Awesome Music / Classical

There's a reason these pieces are called "classics".

Composers with their own pages:


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  • Tomaso Albinoni has the misfortune of being most famous for "Albinoni's Adagio in G minor", a piece he didn't actually compose; it was the work of 20th century composer Remo Giazotto.note  However, the music Albinoni did compose is well worth a listen, as it includes many fine examples of the extroverted Italian Baroque tradition; he was a particularly gifted melodist, and counted Johann Sebastian Bach among his fans. He was among the first composers to popularise the oboe as a solo instrument, and one of his most popular works is the Concerto à cinque in D minor for oboe and strings, with three movements - a heartfelt Adagio flanked by two strident Allegros - full of lyrical, songlike writing for the soloist.
  • Charles-Valentin Alkan, a French contemporary of Chopin and Liszt, is renowned for composing some of the most technically taxing pieces ever written for piano. Awesomeness in his works is almost inevitable. (For that matter, it's an awesome moment for any pianist who can get through the average Alkan composition.)
    • The Grande sonate "Les quatre ages" is a four-movement sonata in which each movement is half as fast as the last to depict the advancing years of the work's "protagonist". Although the opening scherzo, "20 Years", sets the bar of awesome high enough as it charges along at breakneck speed with liberal use of hemiolas until a heroic shift to the major mode for the final measures, the gigantic second movement, "30 Years: Quasi-Faust", clears that bar and then some to become the work's high point (the high point within the high point is a fugal section three-quarters of the way through which eventually overlays six countersubjects onto the subject). Even the serene third movement, "40 Years: A Happy Family", and the gloomy finale, "50 Years: Prometheus Bound", which is marked "Extremely Slow" and builds to a deliberate anti-climax in its final measure, are awesome in their way.
    • Though overshadowed by the later minor key études, the Twelve Études in the Major Keys (which place more emphasis on developing technique than their minor key counterparts) still have plenty of awesome moments for performer and listener.
      • The sunny No.1 in A major gets things off to a bright start, all big rolled chords, rising scalar figures, and clever counterpoint.
      • The playful No.4 in C major casts rapid oscillations in the right hand against a staccato melody in the left hand; the build-up to the E-flat major statement of the second theme just after the halfway point is a highlight.
      • The most popular of the major key études is the boisterous, quadruple octave-led No.5 in F major, "Allegro barbaro". Particularly awesome moments include the second episode, where the right hand must stay in the background while leaping back and forth across octaves, and the third episode based around rising and falling scalar figures leading to a final statement of the main theme in the left hand under a frenzied whirlwind in the right hand.
      • No.7 in E-flat major, "L'incendie au village voisin"note  is the most explicit piece of programme music in the set, moving from a pastoral introduction to a first chaotic, then heroic depiction of the fire and the efforts to extinguish it, and finally a triumphant hymn of thanksgiving.
      • No.9 in C-sharp major, "Contrapunctus", is, as the title suggests, an exercise in counterpoint; after a central canon revolving around double thirds, the subtlety with which the main theme of the outer sections returns in the background is especially effective.
      • And the concluding No.12 in E major, "Technique des octaves", is a real tour de force for the soloist in the highly unusual time signature of 10/16; the sinister A minor centre section with its interlaced chords across both hands is just as awesome as the double octaves in the outer sections.
    • The Twelve Études in the Minor Keys are all awesome in their way, but some of the pieces stand out as particularly so.
      • No.1 in A minor, "Comme le vent", is a four-minute (if played at Alkan's prescribed tempo of 160 bars per minute) almost literal whirlwind of brilliance.
      • Nos.4-7 collectively form the Symphony for solo piano, which comprises a sinister sonata allegro in C minor, a sombre funeral march in F minor, an angry minuet in B-flat minor, and an unstoppably furious finale in E-flat minor that has often been described as "a ride through (or into) Hell". While attempts have been made to orchestrate these pieces, they paradoxically lose something in translation; part of the genius of Alkan's piano works is his ability to get orchestral textures out of the instrument.
      • Nos.8-10 form the Concerto for solo piano (another piece that actually loses something when attempts are made to transcribe it for piano and orchestra). The epic-length opening movement (nearly half an hour in most performances and recordings) in G-sharp minor requires a soloist of titanic endurance and skill to get through, and that's just for starters; there's still the haunting slow movement in C-sharp minor and relentless polonaise-like finale in F-sharp minor waiting for performer and listener alike, but the triumphant major key coda at the very end makes it all worth it. Truly outstanding just to hear, even more so to see performed live.
      • No.12 in E minor, "Le festin d'Ésope" ("Aesop's Feast"), is the most popular of the twelve, a massive theme and variations in which many of the variations are intended to evoke images of the sort of animals used in Aesop's fables. An extraordinary piece if the pianist is up to the challenge.
      • And while not as popular as the others, No.2 in D minor ("En rhythme molossique"), No.3 in G minor ("Scherzo diabolico"), and the massive No.11 in B minor ("Overture") all have plenty of awesome moments just the same, such as the coda of No.2 that seems to be trying to muster up the energy to go out in a blaze of major key glory only for the flames (and the major mode) to die out at the last second, the frenzied runs up and down the keyboard in the outer sections of No.3, and the ever shifting emotional landscape of No.11.
    • Alkan wrote five sets of six pieces entitled Recueil de chants;note  the most famous is the concluding barcarolle from the third set, Op.65, but all of them are well worth a listen.
  • Gregorio Allegri's Miserere. When the Pope heard it, he immediately declared that it could only be performed in the Sistine Chapel, and no sheet music ever sold, on pain of excommunication, so that people would pay to hear it. They did. That's right, this song was a tourist attraction.note 
  • "Wayfarin' Stranger," an Appalachian folk hymn. When the piano kicks into high gear... just, WOW. Great choir, too.
  • It only just about counts as Classical, Emilie Autumn's instrumental song Dominant is beyond epic. If the world were ending, this would be the perfect soundtrack. Additionally "Laced" is a great album with Revelry, Tambourin and La Folia particularly beautiful.
  • Russian composer Mily Balakirev was the "leader" of a quintet of composers known as the "Big Five" or "Mighty Handful", whose work celebrated musical traditions, especially folk dances, from all over Russia. Although he is one of the least well-known members of the group today,note  his works are still worth a listen, none more so than "Islamey", an "Oriental Fantasy" inspired by the traditional folk music of the Caucasus region. The exotic nature of its melodic and rhythmic language, derived from the Lezginka (a traditional dance of the Lezgin people in Kabardino-Balkaria) in the outer sections and a Tatar love song in the D major interlude, is matched only by the piece's brutal technical difficulty, which Balakirev admitted was beyond even his capabilities!note  Maurice Ravel was known to be a fan of the piece; he once told a friend that his goal in writing his own ferociously difficult suite Gaspard de la Nuit (see corresponding entry) was to compose something more technically demanding than "Islamey".
  • Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings may not fit the colloquial definition of "awesome", but it is one of the most emotionally powerful works ever written, whether in its original version as the slow movement of his String Quartet in B minor, its string orchestra arrangement, or especially the "Agnus Dei" choral arrangement. When "awesome" is taken to mean "inspiring awe", it fits the Adagio for Strings perfectly.
  • Béla Bartók is sometimes named alongside the more famous "three Bs" (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms) to complete a quartet of great composers of every era from Baroque to early 20th century - and with good reason.
    • With the possible exception of the Ravel quartet (see corresponding entry), Bartók's six string quartets are collectively regarded as the greatest 20th century quartets, and provide a compact picture of his development as a composer, particularly his lifelong fascination with Hungarian folk melodies.
      • No.1 in A minor moves without break across three movements from solemnity to life-affirming energy, hurtling full tilt toward the open fifth chords in its final measure.
      • The fast, flighty movement is in the middle of No.2 in A minor rather than at the end, making it an early example of the "arch" structure Bartók went on to use extensively in his longform compositions.note 
      • No.3 in C-sharp major is in one tightly constructed movement that expertly presents and develops its melodic ideas, and also provides an early example of another Bartók hallmark: a slow "night music" passage characterised by dissonantly ethereal accompaniments to nature-like noises and isolated melodies. Like the first quartet, No.3 gallops full speed toward a final chord that is all fourths and fifths.
      • The harmonically forward-looking No.4 in C major sees the "arch" structure more fully developed into five movements, with a slow "night music" central movement framed by two thematically linked scherzi and two thematically linked outer movements; the two scherzi, one played entirely with mutes and the other entirely pizzicato (in some passages, Bartók specifies that the strings should be plucked with enough force to strike the fingerboard as they rebound), are highlights.
      • The intensely virtuosic No.5 in B-flat major was written several years after No.4, and is another "arch" quartet in five movements with an "alla bulgarese" scherzo at its centre and two slow "night music" movements either side of it, while the first and last movements are arches within arches as they present melodic ideas and then re-visit them in reverse order (sometimes inverting them in the process). The finale ties up the quartet neatly by finding new ideas in the first movement material, and the deliberately banal "mistuned" scalar passage just before the end is a great example of Bartók's viciously satirical side.
      • And finally, No.6 in D major finds Bartók still experimenting with form; each of the four movements opens with the same melodic idea, marked "Mesto" ("Sadly"), and each time the introduction is longer and features more contrapuntal voices until, in the finale, it becomes the entire movement, bringing us back to earth with a crash after the sonata allegro, march, and burlesque of the first three movements.note 
    • Bartók's three piano concerti are among the best the first half of the twentieth century has to offer.
      • The jagged, percussive No. 1 in Enote  is perhaps the least popular of the three due to its less accessible melodic and harmonic structure, but its huge technical demands on both the soloist and the orchestra make it exhilarating to hear, and the eerie second movement (another piece of "night music") for piano, woodwinds, and percussion shows Bartók's mastery of almost melodic, rather than purely rhythmic, use of drums, cymbals, and gongs.
      • The brash, upbeat No. 2 in G major is even more technically demanding than No. 1,note  but is thus even more exhilarating to listeners (the simpler melodic language also makes it more accessible), and once again shows Bartók's skill with orchestration. The energetic first movement features just woodwinds, brass, and percussion accompanying the piano, while the "night music" second movement places two ethereal chorale-like slow passages with muted strings and timpani either side of a frantic virtuoso whirlwind that also brings in the woodwinds and brass (making the concerto another example of Bartók's "arch" works), and the third movement finally brings the entire orchestra together with the soloist for a brilliant summary of all that has gone before.
      • Perhaps the most popular of the three, the sunny, optimistic No. 3 in E major may be the least technically difficultnote , but it is also the most accessible to listeners. A lyrical first movement with numerous memorable melodies is followed by an almost hymnlike second movement marked Adagio religioso (another "night music" movement with a brilliantly fast episode at its core, making the concerto another "arch" composition), which leads without a break into a bright finale with a triumphant coda.
    • The Concerto for Orchestra is one of 20th century classical music's masterworks, in which Bartók's flair for orchestration is on full display as each section gets time in the spotlight (hence the apparently contradictory title), and his command of the "arch" structure reaches its zenith. The expansive first movement introduces themes which recur throughout the work. The second movement scherzo, subtitled "Presentation of Couples" (or sometimes "Game of Pairs"), sees the woodwind instruments pair off to play parallel melodies, with different pairs separated by different intervalsnote  and side drum accompaniment throughout. The slow, haunting third movement, subtitled "Elegy", is the apex of Bartók's "night music". The grotesquely comic fourth movement, subtitled "Intermezzo interrupted", is another shining example of Bartók's penchant for musical satirenote  and features a passage in which the timpanist must play ten different tones on just four drums in under 20 seconds. Finally, the triumphant finale brings the entire orchestra together in a whirlwind of folk melodies and counterpoint; the opening brass call is one of his more familiar melodies.
    • The Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta is another showcase for Bartók's gift for orchestration, particularly for percussion, as well as his mastery of counterpoint, with the fugal subject of the first movement providing the germ for many of the melodic and countermelodic ideas in the other three movements.
  • Awesome selection from 20th century classical music is Luciano Berio's Sinfonia, particularly the 3rd movement, which consists of a movement from a Mahler symphony with all manner of musical quotations layered, as well as more literal quotations from the works of Claude Levi-Strauss and others. A particularly mind-blowing moment is near the end, when half the vocalists shout "Stop!," while the other half shout "Keep going!"
  • Although the name "the three Bs" is generally taken to mean Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, when the phrase was originally coined in the mid-19th century (when Brahms was still a teenager) by the German composer and music critic Peter Cornelius, the "third B" was the French composer Hector Berlioz, one of the leading early Romantic composers and a master of awesome music.
    • Like many other composers on this page, he wrote a particularly awesome version of the "Dies irae" for his Requiem Mass.
    • By far Berlioz' most famous piece is the Symphonie Fantastique, one of the defining pieces of the Romantic era. It is one of the first major pieces of orchestral programme music to make significant use of a Leitmotif (or idée fixe to use the French term) in all five movements, and each movement is filled with other awesome moments, especially the last two, the weighty "March to the Scaffold" and the savage "Witches' Sabbath" (which uses the "Dies irae" theme prominently).
  • Even its fans would acknowledge that 20th century classical music is an acquired taste, but here is one 20th century piece made from purest awesome: Leonard Bernstein's 1st Movement of the Chichester Psalms.
  • Georges Bizet may have died young, but he left plenty of awesome music behind to secure his place in history.
    • His masterpiece, Carmen, is one of the most well-known operas in popular culture, and one of the most oft-performed operas in the world. Try the Big Chorus Number "Les Voici" (a.k.a. "Entry of the Toreadors") from Act IV, or the Habanera, or the Seguidilla, or the Toreador Song, which is possibly one of the most famous operatic songs for a man of all time! And there are all kinds of other gems sprinkled throughout the opera, from beginning (the famous Prelude to Act I combines instrumental versions of "Les voici" and the Toreador Song) to end.
    • "Au fond du temple saint" from The Pearl Fishers. One of the most famous duets in opera, and the best known piece from the whole opera.
    • His "L'Arlésienne" suites show that Bizet's talents extended beyond the operatic stage; the concluding Farandole from the second suite is a particular standout.
  • French composer Léon Boëllmann was a master organist whose most familiar composition is the Suite gothique. The concluding Toccata is in turn the most familiar movement from the suite, blending vicious technical demands with a haunting atmosphere that lives up to the "Gothic" moniker.
