco

  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni
  • Rossini: The Barber of Seville
  • Donizetti: The Elixir of Love
  • Verdi: La Traviata
  • Verdi: Otello
  • Bizet: Carmen
  • Puccini: La Boheme
  • Puccini: Madame Butterfly
  • Mascagni: Pagliacci

If we start talking about the greatest operas of all time then the list changes a little.

Video:

Der Rosenkavelier

The Final Trio

The Final Trio

  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni
  • Berlioz: Les Troyens
  • Wagner: Tristan and Isolde
  • Wagner: Parsifal
  • Verdi: Otello
  • Bizet: Carmen
  • Mascagni: Pagliacci
  • Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
  • Britten: Peter Grimes

10 pieces of chamber music every human should hear?

Video:

Dvorak, American Quartet

First movement, by Dover Quartet

First movement, by Dover Quartet

  • Mozart: Gran Partita Serenade
  • Mozart: Clarinet Quintet
  • Beethoven: Archduke Trio
  • Schubert: Trout Quintet
  • Schubert: Octet
  • Mendelssohn: String Octet
  • Brahms: Clarinet Quintet
  • Dvorak: American Quartet
  • Borodin: String Quartet No. 2
  • Ravel: String Quartet

What do my lists accomplish? Not much except to expose my own tastes in music. Anyone could read this and come up with lists that have zero crossovers—except for the opera lists. I think every opera lover can confirm that at least The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, and Otello would be considered on anyone’s “10 greatest operas” list. Schubert’s Trout Quintet is going to be any chamber music list.

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Dover Quartet playing Dvorak
Dover Quartet playing Dvorak

In speaking with a friend the other day, the topic of “10 pieces of classical music everyone should hear before they die” came up. We came up with three pieces before the parameters of the list began to fall apart. Does this list include opera? Is this a list for people who don’t know classical music at all or for those who know György Ligeti exists?

Should the list include music which people have heard but might not realize they have heard? If so, here’s that list in more or less chronological order. To clarify this is music people have probably heard in popular media but if they haven’t they should listen to this list.

Video:

"Contessa perdono"

From Mozart, <em>The Marriage of Figaro, </em> Act IV

From Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, Act IV

  • Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major
  • Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor
  • Handel: “Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah
  • Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  • Mozart: “Contessa perdono” from The Marriage of Figaro
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 16: Moonlight
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
  • Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries
  • Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
  • Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

How about a list which excludes the somewhat ubiquitous music above but is still friendly to the uninitiated?

Video:

"Pines of Rome"

Freom Respighi's <em>Pines of the Appian Way,</em> Movement IV

Freom Respighi's Pines of the Appian Way, Movement IV

  • Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
  • Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks
  • Mozart: “Overture” from The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Ave verum corpus
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3
  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
  • Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6
  • Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
  • Mahler: Symphony No. 5
  • Respighi: Pines of Rome

What about opera? Here are 10 operas everyone should hear before they die but are also friendly to basic people.

Video:

Pagliacci

"Vesti la giubbia" sung by Mario Del Monaco

"Vesti la giubbia" sung by Mario Del Monaco

  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni
  • Rossini: The Barber of Seville
  • Donizetti: The Elixir of Love
  • Verdi: La Traviata
  • Verdi: Otello
  • Bizet: Carmen
  • Puccini: La Boheme
  • Puccini: Madame Butterfly
  • Mascagni: Pagliacci

If we start talking about the greatest operas of all time then the list changes a little.

Video:

Der Rosenkavelier

The Final Trio

The Final Trio

  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni
  • Berlioz: Les Troyens
  • Wagner: Tristan and Isolde
  • Wagner: Parsifal
  • Verdi: Otello
  • Bizet: Carmen
  • Mascagni: Pagliacci
  • Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
  • Britten: Peter Grimes

10 pieces of chamber music every human should hear?

Video:

Dvorak, American Quartet

First movement, by Dover Quartet

First movement, by Dover Quartet

  • Mozart: Gran Partita Serenade
  • Mozart: Clarinet Quintet
  • Beethoven: Archduke Trio
  • Schubert: Trout Quintet
  • Schubert: Octet
  • Mendelssohn: String Octet
  • Brahms: Clarinet Quintet
  • Dvorak: American Quartet
  • Borodin: String Quartet No. 2
  • Ravel: String Quartet

What do my lists accomplish? Not much except to expose my own tastes in music. Anyone could read this and come up with lists that have zero crossovers—except for the opera lists. I think every opera lover can confirm that at least The Marriage of Figaro, Carmen, and Otello would be considered on anyone’s “10 greatest operas” list. Schubert’s Trout Quintet is going to be any chamber music list.

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Here's something you might be interested in.
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or view all
Previous article

Luis Urrea daydreams of San Diego, Oklahoma girl spends summers on Bonair Street

We buy a $120,000 hoiuse in El Cerrito, an incurable eavesdropper, lives of a beautiful girl and a fat boy in San Diego
Next Article

Six String Society’s Pianotastic project

Kenneth Rexrode brings concert theatrical to Oceanside
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