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


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  • Isaac Albéniz is one of Spain's most beloved classical composers, and his approach to technique and harmony deeply influenced his contemporaries and friends Debussy and Ravel. His masterpiece is Iberia, a suite of twelve pieces (in four books of three) for solo piano that represents the culmination of his lifelong fascination with Spanish, and more precisely Andalusian, folk music. Though he did not compose directly for the guitar, he had a keen sense of the instrument's role in Spanish music, and many of his works, including several movements from Iberia, have been arranged for guitar.
  • 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 Pope Urban VIII 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, Johann Pachelbel, 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 the famous "Fanfare for the Common Man". It's like an Overly Pre-Prepared 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,note  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.
    • Among Couperin's chamber works, the four Concerts royaux are the most frequently performed and recorded, and represent some of his most successful marriages of French and Italian influences.note  Standout moments include the gentle Prelude and the hand-in-glove counterpoint of the Menuet en trio from No.1 in G major, the imitative call-and-response of the Allemande fuguée and Air contre-fugué and the hypnotic Echos from No.2 in D major, the contrapuntally dense Prelude and strident Chaconne from No.3 in A major, and the pair of Courantes (a stately Courante française and a flighty Courante à l'italienne) and exuberant Forlane from No.4 in E minor.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • His Symphony in C is three movements full of exquisite music. The first movement is a three-theme sonata form allegro. The second movement is in E minor and has only two themes, but also modulates a few times. The finale wraps everything up with a spirited rondo.
    • 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.
  • Manuel de Falla ranks alongside Issac Albéniz and Enrique Granados as one of the greatest Spanish composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and by far his most famous composition is the "Danza ritual del Fuego" ("Ritual Fire Dance") from his ballet El amor brujo. The sinister trilling in the strings that opens the piece conveys a vivid image of flames burning brightly as an almost primal melody appears over it as the dancers on stage dance around, and sometimes over, the fire.
  • 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 in D minor 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.
  • Classical composers from Latin America tend to be overlooked compared to their counterparts from Europe and (to a lesser extent) the United States, and Exhibit A for the case that they deserve more attention is Argentina's Alberto Ginastera. His Piano Concerto No.1 ranks among the most savagely difficult piano concerti ever composed, blending European influences with South American sensibilities to create something truly remarkable. The first movement bookends a set of variations with furious passages showcasing the piano, and follows this with a scherzo that takes the opposite tack by bracketing a dramatic centre with more mysterious episodes. The otherworldly atmosphere continues through the viola solo-led slow movement, but its solemnity is swept aside by the violent concluding "Toccata concertata", the most original and terrifying of the four movements, and a true Moment of Awesome for any soloist and orchestra up to the task.note 
  • 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:
  • Charles Gounod remains one of the more popular French composers from the mid-19th century, having contributed substantially to the reputation of grand opera in Paris.
    • Gounod's most famous opera, Faust, boasts the Soldiers' Chorus, which is basically War Is Glorious in musical form. 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 ressuscité!"), backed by pipe organ and brass fanfares, is absolutely majestic, as a celestial choir proclaims Marguerite's salvation and she ascends into Heaven.
    • Gounod's version of "Ave Maria", based on the C Major Prelude in J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1; Gounod's arrangement is sometimes misattributed to Bach himself! It also, ironically, is often transposed to keys other than C Major.
  • Spanish composer Enrique Granados is most well-remembered for his piano suite Goyescas, inspired by the work of his fellow countryman, painter Francisco Goya (though more by his artistic style than by specific paintings); the highlight of the suite is the fourth movement, "The Maiden and the Nightingale", full of rapid arpeggiated figures and trills to imitate birdsong around more traditionally songlike melodies, all adding up to a sublimely beautiful few minutes of music.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Czech (more specifically, Moravian) composer Leoš Janáček is, stylistically, quite unlike any of his late 1800s/early 1900s contemporaries. Rather than tearing down tonality and re-building it as Arnold Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School did, he used his love of Moravian folklore and folk music to push the boundaries of what conventional tonality could do, and his approaches to harmony, thematic development, and orchestration are remarkable in their originality.