  • The Polovtsian Dances from Aleksandr Borodin's opera Prince Igor starts with a slow section that was ripped off as "Strangers in Paradise" for the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet, but then continues to a fast, bombastic, and very "O Fortuna"-ish section that has been used in a lot of movie trailers.
  • The ecstatic last episode of John Borstlap's symphonic poem Psyche.
  • English composer Havergal Brian remained almost completely obscure until fairly late in his life; of his 32 symphonies, 21 were written after his 80th birthday, and seven after his 90th birthday. Many of his symphonies are rather ambitious in scale, but none more so than No.1 in D minor, the "Gothic", named in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest symphony ever performed, and the one calling for the largest orchestra. Although, at an hour and fifty minutes, it can easily overwhelm the listener, and the sheer orchestral forces involvednote  mean performances and recordings are few and far between,note  it is a truly staggering work to both see and hear performed.
  • Benjamin Britten is widely considered the greatest British composer in the 20th Century, and not without cause:
    • Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, where each instrument of the orchestra plays a variation on a theme (namely, the Rondeau from Henry Purcell's incidental music to the play Abdelazer) in turn, is not just a great introduction to orchestral music, but a great piece of music in itself.note 
    • Simple Symphony for string orchestra is based on tunes Britten wrote as a child.
    • The War Requiem combines the Requiem mass with Wilfred Owen's poems from World War I to make an extremely moving work. It was first performed at the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original fourteenth-century structure was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid.
  • Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor is regularly named alongside the violin concerti of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms as one of the four great German Romantic violin concerti, and it's not hard to see why; between a first movement packed with dazzling solo cadenza passages that serves as the introduction to a slow movement of astonishing beauty and a major-key finale of unbridled exuberance, it's an utter delight for musicians and audiences alike.
  • Richard Wagner sometimes named Anton Bruckner as the "third B" alongside Bach and Beethoven; while the idea never caught on, Bruckner certainly left his fair share of awesome music for future listeners.
    • Bruckner is often mentioned in the same breath as Mahler when it comes to symphonies, but aside from both composers being Austrian, born in the 19th century, and writing nine numbered symphonies nearly all of which last over an hour in most performances and recordings, they have little in common. Where Mahler believed a symphony should contain the universe, the good and the bad, and so even his triumphant endings have dark edges to them, Bruckner believed in the symphony as apotheosis, all nine of them unfolding in grand gestures and building to codas of sublime glorification.
      • We don't have much in the way of confirmation, but it is quite possible that the opening of Symphony No.4 in E-flat major (Romantic, the only one Bruckner himself named) was meant to make you shiver, string tremolo, horn solo echoed by woodwinds, building slowly, steadily, and suddenly low brasses and strings moving in unison to the Bruckner Rhythm. And after the grandeur of the first movement, we have a solemn funeral march with occasional glimpses of heavenly light, a boisterous "hunting" scherzo dominated by brass fanfares, and a finale that, like most of Bruckner's symphonies, brings the whole piece back to where it began with a full orchestral glow in its final pages.
      • Though short by Bruckner standards, No.7 in E major includes all the hallmarks of his style, and is a great introduction to his symphonies. A hushed string tremolo as the symphony opens under which the cellos and a solo horn play a vocal melody that Bruckner claimed came to him in a dream, a sombre slow movement featuring Wagner tubas (Bruckner returned Wagner's respect for him with interest, and composed this movement during the older composer's terminal illness), a grim scherzo led by a solo trumpet figure imitating a crowing rooster, and a majestic finale that culminates in another full orchestral affirmation with more string tremolos, brass fanfares, and thundering timpani... it doesn't get much more Brucknerian than that.
      • In a similar vein to the opening of No.4, it is probable Bruckner wrote the fourth movement of Symphony No.8 in C minor, starting from a single bouncing note in the strings, then suddenly blossoming into a massive brass fanfare, specifically to knock you on your ass. And if that's not enough, prepare to be blown away by the most spectacular final pages across all of Bruckner's symphonies, in which the main motifs of all four movements are played simultaneously as the music settles into the glory of C major.
      • Bruckner sadly died before he could complete the finale of No.9 in D minor, and although he left enough sketches that several musicologists have produced performance versions of the movement, the three movements Bruckner did complete stand surprisingly well on their own, though they leave us wondering how the usual Bruckner coda of glorification might grow out of the eerie first movement, the brutally savage scherzo, and the melancholy E major slow movement.note 
    • What do you get when you combine Artistic License – History, Patriotic Fervor, Testosterone Poisoning, and Gratuitous German? The "Helgoland" cantata, and it is as gloriously over-the-top as you'd expect.
  • David Brunner's All I Was Doing Was Breathing is seriously sexy. How? (1) According to the composer, it's written for "SSAA chorus with soprano soloist, cello, tabla, Tibetan finger cymbals, brass bowls, jangle stick, elephant bells and ankle bells". (2) The lyrics are by Mirabai, a 16th century Hindu mystic who spent her life writing passionate poetry to Krishna. (3) The last section (4:10 to the end), which builds and builds to an ecstatic climax only to drop to a solemn ending.
  • The Piano Concerto in C by Ferruccio Busoni is an absolutely monumental work in five epic-length movements, taking well over an hour to perform and taxing the soloist's skill and endurance to its very limit (even though the piano mostly provides decorative filigree over melodies introduced by the orchestra, the solo part requires fingers, hands, and arms of cast iron to perform). Busoni intended the work to encompass everything he admired about architecture and nature; as the engraving on the cover of the score illustrates, the grandeur of the odd-numbered movements pays homage to different ancient architectural styles (Greco-Roman for the opening Introito e Prologo, Egyptian for the mammoth central Pezzo serioso, and Assyrian for the concluding Cantico), while the finger-destroying frenzies of the even-numbered movements have more natural inspiration (the bird and flowers represent the multi-faceted scherzo of the Pezzo giocoso, while the cypress trees represent the wild tarantella of the All'Italiana). The moment in the finale (in which the pianist finally gets to rest for a bit after having played almost continuously since about four and a half minutes into the first movement) when the full-voiced men's choir enters with a passage from Danish playwright Adam Oehlenschläger's Aladdin and His Magic Lamp is truly heart-stopping. If you have a soloist, orchestra, and choir who are up to the challenge, it is a thing of wonder to see performed live.
  • Dietrich Buxtehude was one of the most widely admired Germannote  organists and composers of the middle Baroque era; Johann Sebastian Bach famously walked 280 miles from his home in Eisenach to see Buxtehude perform in Lübeck in 1705-06, and George Frederic Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann were also fans.
    • One of his most awesome compositions is a setting of the Gregorian chant Te Deum laudamus, which takes the melody of the first phrase and several later phrases in the chant and uses them as the basis for an elaborate contrapuntal masterpiece that builds to a spectacularly triumphant climax in its final measures.
    • Buxtehude's organ preludes were a huge influence on Bach, with their extensive use of contrapuntal devices including augmentation, diminution, and inversion to develop a melody that seems simple at first but is ripe with possibility. For example, try the Prelude in C major, BuxWV 137, which opens with a pedal solo before leading to a series of explorations of various fugal subjects and ending with an exuberant chaconne and coda.
  • John Cage is certainly a polarising composer, but his fans find plenty of awesome in his music.
    • His prepared piano music. Regardless of how you feel about his later music, these earlier pieces are texturally fascinating, melodically innovative (and hummable!) and rhythmically exciting. For example, try listening to Totem ancestor.
    • His 4'33" is definitely Awesome Music and arguably the greatest Mind Screw in music history.
  • The Prelude (Marche en Rondeau) from Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum, written near the end of the 17th century and one of the most enduring trumpet fanfares of the middle Baroque era. It is often known as "the Eurovision theme" as it was adopted as the ident of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)/Union européenne de radio-télévision (UER) and has played at the start of every Eurovision Song Contest. Also it's used as a first part of theme music for Jeux sans frontières (Games without Frontiers or Games Without Borders), a Europe-wide television game show.
  • English Baroque composer Jeremiah Clarke is little known today, but has the curious distinction of having written two enduring marches which were both, for many years, attributed to the more famous Henry Purcell (see corresponding entry).
    • The Prince of Denmark March, better known by its colloquial name of "The Trumpet Voluntary". The sheer majesty of the opening fanfare has made it popular as an alternative to the Bridal March from Lohengrin as a wedding processional (it was played, for example, during the 1981 wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales), and its transcription for organ (with optional trumpet) has an even greater sense of pomp and ceremony.
    • Just as bright and majestic is the March from The Island Princess, colloquially known as "Trumpet Tune in D". (The Island Princess was a collaboration between Clarke and Henry Purcell's younger brother Daniel, which may have led to the misattribution.) It sounds especially powerful when arranged for pipe organ.
  • Technically, it's Classical and something else, but Classical Crossover and Classical Fusion definitely deserve mention. Just start with "Explosive" from Bond and go from there.
  • Aaron Copland is one of the most highly regarded American composers of the 20th century, and there are plenty of reasons why.
    • In his Symphony No.3, the introduction of the main theme in the fourth movement. It's audibly a variation on the themes of the prior three movements - except it is also Copland's famous "Fanfare for the Common Man". It's like an Overly Preprepared Gag, except instead of a joke it has pure musical triumph. (ELP's rendition of "Fanfare for the Common Man" is pretty awesome too.)
    • A Copland medley with "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Simple Gifts" has been a staple of the WVU marching band for a long time now.
    • Copland's Rodeo - especially the Hoedown - is often cited as uplifting souls and generating tears.
  • Arcangelo Corelli is widely regarded as the codifier of the Italian Baroque tradition, and there are many reasons why composers for several centuries afterward regarded him as an important influence.
    • Perhaps his most familiar composition is the last of his twelve violin sonatas, Op.5, known as "La Folia". Based on one of the oldest known European musical harmonic progressions, it is framed as a set of variations on a songlike melody that itself has provided the material for variations by countless other composers (among them Liszt, who used it in his Spanish Rhapsody, and Rachmaninoff, who took it as the basis for his Variations on a Theme of Corelli). There's also an orchestral version, "Concerto Grosso La Follia" by Geminiani.
    • The twelve concerti grossi published as Corelli's Op.6 are often regarded as the definitive prototypes of Baroque concerti. The most often performed and recorded is No.8 in G minor, known as the "Christmas" concerto; the last of its six movements, which is marked "Pastorale ad libitum" and shifts to G major, is among the most charming and serene pieces Corelli composed. Perhaps the most influential of the twelve, however, is No.4 in D major, which is in four movements and follows a similar pattern to that used by Classical and Romantic symphonies, with a slow introduction to its first movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a jaunty finale.
  • François Couperin is perhaps the most well-known French Baroque composer, and with good reason; his solo keyboard and chamber works are positively overflowing with inventive and beautiful pieces.
    • "Les barricades mystérieuses" from the 6th keyboard "ordre" in B-flat is one of Couperin's most fascinating compositions, an ingeniously constructed rondeau of ever-shifting melodic and harmonic textures, with a title that has been a source of speculation since its composition. It has inspired arrangements and/or original compositions in genres including jazz, rock, and electronic music.
    • Perhaps his most spectacular keyboard work is "Le Tic-Toc-Choc" from the 18th "ordre" in F, in which the performer's hands are intended to play on two different manuals as they are in the same range for most of the piece. However, when played on a piano with just one keyboard and the hands almost on top of each other, it becomes even more amazing to see and hear.
  • Henry Cowell's Three Irish Legends Suite. While modern pieces that rely heavily on dissonant clusters for their effects, they're ALL amazing pieces of work.
  • Claude Debussy's more well-known works are more beautiful than awesome, but he wrote plenty of works in the latter category as well.
    • Clair de lune from the Suite bergamasque is one of the most recognizable classical pieces of all time (here is an especially charming arrangement for violin and piano). The other movements from the suite - the flamboyant Prelude, the skittish Menuet, and the flighty Passepied - may be less familiar but are still well worth a listen.
    • La Mer, a suite of three orchestral sketches, is one of Debussy's most captivating works for orchestra. The tense third sketch, "Dialogue du vent et de la mer" ("Dialogue of the wind and the sea"), is a highlight.
    • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is perhaps Debussy's most familiar orchestral composition, reeling the listener in from the enigmatic opening flute solo through to the serene conclusion.
    • L'isle Joyeuse is a delightful musical portrait from beginning to end.
    • Pour le piano frames a haunting Sarabande with a tense Prelude rich in parallel fifths and block chords and a Toccata of seemingly boundless energy and exhilaration.
    • Though Debussy may have resented being labelled an Impressionist composer, his two sets of Images for solo piano paint extremely vivid, if slightly abstract, musical portraits in the same vein as the works of Manet, Monet, and co. The crown for awesome goes to Mouvement, the third "image" in the first suite, a harmonically adventurous musical depiction of incessant motion.
  • Gaetano Donizetti has proven one of the more enduring operatic composers of the early Romantic era:
    • Lucia's Mad Scene from Lucia di Lammermoor is a glorious moment in the spotlight for any singer playing the title character.
    • "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'amore. One of the most famous tenor arias.
  • Guillaume Dufay was one of the most highly regarded composers of the early Renaissance, codifying many practices of polyphonic writing for the next few centuries. One of his finest works is the motet "Nuper rosarum flores", written in honour of the consecration of Florence Cathedral in 1436 by Pope Eugene IV. Such an extraordinary building needs an extraordinary piece of music to celebrate it, and Dufay delivers; across four stanzas, Dufay weaves two-voice counterpoint in the countertenor and tenor voices through 14 measures, then follows this with 14 measures in which the counterpoint lies over a two-voice canon on the Gregorian chant "Terribilis est locus iste" ("Aweful is this place"),note  said to be inspired by the two layers of Filippo Brunelleschi's celebrated dome for the cathedral. Moreover, the four stanzas, though all 28 measures long, feature different numbers of beats per measure; the first has 6, the second 4, the third 2, and the fourth 3, claimed to be an homage to the cathedral's dimensions.note  All building up to a final radiant "Amen" as the major/minor ambiguity that pervades throughout finally resolves into major.
  • Paul Dukas was so intensely self-critical that he would never agree with someone who described any of his music as awesome (or even worth preserving, to the point that we're lucky any of his music survived his personal purges); his audiences have always been willing to agree to disagree with him.
