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I caught part of VH1’s show, One Hit Wonders of the 80’s. It got me to thinking about classical one hit wonders.

One hit wonders are an interesting phenomenon. One piece of music becomes so popular that it eclipses the rest of the artist’s music. That’s not to say the rest of the music is bad, it just isn’t what the artist is known for.

Here are a few one hit wonders from the classical ranks.

Pachelbel’s canon in D. This music dominates bridal processions and has been reworked for voices, guitar, organ, piano, strings, and probably accordion.

The Masterpiece Theater music is technically called Rondeau as was composed by Jean Joseph Mouret. Try asking someone about Mouret’s Rondeau and you might get some blank stares. Ask about The Masterpiece Theater music and the lights go on.

Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s Ma Vlast is a series of tone poem about his homeland. Of these six poems, Vltava or Die Moldau is hands down the most famous. The Vltava is the river that flows through the heart of Prague. Apparently Czech Airlines plays this theme after their planes land.

Edward Elgar can hardly be considered a one hit wonder but his Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 is undeniably more popular than anything else he wrote. If you graduated from junior high, high school, or college, then you know this music. I like the complete march better than just the graduation section that is chunked out of the middle.

Mascagni wrote more than Cavalleria Rusticana but that’s about all we know him for. The intermezzo from Cavalleria was used in Godfather Part III. On some days, Cavalleria is my favorite opera.

On other days, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci is my favorite opera. The title character’s aria, Vesti la giuba, was the opera aria of all arias until Nessun dorma took over in the 1990’s.

I’ll highlight more one hit wonders as we go one.

Enjoy the links.



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nan shartel Feb. 20, 2011 @ 4:39 p.m.

aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh yes Masterpiece's opening Baroque!!!

let me dress for dinner and serve classical up to me as a lovely entree and i'll be most happy every Sunday Night at 9PM

very nice blogs this week Garrett


Garrett Harris Feb. 22, 2011 @ 3:27 p.m.

Why thank you Nan. I think I'm on to a few things that will be beneficial for us all.


CurtainCall Feb. 23, 2011 @ 2:26 p.m.

I consider Ravel to be something of a one-hit wonder. I'm speaking of his Bolero, or course. It was made famous in the movie "10" as Bo Derek's favorite doin'-it music. What was that? 1980 or so? I should say it was made famous all over again. It was a big hit when it premiered at Paris in 1928, and an even bigger hit after its New York premiere in 1929. That New York debut was under the baton of Toscanini who later famously battled with Ravel himself over the tempo of the piece. (Ravel thought Toscanini's version was too fast.) The controversy, it seems, made the piece even more popular.


nan shartel Feb. 24, 2011 @ 7:53 a.m.

interesting FYI CurtainCall...ur knowledgeably about these things adds a great deal to Garrett's blogs ;-D


dmopbuff Feb. 24, 2011 @ 1:46 p.m.

Speaking of Vesti la giubba, this classic Rice Krispies add shows how well know it at least used to be. '


nan shartel Feb. 28, 2011 @ 4:53 p.m.

i loved it dmopbuff...i made it hot for u ;=D


Garrett Harris March 1, 2011 @ 3:57 p.m.

Good point with the Ravel CurtainCall. Funny thing about it is Bolero is about my least favorite piece by Ravel but it is by far his most popular! I love Daphnis et Chloe.


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