    • The Sinfonietta might as well be subtitled "Why brass sections are awesome." As well as strings, woodwinds, harp, and percussion, it calls for brass forces including four horns, twelve trumpets, two bass trumpets, four trombones, two tenor or "Wagner" tubas, and a bass tuba. The fanfare played by the extra brass instruments in the first movement and its triumphant return in the finale (the only movement to bring together the entire brass section) are goosebump-inducingly powerful moments. Emerson, Lake & Palmer liked the fanfare so much, they used it for the song "Knife-Edge" on their eponymous debut album.
    • String Quartet No. 2, called "Intimate Letters" by the composer, was written 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 Libre Vermell de Montserrat: Cuncti simun concantentes - AVE MARIA!
  • Hans Christian Lumbye was the music director and in-house composer for Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen for almost thirty years and wrote tons of festive music that earned him the nickname "The Johann Strauss of the North". It was well deserved:
  • 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.
  • 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 was a compatriot and friend of Sergei 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 has been largely overshadowed by Rachmaninoff's, as it generally requires several listens to fully understand, but once given a chance, it reveals many dimensions of awesome.
    • 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 (Concerto-ballade), whose first half is based on Mikhail Lermontov's poem "Rusalka", the story of 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.
    • Medtner's fourteen piano sonatas include several which bend the traditional definition of the term "sonata" (they often refer to single-movement works, sometimes part of larger suites, that use the "sonata allegro" structure of introducing and developing melodic ideas), but they collectively represent the Romantic piano sonata's last hurrah, and include some of his most stunning compositions.
      • Medtner got off to a flying start with the Op.5 sonata in F minor, the only one to follow a traditional four-movement structure - and even then, the last three movements are played continuously. It already shows Medtner's almost Lisztian gift for exploring many facets of the same melodic ideas and for using those ideas across movements; the haunted Intermezzo and prayer-inspired slow movement end with the same coda in different keys, the second theme of the exposition from the first movement plays the same role (transposed from minor to major) in the finale, and fragments from the first three movements show up in the last to bring things full circle before the triumphant, major-key coda.
      • The most popular of Medtner's piano sonatas in his lifetime was the Op.22 sonata in G minor, a compact work in a single movement with a slow F minor interlude that includes some of his most endearing harmonies. The exposition and recapitulation that frame it take some of their cues from the sonata's slow introduction, a technique of thematic development that Medtner was fond of using.
      • The Sonata-skazkanote  in C minor and the Night Wind sonata in E minor were published as a pair, but could scarcely be more different. Where the Sonata-skazka is a short, three-movement work that moves from a compact sonata allegro to a slow rondo to a finale that integrates themes from the first two movements, the Night Wind sonata is a vast, single-movement epic, the longest of Medtner's piano sonatas and a masterpiece of thematic presentation and development. The first half is a sonata allegro in 15/8 time, while the second half introduces new ideas alongside the melodies of the first half, until they all dissolve into a whirlwind in the piece's final pages.
      • Medtner published three suites under the title "Forgotten Melodies"; the first opens with the Sonata reminiscenza in A minor, a wistfully nostalgic single-movement work that has become his most popular sonata. The introduction is woven through several other pieces in the set, most notably the concluding "Alla reminiscenza" in which the motif of recollection finally transitions from A minor to A major to bring a sense of closure deliberately withheld from the sonata itself. Meanwhile, the second "Forgotten Melodies" suite ends with the diptych of the serene "Canzona matinata", with a troubled minor-key interlude, and the violent single-movement Sonata tragica in C minor, in which the minor-key melody from the preceding piece is cleverly woven into the exposition and development, only to be swept aside by the pessimistic recapitulation based on two very different versions of the same melody.