    • By far Dukas' most well-known and beloved composition is his musical interpretation of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poem L'apprenti sorcier ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), a piece that was a hit with audiences even before being immortalised forty years later in the third segment of Disney's Fantasia with Mickey Mouse in the title role. From the haunting opening measures, to the immediately hummable theme as the apprentice brings the broom to life, to the orchestral frenzy as he is then forced to splinter the broom with an axe - only to create hundreds of brooms that cause the music's energy to build even higher, to the outburst of the final measures, it sticks in the memory even without the animated accompaniment.
    • The Piano Sonata in E-flat minor is a 45-minute musical epic, from its expansive opening movement to its ultimately triumphant final measures. The third movement, a wild ride of a scherzo with a contrasting slow trio section, is a particular highlight.
  • French organist and composer Maurice Duruflé, a student of Paul Dukas, shared his teacher's viciously intense perfectionism; he held himself to almost impossibly high standards, with nothing less than his very best deemed worthy of publication (or preservation of any sort). Despite living to be 84, he only published fourteen compositionsnote  - and the first, Triptyque (three fantasies for piano on Gregorian chants), was later withdrawn when Duruflé decided it wasn't good enough. The good news is that this means the works he did see fit to publish are nothing less than spectacular, and while his choral works (especially the Requiem) are heart-stoppingly beautiful, it is his organ works for which the word "awesome" is most fitting.
    • The Prelude, Adagio, et Choral varié on the "Veni creator" Gregorian chant is a masterclass in how choral tunes of the Middle Ages can transcend the centuries by continuing to reveal new facets of themselves; the concluding chorale variations are a contrapuntally dazzling exploration of the melody at its heart.
    • The Suite begins with a Prelude and a Sicilienne that are as lovely as anything Duruflé composed, but the real fireworks come in the non-stop virtuosity of the concluding Toccata, sure to exhilarate performer and listener alike from the first measure to the last.
    • The Prelude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain was written in memory of Duruflé's friend Jehan Alain, who was killed on the battlefields of World War II, and uses a musical mnemonic of his surname for a monumental work that builds to an almost transcendent coda.
  • Antonín Dvořŕk picked up the Czech nationalism trend established by Bedrich Smetana (see corresponding entry) and carried it to new levels of awesome.
    • Dvořák was one of the most accomplished symphonic composers of the late 19th century; though his four early forays into the genre have their charms, it is his five mature symphonies (the only ones to be published in his lifetime) that really stand out as awesome.
      • The pastoral Symphony No.5 in F major was the work that really put the composer on the map as a symphonist. Particular highlights include the way the slow movement leads, with only the briefest of pauses, directly into the scherzo, and the finale's initial reluctance to go anywhere near the symphony's home key and eventual adrenaline rush toward the triumphant coda.
      • Symphony No.6 in D major sees Dvořák starting to fuse influences from German Romanticism (especially Beethoven and Brahms) with Bohemian folk tunes; the third movement scherzo, based on the rhythm of the furiant (a traditional Bohemian dance), is a standout.
      • Dvořák drew inspiration from the death of his mother and the Czech struggle for national identity within the Austro-Hungarian Empire for the emotionally charged Symphony No.7 in D minor, the first of the triptych of his most enduringly popular symphonies. The almost jazz-like scherzo and a finale that waits almost until the last possible moment to finally switch from D minor to D major - seen by some musicologists as representing the composer's optimism that his native Bohemia would one day become an independent nation - make this symphony a winner.
      • Another work heavily influenced by Bohemian folk traditions, Symphony No.8 in G major defies expectation with an extended opening in G minor, until a bird call-like melody from the flute finally establishes the major mode. The hopping back and forth between the major and minor mode continues through the remaining three movements, and the result is spellbinding on multiple levels.
      • By far Dvořák's most popular symphony, and one of the most popular symphonies ever composed, is No.9 in E minor (From the New World), composed during an extended stay in the United States (particularly a holiday in Spillville, Iowa) and drawing influence from the musical traditions of his host nation but still using entirely original melodies. All four movements are concentrated awesome, from the tense opening movement to the instantly familiar Largo influenced by Negro spirituals to the incendiary scherzo to a truly spectacular finale that brings together themes from each of the previous movements. John Williams is a big fan of this work; the third movement Molto vivace was helpful in writing the score to Star Wars, while the concluding Allegro con fuoco was blatantly plagiarised into the Jaws theme, but is ten times more awesome. The latter also takes up the final half of episode 126 of One Piece (where Luffy finally defeats Sir Crocodile), and was remixed into one of Rhapsody of Fire's most epic songs, Wizard's Last Rhymes.
    • The New World symphony wasn't Dvořák's only musical tribute to his American hosts; the most popular of his fourteen string quartets, No.12 in F major (American), took just sixteen days to compose and likewise blends American folk traditions, especially in the pentatonic melodies that dominate all four movements, with influences from the composer's native Bohemia. The sense of joy and fun that pervades the entire quartet makes it easy to see why audiences have always loved it.
    • Dvořák's most proudly Czech nationalist compositions are the two sets of Slavonic Dances, Op.46 and Op.72, all of which are based on rhythms from traditional Slavic dances but feature melodies entirely Dvořák's own. Highlights from Op.46 include No.1 in C major and No.8 in G minor, adrenaline-charged furiants that will leave any listener gasping for breath; No.2 in E minor, a solemn dumka, and No.3 in A-flat major, a boisterous polka. Meanwhile, Op.72 includes such delights as No.1 in B major, an almost deliriously happy odzemek; No.2 in E minor, a heartfelt starodávný ("ancient one"); No.3 in F major, an extroverted skočná; and No.7 in C major, a rambunctious kolo.
    • Dvořák also composed many works inspired by Slavic folklore, such as the opera Rusalka, the story of the doomed love between a female water sprite and a human prince (the "Song to the Moon" from Act I is a particular highlight), and The Water-Goblin, an elaborately-constructed musical version of a folk poem telling the story of the similarly doomed attraction between the title demon (who is also the father of the title character in Rusalka) and a human girl who strays too near the lake in which he lives.
    • The Cello Concerto in B minor. The whole thing, especially the first movement, is an awesome moment for concertos in general.
  • Edward Elgar is perhaps England's most popular composer, and has plenty of awesome music to back up that title.
    • The theme from the Enigma Variations forms the basis of "Clubbed to Death" as featured in The Matrix.note  Nimrod, a movement from the Variations, is achingly beautiful and has been used in many moving moments in film and TV, as well as being played by British military bands at services on Remembrance Day.
    • Elgar's Cello Concerto also forms a solid block of awesomeness, but particularly the first movement as played by Jacqueline du Pre: a quiet beginning, rising to incredible heights, and back down again.
    • The Violin Concerto may be overshadowed by the Cello Concerto, but it is still 55 minutes of awesome. All three movements are positively overflowing with melodic goodness, and the violinist's extended time in the spotlight in the second half of the finale is an awesome moment for any soloist up to the challenge.
    • Elgar's First Symphony also deserves a mention. Its opening is superb. It begins with muted timpani, and then branches into a glorious, stately theme, played pianissimo at first, but it starts increasing in volume, and then it gets taken up by the full orchestra, played fortissimo. The effect is glorious.
    • Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance Marches rank as some of the most stirring music ever composed by an Englishman. No.1 in D major is by far the most famous, having become a staple of graduation ceremonies across the pond (a tradition which began when Yale University presented Elgar with an honorary doctorate in 1905), a fixture of the Last Night of the Proms (in its vocal arrangement as "Land of Hope and Glory"), and a regular chorus in the stands at sporting events in Elgar's homeland. Almost as awesome is No.4 in G major, which, like No.1, alternates an uptempo march with a hymn-like melody that swells with majesty when it returns near the end.
  • Though French composer Gabriel Fauré has long been overshadowed by two of the next generation of French composers, Debussy and Ravel, he wrote many pieces of outstandingly beautiful music that are well worth hearing.
    • Fauré started early. When he was nineteen and still in college, he received a homework assignment to write a song for SATB choir and piano or organ. The resulting song, "Cantique de Jean Racine", is probably the only homework assignment to have its own Wikipedia article. It is sweet, deceptively simple, and beautiful beyond words—even the volunteer children's choir they have singing the song on The Other Wiki can't much ruin it.
    • Fauré's Requiem deliberately departs from the usual trend for Requiem masses by sticking the "Dies Irae" passage in ridiculously awesome fashion in the 6th movement "Libera Me" instead of devoting an entire fire-and-brimstone movement to it. Both this and the 7th movement, "In Paradisum", were used to poignant effect in the final episode of British Detective Series Inspector Morse. In performances and recordings, the Requiem is frequently paired with the "Cantique de Jean Racine" to create a programme of some of the loveliest sacred music ever composed.
  • César Franck's Le Chasseur Maudit, which tells how the titular "accursed hunter" is punished by God for hunting on the Sabbath. There are four sections, all of them epic. The hunter ignores the church bells and heads to the forest (section 1, a noble slow introduction). He relentlessly pursues his prey (section 2, containing the main "chase" theme). He reaches the heart of the forest (section 3, a slow interlude superficially reminiscent of section 1 but much more mysterious). Something stirs in the trees (a creepy transition that ends with a terrifying blast from the horns), and suddenly the hunter is himself being chased (section 4, which cleverly repeats the "chase" theme from section 2 but much faster and with creepier instrumentation). The hunter hears church bells as fate closes in on him. Basically, it's awesome.

    Composers G-N 
  • Niels Gade was a Danish contemporary and friend of Mendelssohn, who is not well known outside Denmark,note  but wrote some awesome music just the same.
  • Traditional Georgian Music. For example, the wedding song Lechkhmuri Makruli.
  • George Gershwin wrote in a variety of styles; relevant to this page, he is widely regarded as one of the first American composers to leave a significant mark on classical music.
    • "Rhapsody in Blue". From the first clarinet trill to the last soaring chords... It never quite leaves you alone.
    • His Concerto in F is easily the most popular piano concerto by an American composer, deftly blending classical, blues, ragtime, and jazz styles and featuring a spellbinding repeated note-dominated finale that builds to a triumphant concluding statement of the main theme from the first movement.
    • The tone poem "An American in Paris" is another skilled fusion of diverse genres, punctuated by the din of car horns familiar to anyone who has visited the French capital, and featuring blues interludes as the title character has a moment of homesickness.
  • Russia's Alexander Glazunov has the misfortune of being more well-known for his alcoholismnote  than for his music. While he may not have been as iconoclastic as some of his later life contemporaries, such as Prokofiev and Stravinsky, many of his compositions are still fine examples of late Romanticism.
    • Glazunov's most popular work is the Violin Concerto in A minor, which becomes particularly mesmeric in the hands of American violinist Hilary Hahn. As well as being full of first class showcases for the soloist (the second theme in the "first movement" is especially lovely), it is structurally unusual, being nominally in one movement but divided into three or four subsections - just how many, and where each section begins and ends, remains a topic of debate.
    • The first composer to make the (alto) saxophone the star of a concert piece for soloist and orchestra was probably Debussy, who (very reluctantly) composed a Rhapsody on commission from the American saxophonist Elisa Hall; however, Glazunov, on commission from the German-born alto saxophonist Sigurd Raschèr, was the first major composer to write a concerto for the saxophone, accompanied by string orchestra.note  It has rightly found a place in the classical saxophone repertoire, its single movement (in four subsections) carrying performer and listener alike on a remarkable journey that gloriously melds the mellow sound of the soloist with the more strident tones of the strings.
    • Glazunov composed two piano concerti, both late works. No.1 in F minor was a favourite of the Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter; its first movement is full of high drama alternating with a Rachmaninoff-like second theme,note  while the second movement is an expansive theme and variations uniting slow movement, scherzo, and finale, with the ninth variation ingeniously bringing back all of the major themes from the first movement. No.2 in B major, like the concerti for violin and saxophone, is in just one movement in several subsections, with the themes introduced in the first few minutes being put through all manner of permutations and modifications; the slow F major interlude just before the halfway mark contains some of Glazunov's loveliest melodic writing.
  • Reinhold Gliere is a Russian/Soviet composer whose works are relatively unknown to the West, which is a pity, as there is a lot to like about his music.
  • Polish-American composer Leopold Godowsky, though he wrote some phenomenally difficult original music, is perhaps best known for taking 26 of Chopin's 27 étudesnote  (see corresponding entry) and cranking their technical demands Up to Eleven and beyond in a set of 54 studiesnote  which tax almost any pianist's skill to its absolute limit, and any performance of them in appropriately skilled hands is undiluted awesome. While many of the studies "simply" involve re-scoring the Chopin études for left hand alone or reversing the melodic and harmonic roles of the right and left hands, some studies go further:
  • From Charles Gounod's opera Faust, there is the Soldiers' Chorus, which is basically War Is Glorious in musical form. From the same opera, the Church Scene (where Mephistopheles finally reveals his true identity to Marguerite) is terrifying when done well, while the final trio and chorus ("CHRIST EST RESUSITE!"), backed by pipe organ and brass fanfares, is absolutely majestic.
  • Edvard Grieg has more than earned his place as Norway's greatest ever composer.
    • In the Hall of the Mountain King. After the inexorable buildup, when the music finally swells and crashes, you can almost feel every cymbal crashing in your face. For a slightly different taste - but no less awesome by any means - the cover by the band Apocalyptica deserves a standing ovation every time.
    • Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor is perhaps one of the most familiar concerti ever written, filled with Grieg's hallmark memorable melodies (the second movement is especially lovely). Rachmaninoff liked this piece so much he based his own first piano concerto on it (see corresponding entry).
  • Norwegian composer Eivind Groven's awesome works begin with his piano concerto.
  • Canadian pianist-composer Marc-André Hamelin, one of the foremost interpreters of Leopold Godowsky's Studies After Chopin (see corresponding entry), decided to answer the question of how Godowsky's planned but unwritten study combining Chopin's three A minor études might have sounded by writing such an etude himself. Rather than following the structure of one etude and working the other two into it,note  Hamelin shifts back and forth between the overall structures of the three études so that each dominates at different times while the other two follow in its path,note  and the results are pure awesome from start to finish.
  • George Frederic Handel was born in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach, and wrote music that is every bit as awesome.
    • Handel's name is synonymous with the oratorio, the concert performance sibling of the opera, the text for which can be either religious or secular.
