Classical Music Top 100 (Works 31–50)

Here you will find the works no. 31–50.
Continue to the works 51–80 here.

Works 31–50

31) Franz Schubert – Winterreise (1827)

Ian Bostridge (voice), Saskia Giorgini (piano)

In his song cycle Winterreise, Franz Schubert takes us on a wandering of the lyrical subject that begins with the disillusioned exodus from the city and ends with the Lyreman (death?).

You can find the full work presentation here:
Schubert, Winterreise Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

32) Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy – A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826/1842)

Royal Scottish Orchestra, RSO Junior Chorus, Alison Hagley (voice), Louise Winter (voice), Walter Weller (conductor)

A beginning like in an enchanted forest: Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins with four wind chords – with “reversed” harmonies! At the age of only 17, Mendelssohn wrote the overture, to which he later added an entire incidental music.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

33) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Eine kleine Nachtmusik („A Little Night Music“) (1787)

Concertgebouw Kamerorkest

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik („A Little Night Music“) seems so light, but the ornate treatment of the middle voices goes beyond the typical serenade of the time. Perhaps the work was intended more as a concert piece after all? Who knows.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Mozart, Eine kleine Nachtmusik („A Little Night Music“) Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

34) Robert Schumann – Piano Concerto (1845)

Hélène Grimaud, Thomas Hengelbrock, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Robert Schumann wrestled with his Piano Concerto for a long time: It took four years to develop a fantasy for piano and orchestra into an entire concerto. If one adds the two unfinished youth piano concertos, Schumann carried the idea of a piano concerto around with him for as long as 17 years…. Enormous.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Schumann, Piano Concerto Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

35) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Requiem (1791)

Orchestre national de France, Choeur de Radio France, Marita Solberg, Karine Deshayes, Joseph Kaiser, Alexander Vinogradov, James Gaffigan

The story of the creation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem is a veritable thriller: an anonymous commissioner, Mozart’s death during the working phase, a forged signature…. What more can you expect? 🙂

You can find the full work presentation here:
Mozart, Requiem Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

36) Tomaso Albinoni – Adagio in G minor (well...probably 1958)

The Modena Chamber Orchestra

Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor must be one of the most curious compositions in “classical music”… because most likely it has nothing to do with the baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni. It can be assumed that the piece is instead a free invention of an Italian musicologist from 1958, although the final proof of this is still pending.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Albinoni, Adagio in G minor Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

37) Johannes Brahms – Violin Concerto (1878)

Hilary Hahn, Paavo Järvi, hr Symphony Orchestra

Johannes Brahms was not a violinist himself, so he composed his only Violin Concerto in close consultation with his friend Joseph Joachim, one of the most important violinists of the time. But during the work there was quite a bit of „tension“ between the two…:-)

You can find the full work presentation here:
Brahms, Violin Concerto Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

38) Franz Schubert – Ave Maria (1825)

Ruth Ziesak, Ulrich Eisenlohr

Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria is insanely well known and often played at church services, weddings and funerals. However, the song is originally called something else: “Ellen’s Third Song” is the title, but thanks to the opening words (“Ave Maria”), the song has become much more widespread under its “nickname”.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Schubert, Ave Maria Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

39) Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 8 ("Pathétique") (1798)

Anastasia Huppmann (piano)

Beethoven’s Pathétique is like a burning glass: personal setbacks (incipient deafness), political turmoil (Napoleon), fiery passion (first movement) and intimate tenderness (second movement) are musically processed here – in less than 20 minutes! No wonder that this work is considered a “breakthrough” for Beethoven’s personal style.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 8 („Pathétique“) Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

40) Sergei Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 2 (1901)

Denis Kozhukhin, hr Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop

Well, that really doesn’t happen often: a piano concerto dedicated to a neurologist. In the case of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, that is precisely the case – the dedicatee Nikolai Dahl had treated Rachmaninov with hypnosis and thus freed him from a deep creative crisis.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No. 2 Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