      • The Sonata romantica in B-flat minor and Sonata minacciosa in F minor were published as a pair, and though more similar than the Sonata-skazka (which is quoted near the end of the Sonata romantica) and Night Wind sonata, they are still very different works. The Sonata romantica is in four continuous movements; the opening Romanza is tinged with sadness, but builds spectacularly to the opening crashing chords of the angry Scherzo. The latter finally stomps off into the shadows, only for a single note to linger on into the reflective Meditazione, which raises more questions than it answers as it leads straight into a finale that, in both the development and the coda, unites the themes of all four movements in a masterstroke, with the sonata coming full circle as the first melody heard becomes the last as well. The single-movement Sonata minacciosa is a more experimental and chromatic work; the fugue at the centre of its development and its final shift to F major (where the Sonata romantica remains anchored in the minor mode throughout) are especially potent.
    • 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.
  • "To this we've come" from The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti. Passionate, desperate, and incredibly powerful.
  • Olivier Messiaen's music is characterised by a bold approach to scales and tonality which he described as "Modes of limited transposition", and while it takes some getting into, it's worth the effort.
    • The crown jewel of Messiaen's chamber music is Quatour pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) for piano, clarinet, violin, and cello, composed while he was a POW in Stalag VIII-A during World War II and inspired by a passage from the Book of Revelation. Its eight movements span a wide spectrum of emotions, from joyful anticipation of being received by God, to longing for a simpler time, to violence and chaos depicting the seven trumpets announcing the end of time. Messiaen matches the diverse emotions with diverse instrumental textures; the solemn third movement, "Abîme des oiseaux", is an interpretive tour de force for solo clarinet, the piano sits out the cheekily humorous fourth movement Intermède, and the heartfelt fifth and eighth movements, "Louange à l'Éternité de Jésus" and "Louange à l'Immortalité de Jésus", are duets for piano with cello and violin respectively.
    • Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus (Twenty Contemplations on the Infant Jesus) is the greatest of Messiaen's solo piano compositions, a two-hour testament to both the "modes of limited transposition" and the composer's deep Catholic faith. The twenty pieces in the set approach the "subject" of the infant Jesus from every direction imaginable, yet are bound together by several recurring themes, creating an extraordinary sense of both unity and diversity at the same time.
    • Among Messiaen's orchestral works, the apex is the monumental Turangalîla-Symphonie, an epic in ten movements for piano, ondes Martenot (an early electronic instrument producing theremin-like sounds), and expanded orchestra.note  The piece is inspired not, as is usual for Messiaen, by Catholicism, but instead by the great love stories, especially Tristan and Iseult, and the most important unifying musical idea across the symphony is nicknamed the "love theme". Highlights include numerous technically blistering solo cadenzas for the piano; the dizzying dance of the fifth movement, "Joie du Sang des Étoiles", in which the lovers' union is imagined as a cosmic transformation; the transcendent sixth movement, "Jardin du Sommeil d'amour", which sees the "love theme" receive its heart-stopping first full presentation; the savage, atonal seventh movement, "Turangalîla 2"; and the boundless sense of joy and fulfillment as the "love theme" is belted out by the full orchestra in the finale.
  • 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.
    • Unusually for a composer of orchestral music, Nielsen was also a popular composer of melodies for songs and hymns. He wrote music to more than 200 songs, many of which are still sung today. The most popular one is "Jens Vejmand" (Jens the Roadman), where the melody is a perfect match to the quiet socially indignant text about a poor, old roadman, who spends his whole life paving the roads for others with stones, but is only given an old, 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 of 23 of the 254 poems from Carmina Burana, but it has still given us enough awesome music to ensure that his memory will endure.note 
    • The opening (and closing) chorus, "O Fortuna", is one of the most instantly recognisable pieces in all of classical music, and with good reason. From the opening with the full chorus bellowing "O! FOR-TU-NA! VEL-UT LU-NA! STA-TU VARIABILIS!" to the hushed, otherworldly murmuring of the rest of the first verse and the second to the "all Hell breaks loose" fury of the third verse (starting with "Sors salutis! Et virtutis!") that rushes toward a final triumphant shift from minor to major, it is a truly transcendent experience for performer and listener alike.