    • The Water Music is one of the most memorable compositions Handel wrote in his capacity as composer by royal appointment to Elector George of Hannover after he was crowned King George I of Great Britain and Ireland in 1714; it was originally composed for a boating party on the River Thames in 1717. By far the most famous movement is the merry "Alla hornpipe" from the suite for trumpets in D major (a seldom-performed version also appears in the suite for horns in F major), but there are plenty of other highlights, from dignified minuets in all three suites, to the graceful Air from the F major suite, to the lyrical Country Dance in the G major suite. King George liked the piece so much, he asked for it to be repeated in its entirety at least three times on its first performance.
    • When George I died, his son and successor brought out some of the best in Handel.
      • Zadok the Priest doubles as Awesome Music of Crowning - it was written for the coronation of King George II of Great Britain, Ireland, and Hannover in 1727, and has been played at every coronation of a British monarch since.note  Particularly spellbinding moments include the extended orchestral opening built almost entirely of repeated ascending arpeggii over block chords that practically explodes with jubilation as the choir bellows the opening words, "Zadok! The priest! And Nathan! The prophet! Annointed! Solomon! King!" and the prominent use of melisma in both the choir and the orchestra in the "Amen, alleluia" sections of the concluding "God save the King!" segment; the two appearances of the bass voice melisma are the longest and most awesome of the bunch.
      • Te Deum for the Victory of Dettingen, written to commemorate King George II's victory over the French in 1743note , is an underrated piece of brilliance.
      • And when the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed in 1748, ending the War of Austrian Succession in which George II had fought the French at Dettingen, the treaty was celebrated with a fireworks display, accompanied by the Music for the Royal Fireworks, which ranks just behind the Water Music among Handel's orchestral works. Featuring an enlarged orchestra with horns, trumpets, and drums, it is every bit as stirring and jubilant as the occasion demanded.
  • Michael Haydn has never enjoyed the same reputation as his older brother Joseph, but his Requiem Mass is well worth a listen. Mozart liked it so much, he took inspiration from it when writing his own Requiem Mass.
  • Samuel R. Hazo's Ride is an energetic piece with an epic alto sax solo at 1:04. Sevens, the piece that starts out alternating between 11/16 and 7/16 time and in the key of G-flat. Arabesque, starting out with three epic flute solos and then getting much more epic as it goes on. Finally, Fantasy on a Japanese Folk Song, a beautiful piece.
  • Hildegard of Bingen's "O Ecclesia" and "Alleluia, O Virga Mediatrix" are two of the most beautiful Gregorian chants ever written.
  • Gustav Holst is one of the more popular British composers of the 20th century, and with good reason.
    • By far Holst's most familiar work is The Planets, a suite of seven pieces dedicated to each of the seven planets besides Earthnote , many of them outstanding classics.
      • The opening "Mars, the Bringer of War" was a major inspiration behind much of the Star Wars soundtrack. This is the music we will play when we go to war against the stars. (Or, if you're #21 and #24, something to make you feel all badass.)
      • "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" is the suite's most famous movement; some would say that the string solo practically qualifies as a Heartwarming Moment. Holst recomposed that part to create "I Vow To Thee My Country", one of England's many unofficial anthems. At the time he was assigned to set the words to music, he was overworked to the limit and relieved beyond belief to discover that they fit this part of Jupiter.
      • "Uranus, the Magician". Starts out bombastic, gets quiet, then epic, then quiet again, then finally revs up to Fucking MEGA EPIC for the finale.
      • "Neptune the Mystic". Pure mystery, with a gorgeous Ethereal Choir. It's also the first piece in music to be written with an intentional fadeout ending, even in a live performance setting. Holst nailed it. (Holst specified that the chorus is to be placed in an offstage room, and at the end, while the chorus is repeating the last bar over and over, the door to the room is to be closed slowly...)
    • Holst's symphonic tone poem Egdon Heath, written to evoke the setting of Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, is both harmonically and emotionally mysterious. Holst actually considered it his best work, but it never became popular.
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel studied under Mozart as a boy and later under Haydn, but as a composer he is largely overshadowed by his teachers and by his contemporaries and friends Beethoven and Schubert. Which is a shame, as his music is well worth a listen.
    • By far Hummel's most famous work is his Trumpet Concerto in E majornote , one of the most frequently performed and recorded trumpet concerti. The second movement's journey from a solemn A minor to a triumphant A major and the buoyant finale which follows it without a break are especially delightful.
    • Among Hummel's five piano concerti, the most frequently performed and recorded, with good reason, are No.2 in A minor and No.3 in B minor. Highlights include the Larghetto from the A minor concerto (which leads straight into the stark finale) and the timpani figure which opens the B minor concerto in a similar gesture to Beethoven's violin concerto. Chopin was known to be a fan of both works, and they influenced his own piano concerti (see corresponding entry).
    • Hummel wrote at least nine piano sonatas, the most awesome of which is No.5 in F-sharp minor (its early fans included Robert Schumann). The lively finale, in which the minor mode persists to the very end, is particularly exhilarating to hear and play.
  • Leoš Janáček's String Quartet No. 2, called "Intimate Letters" by the composer. He wrote it for Kamila Stösslová, a married woman 40 years his junior who may have never loved him back. The third movement has been interpreted as a lullaby for the son she never bore him.
  • Aram Khachaturian stands with Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich as one of the three titans of Soviet music. There are plenty of reasons why:
    • The Sabre Dance from Gayane is one of the most instantly recognisable tracks in all of classical music. Or, boosting the awesome quotient, Vanessa Mae's remix. And to further up the awesome quotient, there's dancers too.
    • Listen to his "Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia" (known to fans of vintage British television as the theme to The Onedin Line). Then dry your eyes.
    • Also the violin concerto.
  • "По́люшко-по́ле" (Polyushko-polye, or Song of the Plains) by Lev Knipper, with lyrics by Viktor Gusev. As stirring as Soviet patriotic songs get.
  • Zoltán Kodály's Vainamoinen makes music for women's choir and piano. The choir gets memorable melodies, playful counterpoint, and tricky rhythms. The piano part is beautiful, epic, and fun to play (which can't be said for a lot of choral literature). To elaborate, the piano isn't doubling the melody (which would be boring), but playing either huge rolled chords that span most of the instrument, jumpy staccato figures, or really fast trills. The huge chords are the most fun, though, so Kodály wisely puts them in the introduction and the dramatic ending.
  • Korobeiniki, aka the Tetris theme. Older Than They Think. Most Westerners have only heard it in MIDI format on their Game Boys, but with full orchestra... AWESOME. It also gets an outstanding remix for the Super Smash Bros. Brawl soundtrack.
  • "Elves' Hill" by Friedrich Kuhlau was written in 1828 to celebrate a wedding in the Danish Royal Family, and the Ouverture has everything needed for such an occasion: tender, lyric folk-songy themes alternate with rousing brass and percussion chords, and the whole thing leads up to a finale where the manliness of the already manly royal anthem "King Christian" is taken Up to Eleven.
  • "Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo is one of the most recognisable tenor arias ever composed, and was used to great effect in The Untouchables. Enrico Caruso, widely regarded as the greatest tenor of the first half of the 20th century, made it a staple of his repertoire, the emotion of a man who has just discovered his wife loves another and now has to put on a literal clown's face to perform a Commedia dell'Arte version of that very scenario coming through in every note.
  • Medieval Latin Chanting time. From the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat: Cuncti simun concantentes - AVE MARIA!
  • Russian composer Sergey Lyapunov was a keen fan of Liszt's Transcendental Études (see corresponding entry), and thought it a shame that the Hungarian composer never realised his plan to complete a full set of 24 pieces in all the major and minor keys. So Lyapunov decided to complete the circle with his 12 Transcendental Études, Op.11, which hold their own very well against their more famous predecessors.
    • The spooky No.2 in D-sharp minor ("Ronde des fantômes") is a perpetual motion whirlwind that darts in and out, until, with a final flourish, the ghosts that have been dancing for the last three minutes vanish into thin air, leaving us wondering if we imagined the whole thing.
    • The majestic No.3 in B major ("Carillon") casts the sound of tolling bells against the melody of a Russian Orthodox hymn, building to a spectacular climax uniting both ideas that sounds as though it is written for at least three hands, and a coda in which the lowest B on the piano thunders like a giant bell under a clangor in the upper voices that gets louder and louder until a final release.
    • The turbulent No.4 in G-sharp minor ("Térek") is another furious perpetual motion etude, the melody and accompaniment both winding and twirling like the rushing river for which the piece is named, the energy only ebbing for two short passages marked "quasi flauto" and "quasi piccolo".note 
    • The violent No.6 in C-sharp minor ("Tempête") is a captivating musical depiction of a thunderstorm that seems to be unleashing the very forces of Hell itself in a coda in which the minor key gloom remains firmly in place to the bitter end.
    • The expansive No.8 in F-sharp minor ("Chant épique") starts by alternating a preview of the main melody with harplike figures to set the stage for an epic tale of adventure, drama, and romance (represented by a more easy-going interlude, the melody from which returns in boisterous fashion for the coda).
    • The whirlwind No.9 in D major ("Harpes éoliennes") is a successor to "Chasse-neige" from the Liszt set, with incredibly light and rapid oscillations representing the strings of Aeolian harps being set in motion by equally light and rapid wind-like figures, cast against a songlike melody.
    • The tempestuous No.10 in B minor ("Lesghinka") is the most frequently performed of the set, and was conceived as a tribute to Lyapunov's teacher, Mily Balakirev, and especially to the older composer's "Islamey" (see corresponding entry), which uses the Lezginka dance as a basis for its outer sections. The exotic melodies and rhythms carry performer and listener alike on a remarkable journey that ends with a last gasp shift to an exuberant B major.
    • The playful yet fiendishly difficult No.11 in G major ("Ronde des sylphes") is Lyapunov's answer to Liszt's "Feux-follets", the sprites in the title skipping and tripping up and down, back and forth, and, like the will-o'-the-wisp, disappearing as quickly as they appeared.
    • The giant No.12 in E minor ("Elégie en mémoire de François Liszt") is a tribute to the man who inspired it all, and a fitting coda to both sets of études, combining parallel octave thunder straight out of the Hungarian's own library with soaring and swooping melodies, building to a coda that, far from mourning that Liszt is dead, celebrates that he lived.
  • Gustav Mahler was not a very prolific composer (his "day job" was conducting; he composed in his leisure time), his entire output comprising nine symphonies (plus a half-finished tenth), seven song cycles for voice and piano or orchestra, and one and a half movements of a piano quartet, but the music he did write is packed with awesome.
    • His 1st Symphony, sometimes nicknamed the Titan, starts out calmly, though a bit unusually. The first movement, filled with bird calls and bugle fanfares, develops into an elaboration of Mahler's existing Lied "Ging heut' Morgen über's Feld". The second is based on a Ländler, the boisterous country ancestor to the waltz, while the third movement combines a minor-key version of the children's song "Frere Jacques" with Jewish klezmer music. Then there is the fourth movement, which follows the quiet ending of the third with a sudden CRASH-SCREECH-BOOM! and doesn't look back. Alternating between frantic and serene, the music finally makes up its mind in a massive brass fanfare (abruptly changing keys in the process) and carries on that way to the ending, with a brief resting interlude for strings along the way. The very ending brings all seven (or eight, or nine) horns into play, along with at least five trumpets and four trombones, and an instruction Mahler wrote in the score for the horns to stand up at a particular point to get out as much sound as possible. Audiences at the premiere were completely baffled by the piece, but thankfully the listener at home can judge for themselves.
    • Symphony No.2, commonly known as the Resurrection symphony, was the most popular (along with No.8) in Mahler's lifetime, and remains one of his most popular works today. Mahler believed that a symphony should contain the universe, and the Resurrection is his first significant attempt to answer such philosophical questions as the existence of an afterlife. The vast darkness of the first movement was intended to represent the funeral of the hero who had been celebrated in the previous symphony. It is followednote  by an idyllic slow movement, a sarcastic scherzo movement, and a haunting mezzo-soprano aria, "Urlicht". As is typical of Mahler, each of the early movementsnote  introduces themes which re-appear in the finale to create a sense of musical unity.note  The finale opens with a full orchestral ROAR lifted from the climax of the scherzo, and the music that follows, a depiction of the summons to the Last Judgement and the dead rising from their graves in response, is by turns mysterious and turbulent, with occasional brass calls from offstage. After building to a shrieking re-statement of the opening, as though the world itself is torn apart, the music fades into near silence for a passage titled "Der grosse Appell" ("The great appeal") in which birdcall-like flutes onstage answer the very distant-sounding offstage players. Finally, the choir makes its hushed, heart-stopping entrance with the words "Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n wirst du, mein Staub, nach kurzer Ruh'!", set to a melody first hinted at in the opening movement.note  The final 7-8 minutes are where things really take off, with a duet between the soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists recalling both "Urlicht" and the first half of the finale building to an ultimately triumphant coda featuring an organ as well as the full orchestra. The organist is literally instructed to "pull out all the stops", and the moment when it plays its first chords, with the full choir belting out "Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n wirst du, mein Herz, in einem Nu!", is one of the most transcendent moments in classical music.
    • Any live (professional) performance of the mammoth Symphony No.8, The Symphony of a Thousand, is almost guaranteed to be an awesome experience for both performers and audience, with a score calling for eight vocal soloists (three soprano, two alto, one each tenor, baritone, bass), two full choirs, a children's choir, and a massively augmented orchestra.note  The nickname "Symphony of a Thousand" was intentional hyperbole on the part of music critics, but most performances involve at least five hundred musicians. Though it is in just two movements, the second movement is nearly an hour long and is a full setting of the final scene of Goethe's Faust, as various angels discuss what to do with the now deceased title character's soul, and it combines slow movement, scherzo, and finale into a vast epic which answers the musical questions posed by the first movement, a setting of the Latin hymn "Veni, creator spiritus". Particular highlights in a live performance include the very opening bars of the first movement (where the Resurrection waits until near the end to introduce the organ, the Symphony of a Thousand introduces the organ in the first measure), the full choir bellowing "Accende, accende lumen sensibus!" and the ensuing double fugue, the Pater Ecstaticus' first solo in the second movement ("Ewiger Wonnebrand"), and the buildup to the triumphant orchestral coda in the symphony's final minutes. Mahler himself knew he'd written something quite remarkable (it was the first symphony to feature choral passages throughout rather than in just a few movements), and in a letter to conductor Willem Mengelberg, he wrote, "Try to imagine the whole universe beginning to ring and resound. There are no longer human voices, but planets and suns revolving."
  • Mexican music is underappreciated so here's Danzon no.2 by Arturo Márquez.
