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The 100 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music

Discussion in 'Music' started by davidmahler, Dec 19, 2009.
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  1. DavidMahler Contributor
    As promised, I finished compiling my list, a week ahead of schedule. Much consideration went into this list, the choices, the placement, the saturation of certain composers. Yes this list really only documents 2 and a half centuries of Western music and therefore is not a definitive depiction of all of Western music. I have kept tallies of hundreds of lists over the years (I'm a compulsive list maker) and I have considered the numerous conversations I have had with many people in the industry when compiling this list. These names include but are not limited to: Anne Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, James Levine, Christoph Eschenbach, David Hurwitz, Murray Perahia, Ted Libbey, Emmanuel Ax, Elliott Carter, Rosalyn Tureck, Steve Reich and many many others.

    However this list is meant to depict the critical acclaim and overall endurance/importance of the most beloved works in the history of classical music.

    I tried to be as objective as possible....this is not a list of my favorites.

    Here is the list:

    100.PUCCINI – La Boheme

    99.CHOPIN – Nocturnes (op. 27)

    98.TCHAIKOVSKY – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35)

    97.SCHOENBERG – Verklarte Nacht (op. 4)

    96.HAYDN – Symphony No. 104 in D Major “London”

    95.GRIEG – Piano Concerto in A Minor (op. 16)

    94.PROKOFIEV – Romeo and Juliet (op. 64)

    93.MOZART – Die Zauberflote (k. 620)

    92.BEETHOVEN – Diabelli Variations (op. 120)

    91.BRAHMS – Clarinet Quintet in B Minor (op. 115)

    90.ELGAR – Cello Concerto in E Minor (op. 85)

    89.HAYDN – Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major

    88.SIBELIUS – Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Major (op. 82)

    87.SCHUMANN – Carnaval (op. 9)

    86.RACHMANINOV – Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor (op. 18)

    85.BRUCKNER – Symphony No. 7 in E Major

    84.TCHAIKOVSKY – Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor (op. 23)

    83.RAVEL – Gaspard de la Nuit

    82.BEETHOVEN – Missa Solemnis in D Major (op. 123)

    81.DEBUSSY – Preludes for Pianos [books 1 & 2]

    80.BRAHMS – Ein deutsches Requiem (op. 45)

    79.MOZART – Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor (k. 491)

    78.BRAHMS – Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor (op. 15)

    77.BEETHOVEN – Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor “Pathetique” (op. 13)

    76.SHOSTAKOVICH – Symphony No. 5 in D Minor (op. 47)

    75.SCHUBERT – String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor “Death and the Maiden” (d. 810)

    74.RACHMANINOV – Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor (op. 30)

    73.WAGNER – Lohengrin

    72.DVORAK – Cello Concerto in B Minor (op. 104)

    71.STRAVINSKY – L’Oiseau de feu

    70.MENDELSSOHN – Violin Concerto in E Minor (op. 64)

    69.TCHAIKOVSKY – Symphony No. 4 in F Minor (op. 36)

    68.BACH – Art of the Fugue (bwv 1080)

    67.LISZT – Les Preludes

    66.MUSSORGSKY – Boris Godunov

    65.VERDI – Aida

    64.SCHUBERT – Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat Major (d. 960)

    63.SIBELIUS – Symphony No. 2 in D Major (op. 43)

    62.SHOSTAKOVICH – Symphony No. 10 in E Minor (op. 93)

    61.BRAHMS – Symphony No. 3 in F Major (op. 90)

    60.BARTOK – Concerto For Orchestra (sz. 116)

    59.CHOPIN – Ballade No. 4 in F Minor (op. 52)

    58.FAURE – Requiem in D Minor (op. 48)

    57.BEETHOVEN – Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor “Apassionata” (op. 57)

    56.SCHUMANN – Fantasy in C Major (op. 17)

    55.MAHLER – Symphony No. 1 in D Major "Titan"

    54.BEETHOVEN – Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major (op. 58)

    53.MOZART – Clarinet Concerto in A Major (k. 622)

    52.RAVEL – Daphnis et Chloe

    51.BEETHOVEN – String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor (op. 132)

    50.DEBUSSY – Images for Piano

    49.DVORAK – Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” (op. 95)

    48.SIBELIUS – Symphony No. 7 in C Major (op. 105)

    47.R. STRAUSS – Der Rosenkavalier (op. 59)

    46.MOZART – Requiem Mass in D Minor (k. 626)

    45.BRAHMS – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 77)

    44.SCHUBERT – Winterreise (d. 795)