    • "In Taberna Quando Sumus", an Ominous Latin drinking song. In the tavern, according to the words, no-one thinks of death; they're just there to drink and gamble - some will win, some will lose. The song then treats us to two long lists - one of the people whose health is toasted by the drinkers, and one of the identities of the drinkers themselves. Finally, the singers say that they are the ones who are cursed and are destitute in spite of all the merry drinking that goes on, and curse those who slander them.
    • "Tempus est iocundum" might just be the happiest song ever written, a celebration of the exhilaration of newfound love.
      "O, o, o,
      Totus floreo!
      Iam amore virginali totus ardeo!
      Novus, novus, novus amor est
      Quo pereo, quo pereo, quo pereo!"note 
  • Johann Pachelbel is a One-Hit Wonder par excellence in classical music, which is a shame, as his music goes so much deeper than the one piece by which most listeners know him.
    • The "one hit" in question is his 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".
    • Interested in seeing what there is to Pachelbel besides the Canon? Start with his keyboard works.
      • Hexachordum Apollinis is a collection of six sets of variations on original themes,note  and as well as codifying the practice of composers writing variations on their own themes rather than on existing religious or secular melodies, they represent the apex of Pachelbel's keyboard output. The technical and emotional spectrum covered by each set of variations is truly remarkable, as is Pachelbel's ingenious use of stringed instrument textures in some of the more elaborate variations.
      • The Chaconne in F minor is one of Pachelbel's finest organ compositions, presenting 22 variations on the same ground bass figure (which retreats into the background during some of the variations) that pick apart and re-assemble the harmonic progression rather than offering different perspectives on the melody.
  • Niccolò Paganini is widely regarded as one of the most technically gifted performers ever to pick up a violin (to the point that a popular rumour at the time was that he had sold his soul to the Devil to play so well), and he composed music so that he could perform it himself and show off his technique. The awesome factor is inevitable.
    • Paganini's most famous compositions are the 24 Caprices, Op.1, and the most famous of them is the fiendishly tough No.24 in A minor, here 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 among the most widely viewed classical videos on Youtube, and Heifetz himself runs into several millions of views overall which further cements his place as one of the greatest violinists ever.
    • Paganini's six violin concerti are sometimes accused of sacrificing musicality on the altar of virtuosity, but there are so many "How is that even possible??" moments in them that it's hard not to be spellbound. From the first performances, audiences were astonished by the technique Paganini needed to dash off long double stop scales in thirds, sixths, and octaves, double stop harmonics, seemingly endless passages right at the top of the violin's register that require incredibly precise intonation, rapid fire pizzicato, and so much more. The concerti also stand out for their pioneering use of "Turkish band" instruments such as bass drums, cymbals, and triangles. And as for musicality, you'll find plenty of that in the most famous movement from the concerti, the finale to No.2 in B minor, known as "La Campanella" because of its use of a small bell (usually rendered using a triangle). Franz Liszt - the piano's answer to Paganini - liked it so much he assembled an equally popular arrangement for solo piano (see his subpage for details).
  • 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. Try the Missa "Papae Marcelli" as a starting point; composed after the Catholic Church under Pope Marcellus II raised ever louder objections to the use of secular melodies in liturgical music, it instead uses fragments of Gregorian chant as its melodic building blocks, and shows that whatever Palestrina used as the thread for his contrapuntal tapestries, the results were pure heavenly beauty. The "Amen" at the conclusion of the Credo is especially glorious.
  • Christian Petzold might not be a particularly famous name, but there is a very famous piece to that name: the Minuet in G major, which was attributed to Bach until the 1970s due to its inclusion in the Anna Magdalena Notebook in Bach's handwriting; ol' J.S. neglected to list a composer for the piece in the notebook.
  • 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.
