14 Dec 2019

100+ Pieces of Classical Music to Listen to Before You Die

Have you ever been watching a TV show and all of the sudden, the soundtrack starts playing a piece of classical music that you know you’ve heard, but don’t know the name of?

Or maybe you are a big fan of classical music but you’re looking for some hidden gems to add to your playlist of favorite songs.

Either way, we’ve got your back! Our staff and musicians have curated a playlist for you of some of the most recognizable tunes in music as well as some that are sure to be your new favorites. Subscribe to this playlist because we’ll continue to add new tracks for you to discover!

Want to know why we picked these for our musical bucket list? See what a few people from our staff and orchestra had to say.

Olivia Custodio—Director of Individual Giving

What should be on your musical bucket list: Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”

The first time that I heard this symphony was also the first time I felt the true power of music. The huge, bottomless, enveloping power of music that speaks directly to your soul. I sat on my bed and listened to the entire thing and sobbed. The themes of the symphony are motherhood and the separation through war; first and third movements from the perspective of a mother who has lost a child, and the second from the perspective of a child separated from a mother.

The second movement is the first one I heard. The lyrics, “Oh Mama, do not cry, no. Immaculate Queen of Heaven, you support me always”, were written on a wall of a cell in a German Gestapo prison in Zakopane by an 18-year-old girl named Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna. When Górecki learned of it, he knew he wanted to use it, along with traditional Polish melodies for the first and third movement.

This recording was the first I saw and heard. It was filmed with the Sinfonietta Cracovia and soprano Isabel Bayrakdaraian inside Auschwitz. It is the most devastating and yet beautiful thing I have ever watched. I don’t know if my heart could take watching this be performed live, but this music is such a powerful reminder of the past and how we must learn from it.

George Brown—Principal timpani

What should be on your musical bucket list: Stravinsky’s “Four Norwegian Moods” and Sibelius’ “Pohjola’s Daughter”

I picked these two lesser known works for similar reasons. I first heard Stravinsky’s Four Norwegian Moods and Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter in my early 20’s and still love them today. But more importantly, I originally had stumbled upon both pieces on the radio just after they’d been announced, so I was left trying to figure out who’d written them (something at which I felt I was pretty good). I was immediately taken by both works—different as they are—but couldn’t for the life of me deduce the composers; and then was pretty surprised when the announcers returned afterward to identify them again.

Compared to Stravinsky’s The Firebird or The Rite of Spring, listening to the more lyrical Four Norwegian Moods is like savoring a little box of bon-bons. And for those who feel that Sibelius just repetitively broods on and on, in the powerful Pohjola’s Daughter, he manages to create a whole mythical universe in just thirteen minutes. No time or measures are wasted, yet Sibelius still gives himself the luxury for some good Finnish brooding: just much more efficiently, and at times, more breathlessly.

Years later, and after more exposure to Sibelius’ & Stravinsky’s orchestral rep, I can now hear how these works ‘sound like’ their creators. Yet they still retain their freshness and uniqueness that continue to make them stand out. I hope you’ll consider including them in your classical ‘bucket list.’


Kathleen Sykes—Digital Content Producer

What should be on your musical bucket list: Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”

Has a piece of music ever made you feel nostalgic and given you the warm fuzzies but you don’t know why? For me that piece of music is Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. I’m not sure what it is about this work that makes me feel homesick but happy all at the same time, but I feel like this work was made just for me.

I had never heard it before last year, or perhaps I did but I wasn’t in the right emotional state to appreciate it. Nevertheless, I was doing some research on upcoming guest artists for the 2018-19 season and came across Stefan Jackiw’s recording of it with the Sinfónica de Galicia. As soon at the solo violin started, my jaw dropped to the ground.

I sat and watched the whole thing. And then I listened to it again. And then again. And again. And again.

Now it’s something I listen to regularly. Whenever I’m having a bad day, it is sure to cheer me up. And when I’m happy, it just makes me feel like I’m floating on air.