    43.MAHLER – Das Lied von der Erde

    42.VERDI – Messa de Requiem

    41.SCHUBERT – Symphony No. 9 in C Major “The Great” (d. 944)

    40.BRUCKNER – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor

    39.VERDI - Otello

    38.BRAHMS – Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (op. 68)

    37.MOZART – Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor (k. 466)

    36.BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 6 in F Major “Pastoral” (op. 68)

    35.HANDEL – Messiah (hwv 56)

    34.MOZART – Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (k. 550)

    33.HAYDN - Die Schopfung

    32.MAHLER – Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor

    31.SCHUMANN – Piano Concerto in A Minor (op. 54)

    30.WAGNER – Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg

    29.LISZT – Piano Sonata in B Minor

    28.BEETHOVEN – Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor (op. 111)

    27.DEBUSSY – La Mer

    26.BEETHOVEN – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 61)

    25.BEETHOVEN – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major “Emperor” (op. 73)

    24.SCHUBERT – String Quintet in C Major (d. 956)

    23.BRAHMS –Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major (op. 83)

    22.TCHAIKOVSKY – Symphony No. 6 in B Minor “Pathetique” (op. 74)

    21.BERLIOZ – Symphonie Fantastique (op. 14)

    20.MAHLER – Symphony No. 2 in C Minor “Resurrection”

    19.MOZART – Symphony No. 41 in C Major “Jupiter” (k. 551)

    18.BEETHOVEN – Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major “Hammerklavier” (op. 106)

    17.BACH – The Well-Tempered Clavier (bwv 846-893)

    16.BEETHOVEN – String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor (op. 131)

    15.BACH – Goldberg Variations (bwv 922)

    14.MOZART – Le nozze di Figaro (k. 492)

    13.BRAHMS – Symphony No. 4 in E Minor (op. 98)

    12.BACH – Brandenburg Concertos (bwv 1046-1051)

    11.BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 7 in A Major (op. 92)

    10.BACH – St Matthew Passion (bwv 244)

    9.MAHLER – Symphony No. 9 in D Major

    8.STRAVINSKY - Le Sacre du Printemps

    7.MOZART – Don Giovanni (k. 527)

    6.BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 5 in C Minor (op. 67)

    5.WAGNER – Der Ring des Nibelungen

    4.BACH – Mass in B Minor (bwv 232)

    3.BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major “Eroica” (op. 55)

    2.WAGNER – Tristan und Isolde

    1.BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 9 in D Minor “Choral” (op. 125)





    I hope the rest of this thread can serve as a discussion board for any of these works, their placement, their value and their brilliance. Please feel free to recommend any recordings which make any of these works shine! And thanks for reading:)

    -Dave
     
  2. rhythmdevils
    I would love to know some recommended recordings for these. Been trying to get into classical music for years.
     
  3. radiohlite
    nice. that's some list! Merry Christmas indeed.

    ...just curious: how did you get to talk to so many influential artists?
     
  4. DavidMahler Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by radiohlite /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    nice. that's some list! Merry Christmas indeed.

    ...just curious: how did you get to talk to so many influential artists?





    Meet them in entirely different ways. I worked for Rosalyn Tureck, met a bunch of artists after concerts, met David Hurwitz at concerts.
     
  5. zumaro
    Most of the works are what I think anyone would pick as being the best of their creator's oeuvre- its a mix of significant, popular and great, all of which are worthy ways to look at pieces. However (unless I have missed someone) the list seems to include nobody born before 1685. Where are figures such as Machaut, Palestrina, Dufay, Josquin, Monteverdi, Schutz, Vivaldi etc all of whom have major contributions to western music?

    There seems to be nobody still alive on the list. Its view of the last century is narrow and limited to only the most easily digested pieces and/or composers, missing out even the best sometimes (Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra rather than say The Miraculous Mandarin?). So Berg and Webern miss out but lesser composers like Shostakovich and Puccini are in?

    For a list of the greatest you need to range wider, and prune more - this is mainly a list of 18th and 19th century pieces, most of high quality, but certainly not the 100 greatest as too much is missed out, and therefore too much lesser material included.
     
  6. AmanGeorge Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rhythmdevils /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    I would love to know some recommended recordings for these. Been trying to get into classical music for years.



    This is a great idea - David or others, any thoughts on great recordings of these pieces? Are there any, dare I say it, definitive versions?
     