    • Among Rameau's surviving keyboard suites, the G minor suite stands out for almost entirely comprising character pieces, few more hypnotically fascinating than L'egiptienne, its whirlwind arpeggios and crossed hands creating a powerful image of a captivating, alluring north African girl.
    • The opera Les indes galantes was inspired by a visit to the court of Louis XV by a delegation led by Chief Agapit Chicagou of the Mitchigamea. It was coolly received in its earliest performances, but Rameau still had faith in the music, and repurposed it as a suite of concert pieces for solo harpsichord or orchestra. The Rondeau (sometimes subtitled "Les sauvages") is one of the most popular pieces from the opera, its driving rhythm anchoring a remarkable meeting of the minds between Native American and European artistic traditions.
  • 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.
  • 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 No. 3 in C minor, commonly referred to as the "Organ" symphony because it uses that instrument.note  The most awesome moment is the entrance of the organ in the second half of the second (and final) movement, going from near silence in the orchestra to the full organ in an instant; it also marks the point where the music shifts to C major.
    • "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 
  • 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 widely regarded as a musical depiction of Finland's struggle for independencenote  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.note  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. Where most symphonic movements rarely change tempo and frequently change key to provide contrast, Sibelius changes tempo frequently and only fleetingly moves away from C major and C minor; however, the presentation and development of the symphony's many memorable ideas feels completely natural throughout, and it has quite possibly the most enigmatic ending of any piece of classical music.
    • His Violin Concerto in D minor 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 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.
  • Tim Souster was a prolific British composer who dabbled in many different styles, both classical and modern, but was ultimately unable to escape the library music ghetto. Which is a real shame, as many of his compositions, such as "Assembly" and "Captivity"note , are quite inspirational.
  • 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.
  • The fame of Johann Strauss I rests almost entirely on the jubilant Radetzky March, a celebration of Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz' victory at the Battle of Custoza, and a piece which many Austrians wish were the country's national anthem. The melodies are instantly hummable, and every measure swells with pride and exhilaration.
  • Johann Strauss II followed in his father's footsteps as a composer, particularly of Viennese waltzes, which the elder Strauss may have codified but with which the younger Strauss remains synonymous.
    • Easily Strauss' most famous waltz is "An der schönen blauen Donau", better known in English as "The Blue Danube". While the main theme of Waltz No.1 is the most famous thanks to the instantly memorable interplay between a graceful rising arpeggio and its playful answer, the way the other waltz themes weave in and out of the spotlight until the theme of Waltz No.1 returns for the final word helps to make the entire piece a masterwork.note 
    • "Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald" ("Tales from the Vienna Woods") paints a compelling picture of the rural beauty outside Strauss' home city (ironically so, as Strauss had a deep fear of nature!) and the folk music traditions found there, emphasised by prominent use of a zither for several of the waltz melodies. The unusually long introduction sets up the pastoral atmosphere beautifully, and the first waltz melody, heard as the music finally settles into its nominal home key of F major, is a real winner.
    • Strauss assembled several waltz themes from his operetta Das Spitzentuch der Königin into the delightful "Rosen aus dem Süden" ("Roses from the South"), highlights of which include the playful upward leaps of the first waltz melody and the lyrical scalar motion of the second waltz melody.
    • The "Kaiser-Walzer" ("Emperor Waltzes") were composed in honour of a meeting between Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, and whatever one's opinion of said heads of state, the grace and dignity of the first waltz melody (hinted at throughout the introductory march) and buoyancy of the second waltz melody help to give the whole work an irresistible charm.
    • Strauss is also famous as a composer of polkas, and it doesn't get much more exciting than "Unter Donner und Blitz" ("Thunder and Lightning"), the dizzying ebb and flow conveying a vivid musical image of a summer storm.
  • 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.
    • From The Sorcerer, we have "My Name Is John Wellington Wells", a patter sales pitch for a witchcraft firm (and in this video sung by the original Darth Sidious).
    • "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.