  • Pietro Mascagni may only be known today for his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (a case of First Installment Wins, as it was his first opera), but it packs an incredible amount of awesome into its short runtime.
    • It takes a tenor of Olympian fortitude to get through the "Siciliana" serenade without rushing through it or cracking. It requires blasting off from a standing start, at top volume, at the very top of the tenor range, from backstage or sometimes under the stage. And it occurs in the middle of the overture to the opera.
    • The rich vocal harmonies of "Regina coeli" (the "Easter hymn") are an utter delight for the ears.
    • The soprano aria "Voi lo sapete" is a real tour de force for the singer playing the role of Santuzza, as she explains the opera's tangled romantic plot to her former lover's mother.
  • William Mathias's Salvator Mundi, a 7-part Christmas cycle for women's choir, piano, and percussion. Particularly recommended are the creepy Mirabile Mysterium, the beautiful Lullay, and the joyous Welcome, Yule.
  • Nikolai Medtner lives in the shadow of his compatriot and friend Rachmaninoff; both composers were talented pianists who continued to write in the Romantic idiom when it was widely seen as outdated, and both lived their final years in voluntary exile from post-Revolutionary Russia (Rachmaninoff in Beverly Hills, Medtner in London). Medtner's music is generally less accessible than Rachmaninoff's, but there is still much awesome to be found in it.
    • Among his three piano concerti, the most spectacular are No.2 in C minor,note  with its sweeping, technically brutal opening movement and its charming second movement which leads straight into the sprightly finale, and No.3 in E minor, a "concerto-ballade" whose first half is based on a poem about the love of water spirits for a drowned knight and whose second half is an expansion of the story by Medtner showing the knight's eventual redemption, the music vast in scope and ingenious in construction from start to finish.
    • The last of his three violin sonatas, No.3 in E minor ("Sonata epica"), is every bit as epic as its subtitle suggests. The massive first movement is almost an entire musical journey on its own, by turns mysterious, agitated, jaunty, triumphant, sombre, anguished, with many chances for the violinist to show off technical brilliance and emotional sensitivity, and it contains many musical ideas which recur in the later movements. The tense scherzo, heart-rending slow movement, and tragedy-to-triumph journey of the finale round off 40 very exhilarating minutes.
  • Felix Mendelssohn is rightly regarded as one of the greatest composers of the early Romantic Era.
    • The incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream is a masterpiece from start to finish. The Overture was originally written when Mendelssohn was just 17, and includes themes for the fairies, the royal court of Athens, the four lovers, and the tradesmen (including a "braying" motif for when Bottom is given a donkey's head). Fifteen years later, he wove the content of the overture into a full set of musical cues for Shakespeare's play, of which the two most famous are the flighty Scherzo between Acts I and II and the Wedding March between Acts IV and V, awesomeness of epic proportions (especially in its original version for full orchestra). There's a reason it has become a standard wedding recessional in many countries.
    • His Violin Concerto in E minor is concentrated awesome from start to finish. The surprise transition between movements in which the dramatic final chord of the first movement dissipates, only for a single bassoon to hold its note and lead straight into the second movement, is a particular highlight.
    • The Hebrides Overture (AKA Fingal's Cave) is a brilliant piece of thematic music, perfectly portraying the turbulent seas and mysterious caves of its namesake island group on the Atlantic coast of Scotland. The opening few phrases came into Mendelssohn's head almost as soon as he saw the colourful basalt pillars of Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa, so powerful were their effect on him, and this power comes through in every note in the music itself.
    • Though the symphony as a musical form was at something of a low ebb for most of Mendelssohn's life, his own contributions to the symphonic canon are among the best of the post-Beethoven, pre-Brahms era.
      • Symphony No.3 in A minor (Scottish) was started on the same walking tour of Scotland that produced the Hebrides overture, with his initial inspiration coming from a visit to the ruins of Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh. While it had a much longer gestation period (thirteen years), the end result was worth the wait, with first and third movements that evoke images of the wild moors and heaths of the Scottish countryside, while the second and fourth movements are inspired by Scottish dances (the second in particular is based on the Scotch snap), all making for a superb musical love letter to Scotland.
      • Also inspired by European travels is Symphony No.4 in A major (Italian), which was ultimately finished before No.3. Inspired by the life and colour of Italy, Mendelssohn opens with an infectiously lively sonata allegro, moves on to a solemn slow movement inspired by the sight of a religious procession near Naples, and after a graceful minuet, he rounds things off with a furious saltarello, an Italian jumping dance; surprisingly, the finale begins and ends in A minor instead of A major, but is so adrenaline-charged that it never feels like a Downer Ending or even a Bittersweet Ending.
      • Mendelssohn had an uneasy relationship with his father's decision to convert the family from Judaism to Lutheranism, but that didn't stop him from composing the excellent Symphony No.5 in D major (Reformation) in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1830. The finale, built around the melody of the familiar hymn tune "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" by Martin Luther, is especially moving.
  • "To this we've come" from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti. Passionate, desperate, and incredibly powerful.
  • Further awesomeness from the 20th century: Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphonie, 5th Movement.
  • Modest Mussorgsky may only be remembered for two pieces, but what pieces they are:
    • "Night on Bald Mountain", used for a memorable (if nightmare-inducing) segment of the original Fantasia. There's also the even rarer original version that included the operatic vocals and it actually sounds even better.
    • Pictures at an Exhibition sounds a bit thin in the original version for solo piano, but then Maurice Ravel came along and scored it for orchestra and found all manner of subtleties of colour and texture in the suite widely viewed as Mussorgsky's masterpiece. Particularly amazing bits are the instantly hummable (if deliberately rhythmically uneven) "Promenade" theme that re-appears throughout the suite,note  the alternately frantic and sinister "Gnomus", the hauntingly nostalgic "The Old Castle" (Ravel gave the melody in his version to an alto saxophone, a rarity in orchestral music at the time), the plodding "Bydlo" (Ravel gives the ox-cart driver's song to a solo tuba, also a rarity at the time), the frenzied and otherworldly "Hut on Fowl's Legs", and the majestic conclusion that is "The Great Gate of Kiev", especially the moment when the "Promenade" theme enters about halfway through.
  • Conlon Nancarrow was a modern composer who liked to write pieces that no human could possibly play. These pieces might be impossibly fast or precise, contrapuntal lines at different tempi (and strange tempo ratios), and some very thick counterpoint. Obviously, if nobody could play these pieces, there could be a problem in finding performers. His solution? He wrote them for player piano, a piano that plays itself. The results are startling and rather spectacular. He did this partially as an extension of the harmonic theories of Henry Cowell, previously mentioned on this page.
  • Carl Nielsen is the most widely known composer to come out of Denmark, and while he may not enjoy the same fame as his counterparts in Norway and Finland, Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius, he still wrote a great deal of awesome music.
    • The second movement of his Symphony No.3, Espansiva, is a balsamic Pastorale, with a soprano and a baritone vocalizing softly in the background. Sublime.
    • Symphony No.4, Inextinguishable, more than lives up to its subtitle (referring to the composer's appraisal of the human spirit as, well, inextinguishable), especially in the finale when Nielsen calls for the thunder of Dramatic Timpani from both sides of the stage, the timpanists almost duelling with each other.
    • The second movement of his Symphony No.6, Semplice, is delightfully weird: a small group of wind and percussion instruments goofs around and bumps into each other, finds a melody snippet or two, gets heckled by a yawning trombone, and then fizzle out.
    • His Clarinet Concerto from 1928 features a battle between a poetic, wildly mood-swinging clarinet and an aggressive snare drum and is a strong contender to the title "Best clarinet concerto not written by Mozart".
    • "The Fog is Lifting", from the incidental music to Moderen, is a beautiful little nature piece for flute and harp. It is a Standard Snippet on Danish television for idyllic landscapes, and rightfully so.
    • Nielsen was also a popular composer of melodies for songs and hymns. He wrote more than 200, many of which are still sung today. The most popular one is his melody to "Jens Vejmand" (Jens the Roadman), which is a perfect match to the quiet socially indignant text about a poor, old roadman, who paves roads for others all his life, but when he dies, after a life full of stones, he is only given a rotten board to mark his grave.

    Composers O-Z 
  • Jacques Offenbach is one of the most enduringly popular French composersnote  from the generation between Hector Berlioz and Gabriel Fauré, and he is one of the most influential theatrical composers from 1800 onward.
    • It may be impossible to listen to the Galop (AKA "The Can-Can") from Orpheus in the Underworld without picturing Chorus Girls straight out of a painting by Edgar Degas or Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, but that's what makes it awesome, with a level of sheer energy that is infectious enough to tempt many listeners into joining the dancers on the stage.
    • Offenbach didn't live to see the premiere of his opera The Tales of Hoffmann, and so he never saw the powerful effect the duet "Belle nuit", more commonly known as Barcarolle, can have on an audience, its gently swaying accompaniment evoking images of Venetian gondoliers making their way down the city's canals even before the melody first appears.
  • Tarik O'Reagan needs a page of her own for her awesome Latin chant revamps. For example, Columba Aspexit.
  • Carl Orff may only be remembered for his song cycle Carmina Burana, but it has still given us enough awesome music to ensure that his memory will endure.
    • The opening "O Fortuna" is one of the most instantly recognisable pieces in all of classical music, and with good reason.
    • "In Taberna Quando Sumus", an Ominous Latin drinking song.
    • Bacce bene venies as well. Istud vinum bonum vinum vinum generosum... Redit vinum curialem probum animosum!
    • Also Tempus est iocundum, which might just be the happiest song ever written.
      "O, o, o,
      Totus floreo!
      Iam amore virginali totus ardeo!
      Novus, novus, novus amor est
      Quo pereo, quo pereo, quo pereo!"
  • Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D, another of the most instantly recognisable works in all of classical music. It is sometimes joked that if a classical enthusiast is asked to identify a piece of classical music used in film or television, 90% of the time the answer is either Pachelbel's Canon or Orff's "O Fortuna".
  • Paganini's fiendishly tough caprice #24 as played by Jascha Heifetz. There's a reason why no one is allowed to surpass Paganini in sheer awesomeness of all that he could do with a violin. As for Heifetz, his playing of this piece is something very unique. To make it more awesome, this is likely the most widely viewed classical video on Youtube, and Heifetz himself runs into several millions of views overall which further cements his place as one of the greatest violinists ever.
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina lived during the Renaissance and is considered basically the best composer of the styles contained therein. Specifically he mastered Renaissance polyphony, the art of setting the same melody into multiple voices, letting them start at different times and letting them lock together, in chord and syllable, almost by accident. There is almost nothing under his name that isn't beautiful.
  • Sergei Prokofiev is perhaps the most famous composer from Soviet Russia, and left many awesome pieces for future generations to enjoy.
    • "Dance of the Knights" (AKA "The Montagues and Capulets") from Romeo and Juliet, instantly recognisable to UK listeners as the theme from The Apprentice. The perfect music to accompany any scene of armies on the march.
    • Prokofiev added several gems to the symphonic canon over the course of his career.
      • By far his most popular symphony, partly as it is the shortest, merriest, and most musically accessible, is No.1 in D major, the Classical. With the symphony, he tried to answer the question "What sort of music would Joseph Haydn write if he were alive today?" (meaning 1916), and came up with a meditative slow movement and a wryly humorous gavotte bookended by a sonata allegro and a finale packed to the gills with energy and charming melodies. While the formal and tonal language owes a lot to Haydn (and Mozart), Prokofiev put an individual and memorable spin on said language with more contemporary harmonic progressions.
      • Just behind No.1 in terms of popularity and frequency of performance and recording is No.5 in B-flat major, which consists of a tightly constructed yet leisurely paced sonata allegro, a tense scherzo, a hauntingly nostalgic slow movement that builds to a tense climax before ebbing to where it began, and a lively finale with a surprisingly dark coda that hints more at B-flat minor than B-flat major. Prokofiev was one of the few major composers who was particularly skilled at weaving a piano into orchestral pieces so that it functions not as a featured soloist but as another orchestral instrument, and Symphony No.5 is a fine example of this.
      • Symphony No.6 in E-flat minor is one of Prokofiev's most underrated works. The first movement builds to an especially dark climax; seldom has a major-key resolution sounded so menacing. And although the other two movements both begin and end in major keys, there is no sense of triumph, especially in the shrieking coda of the finale (which comes after a reminiscence of the minor key first movement). It also features particularly adept use of the piano as an orchestral instrument across all three movements.
    • Prokofiev's five piano concerti are all awesome in their own way, but a few stand out.
      • The intensely emotional No.2 in G minor is a masterwork, if also one of the most brutally difficult concerti in the standard repertoirenote . From a first movement dominated by an almost five-minute long solo cadenza of ever-mounting technical ambition that builds to an apocalypse-like restatement of the enigmatic opening measures by the full orchestra, to a blazing perpetual motion scherzo that powers along at almost ten notes a second, to a violent intermezzo heralded by a thundering ground bass in the lower orchestra instruments which returns in epic style for a climax that sounds like the forces of Hell unleashed, to a finale with a lullaby-like main theme bookended by frenzied dance sections in which the soloist gallops and/or hops across three or four octaves and back again, the savage technical demands hardly let up for a moment, and must be seen, not just heard, to be believed. To add to the awesome, Prokofiev wrote it when he was just 22 years old.note 
      • From the serene opening clarinet solo to the non-stop fireworks of its final pages, No.3 in C major seizes the listener by the collar and never lets go. After the slow introduction, the strings practically buzz with excitement before the piano bounds straight to centre stage for nearly ten minutes of breathless exhilaration (with a brief interlude recalling the introduction). The second movement presents a solemn, songlike theme for a set of variations that explore a wide emotional range, and the finale flanks another island of shimmering sonority with adrenaline rushes, particularly in the coda; the ascending-descending double note scales as the concerto gallops full speed to its triumphant final measures must, again, be not just heard but seen to be believed (especially if the soloist plays them as written rather than "cheating" and playing them as glissandinote ).
    • The Symphony-Concerto in E minor is one of the most blisteringly difficult cello concerti ever written; any cellist who can pull off a successful rendition is almost guaranteed to send your jaw crashing to the floor. It boasts a slow first movement that alternates a strident, marchlike motif (similar to one found in Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet) with a haunting contrary motion scalar figure, a fast second movement full of technically mind-blowing passages for the soloist, including an extended unaccompanied cadenza, and a third movement loosely structured as a theme and variations with an interruption in the form of a folk tune first stated in the bassoon, all building to a final gesture by the cello in the very, very top of the instrument's register.