41) Edvard Grieg - Peer Gynt (1875)

Kristiansand Symfoniorkester, Bjarte Engeset

A collaboration of the highest order, Edvard Grieg was invited by Henrik Ibsen to write the incidental music for Peer Gynt. Some of Grieg’s most famous pieces can be found in it, for example the “Morning Mood”.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Grieg, Peer Gynt Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

42) Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") (1803)

hr Symphony Orchestra, Andrés Orozco-Estrada

It broke all standards at the time: Beethoven’s third symphony, nicknamed “Eroica” (“The Heroic”), was considerably more extensive than the usual symphonies around 1800. The work is also an expression of Beethoven’s veneration of Napoleon – which was to change later…

You can find the full work presentation here:
Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 („Eroica“) Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

43) Johann Sebastian Bach – St. Matthew Passion (1727)

Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven

Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is massive in every respect: soloists, two (!) choirs and two (!) orchestras make music here for up to three hours, depending on the performance. The monumental work was initially forgotten after Bach’s death, but was then “unearthed” again in 1829 by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy 😉

You can find the full work presentation here:
Bach, St. Matthew Passion Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

44) Richard Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra (1896)

Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Janssons

When Richard Strauss composed Also sprach Zarathustra, he had a lot of literature in mind: Goethe’s Faust, for example, but above all, of course, the poetic-philosophical magnum opus of Friedrich Nietzsche. Strauss thus had his finger on the pulse of the times: Gustav Mahler was also considering setting Nietzsche’s work to music at the same time.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Richard Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

45) Ludwig van Beethoven – Für Elise („For Elise“) (1810/1822)

Lang Lang (piano)

The piano piece Für Elise („For Elise“) is one of Beethoven’s most famous compositions. Who the ominous dedicatee “Elise” is can only be guessed at to this day – there are at least four possibilities.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Beethoven, Für Elise („For Elise“) Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

46) Franz Schubert – String Quartet No. 14 ("Death and the Maiden") (1824)

Tetzlaff Quartet

With his String Quartet No. 14, Franz Schubert made a contribution to the eerily erotic motif of “Death and the Maiden,” which had been known since the Renaissance. The piece was written as part of Schubert’s “approach” to larger forms such as the symphony.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Schubert, String Quartet No. 14 („Death and the Maiden“) Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

47) Gustav Holst – The Planets (1916)

NDR Radiophilharmonie, Andrew Manze

The English composer Gustav Holst musically characterized the planets of our solar system in his orchestral suite The Planets: Mars is the “bringer of war,” Venus represents peace, and Mercury is the “winged messenger.” The effective sound power of Holst’s work had a great influence on the development of film music.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Holst, The Planets Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

48) Igor Stravinsky – Petrushka (1911)

Concertgebouw Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

Igor Stravinsky’s ballet music Petrushka was written between his two other major ballets (Firebird and Le sacre du printemps). The plot could be light and fun – after all, it’s about three puppets coming to life. But that’s not the case: instead, Petrushka ends fatally.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Stravinsky, Petrushka Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

49) Richard Strauss – Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks (1895)

WDR Symphony Orchestra, Semyon Bychkov

Richard Strauss actually wanted to write an opera about Till Eulenspiegel, but then it became the symphonic poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. In this early work Strauss shows his fine orchestration technique and virtuoso orchestral treatment, which later made him famous.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

50) Ludwig van Beethoven – Violin Concerto (1806)

Anne-Sophie Mutter, Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahav Shani

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his only Violin Concerto unusually quickly: unlike many of his other works, it was composed within a few weeks. The concertmaster of the Theater an der Wien at the time, Franz Clement, had commissioned it so that he could present it as a bravura piece at the Christmas concert in 1806.

You can find the full work presentation here:
Beethoven, Violin Concerto Explained (5-4-3-2-1 Method)

Continue to works 51–80...