    • Sure, The Mikado was a Tough Act to Follow, but Ruddigore has some truly spectacular tunes. "Welcome Gentry" culminates in the successful combination of two different time signatures simultaneously, "When the Night Wind Howls" is simply amazing, and "My Eyes Are Fully Open" is one of their best patter songs.
    • 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.
  • Georg Philipp Telemann was so insanely prolific, even by the standards of "working stiff" composers in the Baroque era, that he was listed in Guinness World Records for the sheer volume of his output (not least as he is far more fortunate than many of his contemporaries in terms of how much has survived). But what truly elevates him to awesome levels is the sheer diversity of his oeuvre; he was equally at home composing sacred and secular vocal music, solo sonatas and suites, concerti, chamber works, and orchestral works, for numerous combinations of instruments, for anyone from novices to virtuosi, incorporating elements of French, German, Italian, and even Polish music, and serving as an important link between Baroque and Classical music. Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel were among his biggest fans and personal friends.
    • One of Telemann's most enduringly popular collections of instrumental music is Tafelmusik, a collection of three "productions", each of which includes an orchestral suite, a quartet for three melodic instruments and continuo, a concerto for two or three solo instruments, a trio for two melodic instruments and continuo, a sonata for solo instrument and harpsichord, and a final movement from the orchestral suite. No two pieces use the same combination of instruments, and Telemann matches the astonishing variety of textures with a cornucopia of melodic and contrapuntal brilliance that reveals new facets of itself with every listen.
    • If you want more proof of Telemann's versatility, try Essercizii musici, a collection of twelve solo sonatas and twelve trio sonatas. The solo sonatas include two each for violin, transverse flute, viola da gamba, recorder, oboe, and solo harpsichord, while the twelve trio sonatas pair the six instruments off in every possible way except three (recorder/flute, violin/obbligato harpsichord, oboe/viola da gamba). The virtuosity demanded of the soloists is staggering, and once again provides the thread for a magnificent tapestry of melodies and countermelodies that ranks among Telemann's very best.
  • 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.
  • Louis Vierne was one of many French organists and composers to study under Charles-Marie Widor (see corresponding entry), and while he is justly remembered as an outstandingly talented performer,note  he also left a truly awesome body of work as a composer.
    • 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, 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 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 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, the first of the Pièces de fantaisie to fall squarely under Ominous Pipe Organ. Technically demanding and emotionally dark, with 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 Fantômesnote  opens with two heavy, dissonant chords posing the question of "the Evoker": "Who then prepares the future?" (the future of music, specifically). 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, another sterling example of Ominous Pipe Organ, 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. 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, the longest of the Pièces de fantaisie in most renditions, 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 is a contender for the title of most technically demanding piece across all four sets. It 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 pays tribute to the exterior of the Gothic cathedrals from two pieces earlier, opening with gloomy parallel chords in the manuals that mark yet another foray into Ominous Pipe Organ, and featuring faster outbursts based on three melodic ideas that are as compelling as they are grotesque.
      • Though somewhat overshadowed by the other tribute to English bells, the majestic Les Cloches de Hinckley 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 rapid descending scales in the right hand over block chords in the left hand and, eventually, half speed descending scales in the pedal.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • The fame of English composer Philip Heseltine, better known by his nom de plume of Peter Warlock, rests largely on the Capriol Suite, a collection of six dances originally composed for piano duet and later arranged for both string and full orchestras. The melodies were lifted from the 1589 dance manual Orchésographie by Thoinot Arbeau,note  but the harmonies (except those in the second movement Pavane) are entirely Warlock's own. Highlights include the strident opening Basse-Danse; the Bransles, a medley of several melodies from Arbeau's anthology with a lyrical major key interlude and a coda that keeps dialling up the tempo; the ethereally laid-back Pieds en l'air; and the concluding Mattachins, a sword dance that boasts the suite's most dissonant chords to represent the clash of the dancers' sabres.
  • 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 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;note  as well as possessing incredible technique, he had a keen sense of what the vast array of sounds available on the church and cathedral organs of his day could do, and composed pieces to take maximum advantage of it.
  • 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.
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