    • Of Prokofiev's nine piano sonatas, the most popular, with good reason, have long been the three "war sonatas", No.6 in A major, No.7 in B-flat major, and No.8 in B-flat major, written during World War II when he wasn't under as many state-mandated stylistic restrictions. Highlights include the harsh descending parallel thirds that recur throughout the first and last movements of No.6, the wild 7/8 ride of the finale of No.7, and the coda of the finale of No.8 which ties up the many disparate ideas that have come before.
  • The works of Giacomo Puccini include many of the most awesome operas ever written.
    • La Bohčme. All. Of. It. But ESPECIALLY "O soave fanciulla" and "Quando m'en vo" (a.k.a. Musetta's Waltz). If you hear opera in a movie or TV show and it's not "Flight of the Valkyries", there's a good chance it's this.
    • Tosca has more than earned its place as one of Puccini's most popular operas, and perhaps the highlights are the heartbroken arias "Vissi d'arte" (especially when performed by Greek-American soprano Maria Callas), sung by the title character as she laments having seemingly been abandoned by God in the face of the Trope Namer for Scarpia Ultimatum,note  and "E lucevan le stelle", sung by Cavaradossi as he reflects on his life while facing execution at dawn.
    • Madama Butterfly completes the triptych of some of the most frequently performed operas not just by Puccini, but by any composer. It is certainly not the most racially sensitive opera, but it still contains some truly outstanding music, especially the extended love duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton at the end of Act I, and the celebrated aria "Un bel di vedremo" from Act II, sung as Butterfly waxes romantic about Pinkerton's impending return, not knowing the unpleasant surprises that await her when he does. The orchestra's final cadence as Pinkerton finds Butterfly dead was harmonically unusual for the time, but certainly makes for a memorable conclusion.
    • Turandot was the opera Puccini was composing at his death, and it ranks among his best:
      • "Nessun Dorma" is possibly Puccini's most well-known composition, with Luciano Pavarotti making it one of his signature arias and Franco Corelli also having some thrilling moments with it. The last minute or so is the bit everyone knows:
        Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! (Vanish, o night! Set, stars!)
        Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincero! (Set, stars! At dawn, I will win!)
        VINCERO!
        VINCEROOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
      • Turandot also includes one of the most awesome and triumphant endings of all time. Consider the original version, particularly the last minutes — they are truly incomparable.
  • Henry Purcell is widely regarded as England's greatest composer from before 1800, for many reasons:
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau is second only to François Couperin among the most beloved French composers of the Baroque era. His keyboard suite in G minor and Rondeau from "Les Indes Galantes" are among his loveliest works.
  • The works of Maurice Ravel are an embarrassment of riches on the awesome front.
    • Maurice Ravel's Bolero. It's one of a very few pieces of music that, while repetitive, lacks for nothing, and that amazing, soul-inflating, spirit-lifting ending. Also, it's tied to a Moment of Awesome for the Winter Olympics: Torvill and Dean ice-danced to it and earned the sport's only perfect score, to date.
    • Ravel's F major String Quartet is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest - and most difficult - string quartets ever written. The fourth movement is absolutely spectacular.
    • Le tombeau de Couperin, a six-movement suite in which each movement is dedicated to a friend of Ravel's (in one case, two brothers) who died in the trenches during World War I, stands as one of his masterworks for solo piano, but for pure awesome, the concluding Toccata, a pure adrenaline rush with a triumphant major key coda, takes the crown.
    • Often overlooked is his exquisite and varied Mother Goose Suite (Ma Mère l'Oye), which ends with one of the most beautiful pieces of all time, Le Jardin Féerique.
    • The Piano Concerto in G major brackets one of the most gorgeous slow movements ever composed with two jazz-inspired wild rides to give us one of the early 20th century's masterpieces. His Concerto for the Left Handnote  is another masterwork, the beauty and drama of the music rising high above the "novelty factor" of only being written for one hand.
    • Gaspard de la Nuit, a three-movement suite for solo piano, is one of Ravel's most hauntingly beautiful works. "Gaspard" is derived from the Persian word for "guardian of the royal treasures", so the title of the suite hints at a guardian of the dark and mysterious, reflected in the otherworldly nature of all three pieces, each based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand. From the rapid repeated three-note chords in the shimmering "Ondine", to the B-flat octave drone imitating a tolling bell as other melodies and countermelodies wind around it in the sinister "Le Gibet", to the double note major second scales and shrieking climaxes in the unpredictable "Scarbo", the suite is as technically formidable for the pianist as it is fascinating for the listener.note 
  • While the entire piece is epic, the Cathedral Chorus (ending) of Alfred Reed's Russian Christmas Music is simply awe-inspiring.
  • The "Dies Irae" part of the Requiem Mass has inspired awesomeness in composers for centuries, as a number of entries on this page attest. "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is an example of a popular song inspired by the Dies Irae.
  • Respighi's Pini di Roma - so awesome, it influenced John Williams (and even more awesome when it accompanies humpback whales flying into the Aurora Borealis). Of special note is the final movement, "I pini della Via Appia" (The Pines of Appian Way), which has been described as follows:
    Misty dawn: a legion advances along the Via Appia in the brilliance of the newly-risen sun. Respighi wanted the ground to tremble under the footsteps of his army and he instructs the organ to play bottom B flat on 8', 16' and 32' organ pedal. The score calls for buccine - ancient trumpets that are usually represented by flugelhorns. Trumpets peal and the consular army rises in triumph to the Capitoline Hill.
  • The entirety of Liliane Riboni's "Jeanne d'Arc" album, a Concept Album retelling the story of Joan of Arc, Liliane herself in the role of Joan. For anyone lucky enough to own or track down a copy of this obscure record/CD/cassette, every second is epic. From "Ouverture" which gives us a taste of everything to come, "Lettre Aux Anglais (Un Grand Hahay)", a song that could only be described as 15th century Stadium Rock, the villain song "Pierre Cauchon", and the epic tear jerker finale "Rouén, Seras-Tu Mon Tombeau?", this album has everything that makes a classical album epic.
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is one of the more well regarded of the "Mighty Handful" of five Russian nationalist composers of the late 19th century, much of his music transcending Russian borders to have universal appeal.
    • By far Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous composition is "Flight of the Bumblebee", an orchestral interlude from his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan that is almost synonymous with music that hurtles along at breakneck speed and has been arranged as a solo for almost every instrument in the orchestra (and some outside it).
    • The Russian Easter Festival Overture. Part beautiful, part powerful and energetic, part takes your breath away... It's quite possibly one of the most epic overtures ever written.
    • Although the four-way 1872 collaboration between the members of the "Mighty Handful" (excluding Balakirev) on an operatic setting of Viktor Krylov's libretto for Mlada never quite reached completion,note  Rimsky-Korsakov composed his own setting of the libretto in 1889-90. The most celebrated movement from his opera-ballet is the Procession of the Nobles from Act 2, its sense of dignity and ceremony making it a popular processional march for graduations and the opening ceremonies of sporting events, including the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
    • Scheherezade, Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic setting of stories from Arabian Nights, is as epic in scope as the tales that inspired it. Highlights include the sumptuous second movement theme and variations, "The Kalandar Prince", and the emotionally intense love theme from the third movement, "The Young Prince and the Princess", one of the composer's most instantly familiar melodies and one of the suite's unifying musical ideas.
  • El Condor Pasa, by the Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles. So epic that Paul Simon inadvertently ripped it off when he was told it was a traditional tune, but the composer's son sued him for it in the friendliest way possible and the misunderstanding was cleared up. The Twelve Girls Band arrangement is arguably the most awesome, especially from 2.56 to the end.
  • Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo created some of the most enduringly popular works for classical guitar, which is all the more remarkable when one notes he didn't actually play the instrument (he was a pianist, and had been nearly blind since he was 3 years old). Far and away his most popular work is the Concierto de Aranjuez, inspired by the palace gardens at Aranjuez.note  While the doleful central Adagio is so powerful it is often performed separately from the outer movements, said outer movements are full of life, wit, and charm, creating vivid imagery of being surrounded by the serenity of nature.
  • Gioachino Rossini is one of the most regularly-performed opera composers.
    • By far Rossini's most popular opera is The Barber of Seville, with especially famous moments including its lively overture (frequently used in animated and live-action films and television, such as the Warner Bros. short The Rabbit Of Seville and the closing credits to The Beatles' film Help!) and "Largo al factotum", the introductory aria of the opera's cheerful protagonist, Figaro; the passage halfway through when he sings his own name over and over is one of the most widely referenced and parodied moments in opera.
    • The overture to The Thieving Magpie is one of Rossini's best, and full of Standard Snippets (most notably the easy-going clarinet theme from the centre section). It was used to great effect for several of the fight scenes in A Clockwork Orange.
    • Rossini's most famous single composition in many countries is the overture to William Tell, even if many people who live in those countries are unable to hear it without imagining The Lone Ranger and Silver galloping across the desert. And there's so much more to the overture than just the "Lone Ranger theme", which is the fourth of four major sections, the others including a solemn opening prominently featuring a solo cello, a terrifying musical storm, and a gentle pastoral (the second most familiar theme from the overture).
  • The second movement of John Rutter's Gloria.
  • Camille Saint-Saëns may be most well-remembered for Carnival of the Animals (a work so different to the rest of his output that he withheld it from publication until after his death), but the awesomeness in his music goes far deeper.
    • Symphony #3, commonly referred to as the "Organ" symphony because it uses that instrument. The most awesome moment is the entrance of the organ in the second half of the second movement, going from near silence in the orchestra to the full organ in an instant. Also marks the shift from C minor to C major. Here are the links for the entire symphony in all its glory.
    • "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix", from his opera Samson et Dalila. Seductive and perfect. Also the wild Bacchanal from Act III.
    • "Danse Macabre". The Grim Reaper rocking out to xylophone (in one of its first prominent appearances in western classical music) and Psycho Strings? Yes please! Play this on Halloween. Loudly.
    • Where Carnival of the Animals itself is concerned, there's Fossils, a gleeful parody of "Danse Macabre", complete with xylophone. And Aquarium, almost the perfect accompaniment for scuba diving or spacewalk scenes. And then there's the vibrant, humorous Finale.
    • Saint-Saëns composed five piano concerti, of which the most popular, with good reason, is No.2 in G minor, moving from an expansive, slow opening movement to a playful scherzo and a frenzied, tarantella-like finale that offers a real showcase for the pianist's skill. No.5 in F major, the "Egyptian", is also a half-hour of awesome from the sweeping grandeur of the first movement to the by turns mysterious and genial slow movement (which uses the overtones produced by the piano strings to remarkable effect in two passages) to the bouncy, virtuosic finale.
  • Erik Satie's "Trois Gymnopédies". Three short, but insanely beautiful pieces. Fittingly, many modern media use them, often the first, to enhance the impact of sad or emotional moments, to great effect; examples include MOTHER 3, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and My Dinner with Andre.
  • Domenico Scarlatti, a contemporary of Bach and Handel, wrote many, many sonatas for the harpsichord (555 if we go by the most widely used catalogue, compiled in 1953 by American harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick), but special mention goes to the whimsically named "Cat's Fugue" in G minor. The story goes that Scarlatti had a pet kitty named Pulcinella that liked to walk across the keyboard. The six unusually spaced out notes that make up the main subject is said to be a phrase the cat unwittingly played one time, which Scarlatti decided to note down and build a fugue on.
  • The Concert Etude in A flat, Op.1 No.2 by Paul de Schlözer is considered one of the most difficult piano pieces ever written and is four minutes of pure awesomeness. It is all the more impressive since the two Op.1 etudes are the only known pieces written by de Schlözer.note 
  • Robert Schumann is another master of the early Romantic Era, and more than delivers on the awesome front.
    • His Piano Concerto in A minor stands as one of the masterpieces of the genre. From the piano's opening flourish to the triumphant final chords, it is 35 minutes of pure awesome. Edvard Grieg liked it so much, he based his own piano concerto on it (using the same home key, an opening flourish in the piano, and even similar main themes).
    • Schumann's music for solo piano also contains many gems; for example, the Toccata in C, Op.7 is a huge adrenaline rush for both pianist and listener, the three-movement Fantasy in C, Op.17 has many moments of lyricism and drama (the buoyant yet technically demanding coda of the second movement is a particular highlightnote ), and the Arabesque in C, Op.18 contains some of Schumann's most charming melodies.
    • Though Schumann was not a prolific chamber music composer, he still left his mark on the medium with several enduring classics.
      • The jewel in Schumann's chamber music crown is the delightful Piano Quintet in E-flat major, widely regarded as second only to the Brahms quintet among supreme examples of the form. The joyful opening movement has plenty of interplay between the piano and strings, and is followed by an eerie, marchlike slow movement, a boisterous scherzo with two trios (one serene, one frenzied), and a masterfully constructed finale that starts out as a sonata allegro (while deferring a resolution into E-flat major until the recapitulation) before entering an epic-length coda that culminates with a double fugue on the main themes of the first and fourth movements.
      • Composed at the same time as the quintet, the Piano Quartet in E-flat major is likewise one of the finest examples of the form.note  Opening with a sonata allegro in which the slow introduction gives a preview of the main theme and then returns at several key structural moments, it moves onto a jittery scherzo, and a slow movement of pure tranquility in which the cellist is instructed to tune the C string down to B-flat for the coda - a coda in which the piano, violin, and viola gradually piece together what will become the main theme of the exuberant finale, which climaxes, like the finale of the quintet, with a fugue based on the two ideas that make up the movement's main theme.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich, the third titan of Soviet music along with Khachaturian and Prokofiev, has many, many moments of awesome music.
    • The Op. 87 set of 24 Preludes and Fugues for the piano are full of awesome moments for both composer and performer. Particular highlights include No.4 in E minor (one of two in which the fugue is built on two subjects; in the climax, both subjects enter in stretto (overlapping) simultaneously), No.12 in G-sharp minor (the furious first half of the fugue, written in 5/4 time, is especially exhilarating), No.15 in D-flat major (especially the sheer, unending energy of the fugue), No.21 in B-flat major (from a moto perpetuo prelude to a fugue of ever-building energy), and No.24 in D minor (an epic journey from tragedy to triumph).
    • Among major 20th century composers, Shostakovich was one of the more prolific composers of symphonies, with fifteen to his name, and there are some real winners among them.