  7. unclejr
    Hmm ... interesting idea. Critical acclaim is a funny thing: pieces do not often premiere to critical acclaim by the professionals but end up winning fans among the public. For Brahms' Violin Concerto, someone said that he did not write it for the violin but against the violin. Violinist and Composer Pablo de Sarasate really didn't like the second movement because he felt that the oboe was stealing his theme! I think Joachim (the violinist for whom it was written) championed it, while playing the Beethoven in the same concerts in order to promote that violin concerto. And yet I've never heard a violinist ever say they didn't like the piece or that they even thought it didn't belong in the standard repertoire for violinists. Some works don't even get any interest at the time but have become pieces we know and love today and consider indispensable as part of the standard repertoire.

    I think it's interesting to try and put certain pieces out there for receiving high critical praise, but calling any list the 100 Greatest Pieces is a very unwieldy matter of opinion that's difficult to contain in a meaningful way -- by this I mean the chances that any two people, including any of the wonderful musicians you've had the good fortune to meet, would agree with this list in this order. That in no way makes it "wrong," since it's a matter of opinion anyhow.
     
  8. unclejr
    I don't want to deal in superlatives for these recordings, but these are among the favorites I've heard of the pieces I know reasonably well:

    98.TCHAIKOVSKY – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35)
    My favorite Tchaikovsky right now is played by Janine Jansen. Her interpretation is excellent, bold, technically wonderful, and very emotional.

    94.PROKOFIEV – Romeo and Juliet (op. 64)
    I've always preferred Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet to Tchaikovsky's.

    90.ELGAR – Cello Concerto in E Minor (op. 85)
    Conventional wisdom would suggest Jacqueline du Pré's version is the "best."

    84.TCHAIKOVSKY – Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor (op. 23)
    I do not know this piece well, but Lang Lang performs this with Chicago and Barenboim and is quite wonderful.

    80.BRAHMS – Ein deutsches Requiem (op. 45)
    I'm partial to the James Levine/BSO/Tanglewood version of this, being a BSO fan. [​IMG]

    70.MENDELSSOHN – Violin Concerto in E Minor (op. 64)
    Everyone and his dog plays this piece. It's a fine piece and a nice starting place for the violin concerto. I'm not too picky on versions, though I do like Nathan Milstein's and Yehudi Menuhin's.

    52.RAVEL – Daphnis et Chloe
    Again I'll have to recommend BSO/James Levine for this. I think they just got 3 Grammy nods for this recording.

    45.BRAHMS – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 77)
    I just heard Joshua Bell perform this live in Boston (phenomenal, especially his cadenza). I like most people's Brahms -- Hilary Hahn, Julia Fischer, Jascha Heifetz, Vadim Repin ....

    38.BRAHMS – Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (op. 68)
    I liked the BSO when they performed this. Bernstein's version with Wiener Philharmoniker is very good.

    22.TCHAIKOVSKY – Symphony No. 6 in B Minor “Pathetique” (op. 74)
    The Oslo Philharmonic with Mariss Jansons on Chandos is a very good version of this.

    13.BRAHMS – Symphony No. 4 in E Minor (op. 98)
    You guys really do have to come to the BSO with me. Talk about some good speakers/headphones! [​IMG] Also saw Berliner Philharmoniker with Simon Rattle at Symphony Hall earlier this year -- very well done. Otherwise, check out the Bernstein 4th.
     
  9. kwitel
    David-

    Thanks for the list; good job.
     
  10. wower
    I'll add my thoughts so you know people are reading it: I have the Karjan SACD box set and I think you put Beethoven's 5th symphony too high. Did you put in there just because it was in C minor? 9th's finale definitely belongs up there but what about the Grosse Fuge? And the world always needs more Tchaikovsky! And I take it as a personal internet affront the Cello Suites from my man Bach didn't get up there. [​IMG]

    I've meaning to start my own thread because I need some new music but I'll ask here anyway: What do you think the best recordings of Bach's Mass in B Minor an St. Matthews Passion are? And Mozart's operas? Does anyone know of a full cycle of the Brandenburg Concertos on SACD?
     
  11. ksu06
    Excellent work!
     
  12. maxnorman
    A great and comprehensive list, but too little Bach for my taste. The Well Tempered Klavier and the Goldberg Variations are the most worthy of pieces, but what of the Partitas? The French Suites?

    Do you not think that Alban Berg's Piano Sonata Op. 1 has a place on this list? Or, for that matter, anything by Hindemith?
     
  13. davidhunternyc
    Wow David, I thought that I had OCD. What a list to reckon with. One thing I find fascinating is your predilection towards romantic music. It seems one could argue that if Bach perfected the equal temperament scale (which cast the widest net on western music), then those works (such as the Well-Tempered Clavier) would be at the apex of any greatest hits list.