      • The finale of No.5 in D minor is brilliant and exciting, always climbing up by semitones and pushing the tension up further with each step, along with judicious use of Dramatic Timpani.
      • Although Symphony No.7 in C major (Leningrad) has always been a polarising work (Béla Bartók is known to have hated it), it went a long way toward sustaining the morale of the Soviet people during the Nazi invasion (its first performance was broadcast on loudspeakers outside the city so that the German army could hear that Leningrad's spirit had not been broken). The grandeur of the opening theme and the sheer menace of the "invading army" theme that starts about five minutes into the first movement and, through the Bolero Effect, grows ever more imposing until the snare drums sound as though they're hammering straight through the skin of their instruments are some of Shostakovich's most powerful musical moments.note 
      • The third movement of No.8 in C minor opens with a violent perpetual motion theme in the violas, and remains one of the composer's most fascinating yet terrifying orchestral movements.
      • No.9 in E-flat major, written at the behest of Josef Stalin who commissioned it as a celebration of victory in World War II, completely mocks the idea of a grandiose celebratory symphony in favour of a more "folksy" style. Far from being the bombastic victory ode Stalin expected, it sounds like Shostakovich's own answer to the question posed by Prokofiev's Classical symphony: what sort of music would Haydn write if he were alive in the 20th century?
      • Popular rumour holds that the downright frightening second movement scherzo from Symphony No.10 in E minor is a musical portrait of Stalin (who was dead by the time the symphony was composed - had there been a whiff of the movement being "dedicated" to the dictator while he was alive, Shostakovich would have been in front of a firing squad within hours). Whether or not this is true, it is four minutes of unrelenting musical horror, worlds away from the eventual major key triumph in the coda of the finale.
    • For the lighter (yet still awesome) side of Shostakovich, there's Waltz No.2 from the Suite for Variety Orchestra, along with his Festive Overture, which gets bonus points for possibly being a celebration of the death of Joseph Stalin the previous year.
    • Tahiti Trot, if you know the backstory: a conductor friend played a recording of 'Tea for Two' to the 22-year-old Shostakovich, and bet him 100 roubles that he could not do a complete orchestration from memory in 1 hour. He did it in 45 minutes.
    • Shostakovich's concerti for various soloists and orchestra include some of his most accessible and awesome works.
      • The Piano Concerto No.1 is scored for an orchestra comprising a solo trumpet and a string section; while the piano gets its fair share of fireworks, the solo trumpet really takes off in the finale, to great effect.
      • Although his Piano Concerto No.2 is by far the less technically demanding of his piano concerti,note  it is one of the few Shostakovich pieces to feature an atmosphere approaching pure joy in the first and especially third movements. The haunting second movement is also six minutes of outstanding beauty.
      • His Violin Concerto No.1 taxes the soloist's skill to its very limit, especially in the turbulent scherzo, the weighty passacaglia, the massive cadenza for unaccompanied violin, and the boisterous finale.
      • The Cello Concerto No.1 includes a gleeful parody of one of Stalin's favourite songs in its sardonic finale. The three movements leading up to it (a tense Allegro dominated by the soloist, an eerie, sparsely-scored slow movement, and a virtuoso cadenza for unaccompanied cello) are also packed with awesome.
    • Shostakovich ranks just behind Ravel and Bartók when it comes to 20th century composers of string quartets. Though most of his fifteen quartets function as a musical personal diary (especially the most frequently performed of them all, No.8 in C minor, which is dominated by his "musical monogram" of "D E-flat C B"note  and includes quotes from multiple previous compositions of his), describing thoughts and exploring musical ideas that Stalin's government would never have allowed to be made public, there's some awesome mixed in with the intensely emotional journeys, particularly in the early quartets.
      • Quartet No.2 in A major goes from a brash opening Overture to a nuanced Recitative and Romance (the first violin gets extended time in the spotlight in the recitatives bracketing the romance) to a spooky Waltz in which the four instruments play with mutes throughout - in spite of which the music manages to build to a hellish fortississimo climax in the middle - to a grim Theme and Variations in which the energy of each variation is turned up further and further to a furious release in the form of a re-iteration of the movement's introduction, another appearance of which closes out the quartet in A minor instead of A major.
      • Though Shostakovich never really stood by the "horrors of war"-inspired "programme" he officially published for the five movements of Quartet No.3 in F major, the shift from an opening movement of outward calm with tension just below the surface (with an especially clever fugato passage on its main theme in the development) to two scherzi, the first tense and the second pure, unrelenting fury, followed by a sombre slow movement and a finale that seems to be trying to pick up the pieces certainly puts one in mind of a terrifying cataclysm and its aftermath.
    • These moments, however, all come with the caveat that many of Shostakovich's ostensible moments of awesome are often alternatively interpreted as hollow triumphs, the music wearing a big fake plastic smile to hide inner grief and torment (much like Shostakovich himself for much of his life). Moments frequently interpreted in this way include the aforementioned finale of Symphony No.5 and the concluding prelude and fugue in D minor from Op.87. This does not detract from their quality, but it does add a rather sinister edge to many supposed triumphant conclusions in his works.
  • Jean Sibelius is Finland's most famous composer, and his music became an integral part of the country's search for its national identity in the early 20th century, but even non-Finns can find plenty to love about his music.
    • Finlandia, one of many tone poems doubling as a love letter to Sibelius' homeland.
    • The Swan of Tuonela guards the realm of the dead in Finnish mythology, and Sibelius' depiction of the singing swan gliding slowly over the dark waters of Tuonela is wonderful.
    • Sibelius is widely held to be one of the 20th century's greatest symphonists, and with good reason; he experimented with form in a way few composers had done since Beethoven, and still managed to fill every page with charming melodies and emotional power.
      • Symphony No.2 in D major puzzled early critics, but audiences loved it, from the first movement in which the main musical ideas initially appear as fragments and only assemble into a coherent whole during the development (an inversion of traditional sonata allegro structure), through the haunting slow movement, the urgent scherzo, and the finale whose grandeur and eventual triumph is now regarded as a musical depiction of Finland's struggle for independence and optimism for the future. It remains one of his most popular symphonies.
      • Symphony No.5 in E-flat major is the main competitor with No.2 for the title of Sibelius' most popular symphony. From an opening movement that fuses sonata allegro and scherzo in a way that defies analysis to this day, to a serene slow movement framed as a set of variations, to the soaring "swan call" finale that ends with six sudden outbursts from the full orchestra, it sticks in the memory long after the final unison E-flat.
      • Symphony No.7 in C major is a formal masterpiece that unfolds over just one movement but packs so many memorable ideas into that frame, and it has quite possibly the greatest (and most enigmatic) ending of any piece of classical music.
    • His Violin Concerto in D minor, opus 47 is a favorite among the virtuosos, and rightfully so - not least as it frequently rates as one of the most technically difficult in the violinist's standard repertoire.
    • Sibelius also had his upbeat moments. The March from the Karelia Suite, Opus 11 is full of jaunty cheer.
  • Bedrich Smetana was the first major Bohemian/Czech nationalist composer, and remains one of the most beloved.
    • Ma vlast (My Country/Homeland) is a set of six symphonic poems, each poem depicting some aspect of the countryside, history, or legends of Bohemia.
      • The second poem, "Vltava" (sometimes referred to by its German title, "Die Moldau"), depicts the river that runs through Bohemia towards its junction with the Elbe; it is Smetana's best-known and most internationally popular orchestral composition, and rightly so.
      • While not as famous as "Vltava", the other poems of Ma vlast are not without awesome, especially the first, "Vysherad", where the harp and song of the bard Lumir recreates the glory and fall of the ancient castle Vysherad of Prague, is goosebump-inducing.
    • Second behind "Vltava" among Smetana's most famous works is his outgoing, energetic overture to the opera The Bartered Bride. From the initial burst from the orchestra introducing the overture's two motifs, to the string sections entering one or two at a time with the second motif as the music builds to the triumphant entrance of a third theme, to a tapestry weaving all three ideas together, and ultimately to an exuberant coda, it is six and a half minutes of exhilaration and delight.
  • Robert W Smith, anyone? The Ascension, Inferno, Paradiso, Into the Storm.
  • Although Dmitri Shostakovich frequently worked his "musical monogram" of "D E-flat C B" into his music, Scottish composer Ronald Stevenson outdid him many times over with his gigantic Passacaglia on DSCH, dedicated to Shostakovich himself.note  Over 70 minutes long, the piece repeats a seven-bar version of the "DSCH" theme throughout as it moves through a huge variety of musical forms including a sonata allegro, a Baroque-style dance suite, several sets of variations on other themes, a percussive tribute "to emergent Africa", and a concluding triple fugue on the DSCH theme, Bach's musical monogram (B-flat A C B-natural), and the "Dies irae" plainchant theme. It is truly a thing of wonder when performed live or recorded.
  • Anything by the Strauss family... Most notably the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss I (which many Austrians wish were the country's national anthem), and the Blue Danube Waltz and Thunder and Lightning by Johann Strauss II.
  • Richard Strauss may not have been related to Johann Strauss father and son, but his music is just as instantly familiar, and just as awesome.
    • Although most of Strauss' chamber music consists of youthful works in a style that borrows heavily from Mendelssohn, the cello sonata and the violin sonata are highlights of the late 19th century repertoire for their solo instruments, demonstrating a keen grasp of the musical and technical possiblities the cello and the violin provide. The pseudo-improvisational slow movement of the violin sonata is especially clever.
    • Strauss' most remarkable concert work for soloist and orchestra is the Burleske in D minor, a real showpiece for any pianist and orchestra up to the challenge. Much of the melodic material of the work is contained in the four-measure opening phrase for solo timpani, and while the piano part is full of both technically incandescent and emotionally potent music, the timpanist is given the last word as well as the first to tie things up neatly.
    • The tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra is Strauss' masterwork. While the score for 2001: A Space Odyssey was still being composed, Stanley Kubrick played this among other pieces to provide atmosphere during filming, and liked the effect so much he made it the centrepiece of the film's official score (along with the "Blue Danube" Waltz by the other Strauss); the opening "Sunrise", one of the musical embodiments of the word "epic", still conjures majestic images of planets and stars.
    • His "Four Last Songs", for soprano and orchestra, written towards the end of his life, when Germany was devastated after World War II, are among the most beautiful and grandest sad music ever written: "At Sunset" (Turn up your speakers!)
  • Igor Stravinsky grabbed classical music by the collar and dragged it - kicking and screaming at first, but eventually more willingly - into the twentieth century.
    • The Rite of Spring shocked its first audiences with its musically violent depiction of a Virgin Sacrifice. It's now regarded as one of the greatest works of its era, and rightly so. Walt Disney liked it so much he made it the only work by a living composer to be incorporated into Fantasia.note 
    • Listen to the finale of The Firebird and weep.
    • The majestic Symphony of Psalms was named by Time magazine as the outstanding classical composition of the twentieth century, its settings of verses from Psalms 38, 40, and 150 carrying the listener on a wave of glorious music to realms usually unreachable by mere mortals.
  • The operettas of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan may be viewed as lightweight fluff, and when they're not, they're generally parodying heavy-handed drama through exaggeration, but the duo still sprinkled a wealth of outstanding tunes throughout their work.
    • "For he is an Englishman" from H.M.S. Pinafore is one of Gilbert and Sullivan's many affectionate parodies of patriotic songs, but it is by far the most catchy and memorable.
    • The patter song to end all patter songs, "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" from The Pirates of Penzance, may be the pair's most well-known composition, and is an awesome moment not just for them but for any singer who can get through it without stumbling. For that matter, the opera also contains two brilliant examples of counterpoint, first "How Beautifully Blue the Sky" and "When the Foeman Bears His Steel", which is also the Trope Namer for Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die.
    • Iolanthe, as well as featuring a beautifully orchestrated overture that spins together six songs from the operetta,note  includes one of the great choral entrances of the Savoy operas in "Loudly Let the Trumpet Bray" (AKA The March of the Peers). Although the onomatopaeic imitations of trumpets and drums help to present the Lords as pompous twits (before their dialogue firmly establishes them as such), it still manages to be one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most stirring collaborations.
    • Koko, the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, is generally played as an utter buffoon, but his entrance song, "Behold the Lord High Executioner", is one of the operetta's highlights. Another is the song immediately following, "As Someday It May Happen" (AKA the "Little List" song), which Gilbert deliberately wrote in such a way as to allow the cast and crew to tailor the lyrics to skewer whichever contemporary objectionables they saw fit to ridicule, and which many a Koko through the years has used to hilarious effect.
    • Sullivan's overture to The Yeomen of the Guard weaves fragments of six songs and/or instrumental cues from the rest of the operetta to create a triumphant introduction to one of their most popular collaborations.
  • Thomas Tallis, a 16th-century English composer of choral music, wrote a 40-part chorale, called Spem in Alium. It was written for 8 separate five-voiced choirs. The voices in this song will lift up your soul and carry it off to heaven.
  • Speaking about being carried off to heaven, Sir John Tavener's amazing "Song for Athene" was probably unfamiliar to most Americans until it was played the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.
  • Ophelia's Mad Scene from Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas. Thirteen minutes long, incredibly difficult, and incredibly haunting.
  • Modern classical, but classical still: composer Christopher Tin of the Video Games example Baba Yetu, released an album called "Calling All Dawns." This album can basically be described as more than an hour of Awesome Music. A song cycle depicting day, night, and dawn, it is made up of 12 songs (including an epic reorchestration of Baba Yetu itself). Each song is sung in a different language, each segues smoothly into the next, sometimes with no break, and the album ends on the same sequence of notes with which it began. And it is stirringly, tear-jerkingly beautiful.
    • Special Awesome Music mention goes to "Rassemblons-Nous" (Let Us Gather), which from the title sounds like it would be some type of Kumbaya song, but in French. Instead, it's a techno-backed anthem about giving destiny the finger, building a La Résistance against death itself, and pure, unmitigated AWESOME.
    • "Kia Hora Te Marino" needs a mention too. Sung in Maori, it would make for a great anthem for peace. More or less, it's a powerful ending to an incredible album.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams has more than earned his place as one of the most beloved English composers.
    • The Lark Ascending. It is often presented in concert or recorded programs along with Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, which is heart-stirring and emotionally rending without ever being sappy.
    • Fantasia on Christmas Carols, especially once the "Come All You Worthy Gentlemen" part starts at roughly 4:25 (depending on the recording). Near the end, the choir is alternating verses of "Come All You Worthy Gentlemen" and "The Sussex Carol".
    • Vaughan Williams' symphonies: No.7, known as Sinfonia Antarctica (adapted from his score for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic), and No.5 in D major, especially the second movement. And his Norfolk suite. It is said that Vaughan Williams more than anyone matched the epic mode of Tolkien.
  • Giuseppe Verdi stands with Wagner and Puccini as one of the three most celebrated operatic composers, having written a number of the most frequently performed operas.
    • "Va, pensiero" from Nabucco, also known as the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, is a good introduction to his music.
    • "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto is operatic hypocrisy at its catchiest, as The Casanova Duke of Mantua sings about how it is women who are the fickle ones, never giving their affection to the same man for more than a few moments at a time. It gets a memorable Dark Reprise in the opera's final scene when, as the Duke wanders past in the background while singing the aria, Rigoletto comes to the horrible realisation that the body in the sack he is holding is not the Duke's after all...
    • "Vedi! Le fosche", AKA the "Anvil" Chorus, from Il Trovatore is another of Verdi's most familiar operatic moments, with a chorus of gypsies hailing the dawn of a new day, punctuated by the metallic clang of hammers on anvils, that is guaranteed to rouse any spirits.
    • "Libiamo ne' lieti calici", the brindisi or "drinking song" from Act I of La Traviata, is pure joy from start to finish (worlds away from the opera's inevitable tragic conclusion), with an instantly recognisable melody that hops back and forth across an interval of a major sixth.
    • La forza del destino opens with a powerful overture that combines one of the most compelling "fate" motifs outside Beethoven's Symphony No.5 (a unison E, played thrice) with the haunting melody of the aria "Invano, Alvaro". The melody in question was memorably adapted by Jean-Claude Petit into the score of Claude Berri's 1986 cinematic duology Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources.
    • The dignified Triumphal March from Aida is one of the greatest musical encapsulations of a celebration of victory, and has become a favourite at graduations and similar ceremonies.
    • The "Dies irae" from Verdi's Requiem Mass brings new meaning to the phrase "Day of wrath". It was used to great effect in the opening cinema of Quidditch World Cup.
  • Louis Vierne is often held up as Exhibit A in the argument that in the late 19th and early 20th century, the greatest organists and organ composers were based in France.
    • Vierne wrote two sets of 24 pieces in all the major and minor keys for organ, reminiscent of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. One of the most stunning pieces from the earlier set, entitled "Pièces en style libre" ("Pieces in free style"), is No.21 in B-flat major, Carillon de Longpont. The motoric ostinato which dominates the piece is based on the melody of the chapel bells from the Chateau de Longpont, and Vierne's treatment of it radiates grandeur and splendour from every note.
    • Vierne's second set of 24 pieces in all the major and minor keys for organ, "Pièces de fantaisie", is so vast he had to publish it as four separate sets of six, every one a winner. In the first set, following the buoyant Prélude, the eerie Andantino, the unsettled Caprice, the jaunty Intermezzo, and the solemn Requiem Aeternam (the main theme of which quotes the "Dies irae" plainchant theme), the final piece is the triumphant Marche Nuptiale in B-flat major, a recessional march that swells with pride and majesty from the opening block chords in the manuals through to the double octave triplets in the pedal in the final measures. The return of the opening melody in the pedal three-quarters of the way into the piece is especially powerful.note 
    • The second set of "Pièces de fantaisie" opens with the doleful Lamento (notable for its very forward-looking harmonic language) and the graceful Sicilienne (which has a truly radiant final-measure minor-to-major transition), and also includes the serene Clair de Lune (one of the most frequently performed and recorded pieces across all four suites, it is also forward-looking in its harmonies and features two-voice counterpoint in the pedals in its centre section). The other three pieces in the set are where the true awesome appears:
      • The exuberant Hymne au Soleil in G major shines every bit as brightly as the celestial body to which it pays tribute, the four-voice chords in the manuals in the outer sections filling every inch of the room (or church) with a melody that returns in glorious fashion in the piece's final third.
      • The restless Feux-follets in B minor darts in and out, suddenly building and just as quickly cutting off, painting a compelling musical picture of the will-o'-the-wisp, lights that flicker and flash and then vanish just as swiftly as they appear, leaving us wondering if we imagined them.
      • The set finishes off with the brutal Toccata in B-flat minor, technically demanding and emotionally dark. With its perpetual motion semiquavers over octave hops back and forth in the pedals, it charges along like a runaway train, retreats into the shadows for the softer yet more ominous centre section, and finally re-emerges, culminating in a dense double note passage in both hands followed by block chords over a virtuoso pedal passage, its fires burning brightly to the very end.
    • In the third set of "Pièces de fantaisie", the first three pieces are the reverent Dédicace, the playful Impromptu (another of the most frequently performed and recorded pieces across all four suites, it has a real sense of fun even before it hops from minor to major for the coda), and the shimmering Étoile du soir. The second three pieces are where things really take off:
      • The spooky Fantômes in C-sharp minornote  opens with heavy chords posing the question of "the Evoker": "Who then prepares the future?" The bulk of the piece is a five-way attempt to answer this question. A recurring arugment sets "the Young Esthete", whose parallel octave arabesque theme states that the future is his since he is free, against "the Old Pedant", whose Gregorian chant-inspired theme claims that the future is his as he guards the traditions. They are interrupted twice, first when "the Negro" and his sprightly theme suggest that the future belongs to the dancer, and second when "the Monkey" and "the Beggar" alternately declare that future is in the hands of, respectively, fancy and misery (the latter represented by a hurdy-gurdy-like rendition of "O Sole Mio"), all while "the Evoker" repeats the question. But it is Fate itself that has the final, hushed word about the future: "It is nowhere and everywhere."
      • With the towering Sur le Rhin in E-flat minor, Vierne pays homage to the river separating France and Germany. The outer sections feature a theme that is equal parts majestic and intimidating, and in the conclusion of the piece, it is accompanied by parallel octaves in the pedal, all building up to a spectacular block chord passage in which the minor key clouds finally part for what is easily the most transcendent major resolution of the six that appear across all four sets.note 
      • By far the most well-known piece in the collection is the sparkling Carillon de Westminster in D major. Vierne starts with the full set of melodies played by the famous "Big Ben" chimesnote  and constructs a spectacular virtuoso toccata around it that builds to a conclusion every bit as monumental as the clock tower to which it pays homage, especially as the "hour chimes" are condensed into a twelve-note figure that booms forth from the pedal in the coda.
    • The fourth set of "Pièces de fantaisie" gets going even sooner than the first three. After opening with the charming Aubade and the haunting Résignation, Vierne finishes off the set of twenty-four pieces in style:
      • The gargantuan Cathédrales in A major, which takes longer to perform than any other piece across all four sets, opens with a pedal theme that returns in the piece's climax, every bit as glorious and majestic as the cavernous interiors of Gothic cathedrals - particularly Vierne's beloved Notre Dame de Paris - to which it pays homage, ultimately giving way to a serene coda that almost functions as a benediction after all that has gone before.
      • The flighty Naïades in B major features a perpetual motion triplet figure that swoops and soars, occasionally played in counterpoint with a songlike figure as the water spirits represented by the piece call out to passing sailors before swimming down below the sea's surface and then up again.
      • The sinister Gargouilles et Chimères in F-sharp minor pays tribute to the exterior of the Gothic cathedrals from two pieces earlier, opening with gloomy parallel chords in the manuals and leading to sudden fast outbursts that are as compelling as they are grotesque.
      • Though somewhat overshadowed by the other tribute to English bells, the majestic Les Cloches de Hinckley in E major is still a worthy finale to the massive "Pièces de fantaisie" collection. It takes its cue from the descending scale played by the church bells in the village of Hinckley and sculpts a whirlwind of organ brilliance around it, anchored by a chorale-like melodic figure and culminating with 28 consecutive descending scales in the right hand that somehow never seem to get old.
    • Among his organ symphonies, the first movement of his Third, with the opening motif popping up again and again throughout, is brilliantly written to show off the instrument's range and the organist's talent,note  making Ominous Pipe Organ a thing of beauty and majesty in and of itself.
  • Antonio Vivaldi ranks behind only Bach and Handel among famous composers of the Baroque era. Though he is most celebrated for his concerti for soloists and orchestra, helping to elevate the form to one of the most important in classical music, he was also a prolific composer of operas and sacred vocal music.
    • The Four Seasons is a set of four violin concertos, one associated with each season, and they rank among the most famous classical pieces ever composed.note  All four give the solo violinist plenty of opportunities to show off, and Vivaldi's career as an operatic composer gave him a keen sense of how to paint pictures with music. Each concerto is accompanied by a sonnet (sometimes attributed to Vivaldi himself) that describes the scenes portrayed in the music.
      • The first movement of Concerto No.1 in E major, La primavera (Spring), is the best known of the twelve movements across all four concerti, with an instantly recognisable main melody and interludes representing birdsong, the flow of a brook, and a sudden spring storm that ends almost as quickly as it began. The second movement is more sombre, with a violin drone imitating the dog of a snoozing goatherd, but the joys of spring return in full force in the dancelike third movement.
      • Concerto No.2 in G minor, L'estate (Summer), suggests that Vivaldi didn't care for the hottest months of the year. The first movement radiates heat so oppressive even the musicians can only play a few notes at a time (apart from another interlude of birdsong), while the second movement paints a musical picture of swarms of insects, and both movements foreshadow the furious summer thunderstorm that breaks in the finale, the most exhilarating movement across all four concerti. The accompanying sonnet suggests that we are seeing summer through the eyes of a farmer fretting over the approaching storm, and we can almost feel his despair as his crops are destroyed by the hail and heavy rain.
      • The upbeat mood returns for Concerto No.3 in F major, L'autunno (Autumn), at least at first. The opening movement is a merry gathering of villagers for food and drink, but before we even reach the end of the movement, the villagers' overindulgence has left them too tired to move, and they sleep right through the cool breezes of the harmonically unstable second movement. The boisterous "hunting party" finale is another of the most famous movements of the set, with ferocious pizzicato from the orchestra to imitate the blast of hunting rifles, and when the prey, fatally wounded, finally dies... the hunters simply gallop off into the sunset, making plans for the next hunt.
      • Concerto No.4 in F minor, L'inverno (Winter), has a chill in the air in its first movement, the soft opening measures conjuring up images of snow falling, and tremolo passages later in the movement imitating chattering teeth. The serene slow movement, another of the set's most famous, imagines a scene by a fire as cold rain falls against the windowpane (represented by pizzicato arpeggii), while the finale paints a scene of people trying to keep their footing on the icy ground. There is a strange sense of delight below the surface throughout the concerto, confirmed by the accompanying sonnet which concludes, "This is winter, but what joy it brings."
    • Vivaldi was one of the first composers to write concert works for flute and orchestra, and the most awesome of his flute concerti - and possibly the first flute concerto ever composed - is Op.10 No.1 in F major, nicknamed "La tempesta di mare" ("The sea storm"). The title, one Vivaldi used for several of his concerti, is perhaps a bit misleading, as far from being stormy, the concerto is full of joy and life in its outer movements, with plenty of opportunities for the flautist to show off technical prowess, while the second movement provides a moment of solemnity.
    • The most famous of Vivaldi's sacred vocal works is the Gloria in D major. Although there are awesome moments in the early movements (such as the sprightly "Laudamus te" for solo soprano and alto and the buoyant "Domine Fili unigenite" for full chorus), Vivaldi saves the best for last; singing the concluding double fugue on "Cum Sancto Spiritu" makes you feel ten feet tall.note 
  • Richard Wagner may be the main focus of satires of operatic excess, but that's only because there's so much awesome to satirise.
    • Ride of the Valkyries. Sure, it's Music of Note, but it's still CMOA. Unfortunately, this one's picked up a few nasty connotations due to the Nazis' usage of it. But then, it could be argued that more people associate Ride of the Valkyries with Apocalypse Now than with Those Wacky Nazis. Or with Bugs Bunny - "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" Or the tank driver in StarCraft.
    • Also, Götterdämmerung. Oh hell, all of Der Ring des Nibelungen is pretty amazing.
    • Looking beyond the Ring, the Pilgrims' Chorus from Tannhaüser is outstanding.
  • British composer William Walton started out in the 1920s as a wild, anti-establishment avantgardist (check out his Facade from 1922). So it is a bit ironic that he is mainly remembered for writing music with a high helping of Patriotic Fervor:
    • When George VI was crowned in 1936 Walton wrote the awesome Crown Imperial march, which has since been played frequently at festive occasions in the House of Windsor.
    • Sixteen years later, when George's daughter Elizabeth was crowned, Walton did it again with Orb and Sceptre.
    • During WWII Walton drove ambulances and wrote music to morale-boosting films. His rousing music to The First of the Few, a (highly romanticized) biopic about John Mitchell, the man who constructed the Spitfire fighter plane, became an instant success and was later made into the triumphant Spitfire Prelude and Fugue.
  • In 1988, a kid named Eric Whitacre entered the University of Nevada with plans to become a rock star. But somehow he ended up in the choir instead, and since then has been turning out piece after piece of dramatic, breathtaking music in the classical style. He wrote his first piece, "Go, Lovely Rose", at 20, and his dream came true: amongst the choral-music community, he is a rock star, equaled only by the work of Morten Lauridsen. "The Seal Lullabye" (commissioned for the movie that became Kung Fu Panda), "Water Night", Pirates of the Caribbean's "Mermaid Song" (co-written with Hans Zimmer)... this guy's done it all. Perhaps his most surreal piece is "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas!", an affectionate pastiche of every cliche Las Vegas music act out there. For best results, watch the slideshow behind the ensemble and/or read Whitacre's program notes while listening.
  • Charles-Marie Widor, one of the teachers of Louis Vierne (see corresponding entry), was one of the undisputed masters of music for organ.
  • Tempered Steel by Charles R. Young; if you don't like it that much, try being backstage while an ensemble is playing it.
  • The Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka is a hidden gem among Baroque composers; he counted Bach and especially Telemann among his close friends and advocates of his music.note  He was a master of counterpoint in both vocal and instrumental music, but also more adventurous when it came to harmony and structure than many of his contemporaries. Try the six sonatas for two oboes and bassoon as a starting point; each one positively overflows with charming melodic ideas and expertly written three-voice counterpoint.

Alternative Title(s): Classical Music

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/AwesomeMusic/Classical