    Also, you mentioned below, that you don't feel that any contemporary classical music could crack this list. What about John Corigliano's 2nd Symphony or perhaps something by the Kronos Quartet (though Beethoven's late String Quartets might knock out Bartok and Kronos in one blow)?

    On a side note, I have long thought that Marcel Duchamp has cast the widest net on 20th century art (a la Warhol, Koons, Hirst, etc.). So far, this trend has continued, ad nauseum, into the 21st.
     
  14. DavidMahler Contributor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zumaro /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    Most of the works are what I think anyone would pick as being the best of their creator's oeuvre- its a mix of significant, popular and great, all of which are worthy ways to look at pieces. However (unless I have missed someone) the list seems to include nobody born before 1685. Where are figures such as Machaut, Palestrina, Dufay, Josquin, Monteverdi, Schutz, Vivaldi etc all of whom have major contributions to western music?



    I agree that the aforementioned composers save for Vivaldi who I feel is an entirely negligible composer, have all contributed greatly to history of Western Music. But then you could go back even further and say Leonin/Perotin and even Hildegard of Bingen have all made viable contributions to music. But how do you include monophonic music which today is not musically compelling except for the historical importance. I feel that all the above mentioned composers you name and you could also include Ockeghem and Janequin in that list, all are more historically viable than they are musically compelling from today's standpoint.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zumaro /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    There seems to be nobody still alive on the list. Its view of the last century is narrow and limited to only the most easily digested pieces and/or composers, missing out even the best sometimes (Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra rather than say The Miraculous Mandarin?).



    No one is still alive on the list because no one still alive has written anything yet as viable to the list as any of those pieces. I can be debated here for sure, but if you take any piece by Reich / Adams / Riley / Glass / Gubaidulina / Carter / Knussen / Simpson / Ades / Rautavaara / Rzewski.....just to name a few, I just don't feel any of them would have a piece belonging to that list.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zumaro /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    So Berg and Webern miss out but lesser composers like Shostakovich and Puccini are in?



    I'm not convinced Shostakovich is a lesser composer than Berg or Webern.......as far as Puccini......La Boheme seemed like too much of an esteemed opera to not include. It is probably the most esteemed lyric opera of all time and while Puccini is not the composer Berg or Webern was, I'd venture to say La Boheme is a piece of more weight in the canon of western music than any work by those two mentioned composers. The whole 12-tone scale and serialism which was so esteemed during the first half of the century, today I think is semi-snubbed because it's total math and I don't view it as important as historians once did.

    Not trying to be argumentative, I'm flattered that you took the time out to comment on my list and perfectly valid comments. I was convinced ahead of time that a lot of classical-oriented head-fiers would take note of the lack of anything pre-back and anything post-Shostakovich...............but I made the decision when making the list that nothing outside of those two points in music history would be worthy of fitting on the list.
     
  15. DeusEx
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by unclejr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
    98.TCHAIKOVSKY – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 35)
    My favorite Tchaikovsky right now is played by Janine Jansen. Her interpretation is excellent, bold, technically wonderful, and very emotional.

    70.MENDELSSOHN – Violin Concerto in E Minor (op. 64)
    Everyone and his dog plays this piece. It's a fine piece and a nice starting place for the violin concerto. I'm not too picky on versions, though I do like Nathan Milstein's and Yehudi Menuhin's.

    45.BRAHMS – Violin Concerto in D Major (op. 77)
    I just heard Joshua Bell perform this live in Boston (phenomenal, especially his cadenza). I like most people's Brahms -- Hilary Hahn, Julia Fischer, Jascha Heifetz, Vadim Repin ....




    98. Julia Fischer's version of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is my favorite. Technically brilliant, yet also supremely lyrical and expressive. There's a pure beauty, bravura, and radiance in her playing.

    70. I own over a dozen different versions of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, and I have to say IMO I've fallen in love with Hilary Hahn's. A touch swifter than conventional versions, it combines a glittering, awe-inspiring technique with some of the purest depth and intensity that I've ever seen (or rather, heard) in even the top players. I would describe that her musical performances burn with a kind of ice-blue fire, which fits my musical tendencies perfectly...

    45. The Brahms Violin Concerto is usually done well by most of the top players, as mentioned above, I don't have a "favorite version".

    On another note, I just purchased Amazon.com: Bach: Concertos: Johann Sebastian Bach, Andrey Rubtsov, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Julia Fischer: Music.
    It's a incredibly light, airy, and entirely baroque rendition of the Bach Violin Concertos. Simply put, her interpretation is ethereal.

    And I agree, even though I'm not a huge baroque listener, that Bach should definitely be more pervasive here...
     
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