Instrumental Classical Music: My Favorites

In this article, I discuss briefly my favorite instrumental classical music, focusing upon short pieces and movements from larger works. Any lover of classical music will soon find this task impossible — there's just too much from which to choose — so I guess I should have named this Hub “*Some* of My Favorite...”

I do not purport to be a learned music critic or historian, but as the phrase goes, ...I know what I like. I'm using the word "classical" loosely throughout this Hub — some of the works described below come from the Baroque or Romantic eras, and even the twentieth century. Also, some of my comments are aimed at more novice lovers of classical music.

Top Row: Paganini (Part of Caprices Theme) |  Bottom Row: Rachmaninov (Inversion: 18th Variation Theme)
Top Row: Paganini (Part of Caprices Theme) | Bottom Row: Rachmaninov (Inversion: 18th Variation Theme)

Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini - 18th Variation

This piece is a variation, that is, an alteration, of the previously composed Caprices by Niccolò Paganini.

The variation is, in fact, a passage played "upside down."

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, The Great Gate of Kiev

Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky helped stage an art exhibition in the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia to commemorate the life of his artist friend Viktor Hartmann, who died an untimely death in 1873. Mussorgsky then went on to compose a suite with ten movements, each inspired by a work at the exhibition. The Great Gate of Kiev is one movement.

Ludwig van Beethoven: 8th Piano Sonata "Pathetique," 2nd Movement

This piece may perhaps be best associated by classical music buffs of a certain age (ahem!) as the theme music used for the legendary radio program hosted by Karl Haas, Adventures in Good Music, which was syndicated throughout the world. It was composed by Beethoven when he was 27 and is thought by some to express youthful emotions. In music, "pathetique" refers to music affecting the emotions of pity, grief, or sorrow.

Handel: Water Music, Hornpipe

Handel's Water Music was a suite composed at the request of George I of England for a royal outing on the Thames River in which court members were floating on the royal barge, with another barge holding the musicians. When I was younger, I thought all the pieces were musical metaphors for water in nature. I still think of the Hornpipe as illustrating, in my mind's eye, an exuberant waterfall. If you don't know this piece, I assure you it sounds better than its name.

Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks, Overture — “La Paix, La Rejouissance”

Handel composed this suite to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. The different pieces were intended to illustrate various kinds of fireworks. The public performance of the music was accompanied by an elaborate fireworks display. A large stage had been built in London's Green Park for the musicians; however, during the fireworks display, it caught fire.

Chopin: Military Polonaise

This is usually thought to be a tribute to Polish nationalism, and was played daily by Polish Radio during the 1939 German invasion of Poland that began World War II.

Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata, Movement 1

Beethoven dedicated this to a young student, Countess Julie Guicciardi, with whom he had been in love. The sonata's great popularity in Beethoven's day puzzled him — he once commented "Surely I've written better things."

Johann Strauss II: On the beautiful Blue Danube

This is my single favorite piece of music of any kind — in my opinion, it's a nearly perfect work of art. Traditionally, it is played by the Vienna Symphony every year for its New Year's concert. The accompanying ballet is performed by the Vienna State Opera Ballet. Oddly, it was only moderately popular in Strauss' day — Strauss is reported to have said "The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success!" Fortunately for us, the devil left it alone.

Sibelius: Finlandia

This was written by Sibelius as a nationalist protest against the dominance of Imperial Russia over Finland at the time. It is often (incorrectly) thought to be the national anthem of Finland. Embedded within in it is the beautiful Finlandia Hymn, usually played as an oboe solo.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 "Pastorale," 5th Movement

Beethoven's Sixth was completed only a short time after his renowned Fifth Symphony. The lightness and pleasantness of the Sixth is thought to be Beethoven's demonstration that he was capable of that viewpoint, after the powerful "knocking of fate on the door" of the Fifth. The beautiful fifth movement of the Sixth Symphony was entitled Shepherds' song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm — it comes just after a movement representing a fierce thunderstorm in countryside. The entire Sixth Symphony was prominently featured in Walt Disney's 1940s feature-length animation Fantasia.

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, Movement 3, Part 2

This is one of my most favorite classical pieces, and is considered one of the more challenging concertos for a pianist. The third movement theme was more or less ripped off for the 1940s popular song Full Moon and Empty Arms.

Smetana: The Moldau

This is one of several tone poems composed by Smetana to celebrate his country — what is now the Czech Republic. The Moldau is a river winding through the country, and the music connotes the river's beginning as a small spring, growing in power, until it finally merges with the Elbe.

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, 3rd Movement

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos are considered to be emblematic of Baroque Era music (1600 - 1760). They are so-named because they were presented to Christian Ludwig, margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721. I like all the Brandenburg Concertos, but number 2 is my favorite. It was used as the theme song for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line talk show on PBS.

Now you 've read (and heard) what some of my favorite pieces of instrumental classical music are. Which of these pieces did you enjoy the most? What are some of your favorites that don't appear on my list? Please add a comment and let everyone know.

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Comments 63 comments

typeface profile image

typeface 4 years ago

All wonderful pieces! I love chopin and the romantics myself (Schumman, Schubert that sort of thing)

There is a newer composer who isn't exactly classical but does the most beautiful piano music. Look up Einaudi - I Giorni, its just gorgeous!

Great hub! :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

TF - Thanks for your comment! I like ANYTHING by Chopin - another favorite of mine is his Revolutionary Etude, written during the Polish 1831 uprising against Russia - in that music, you can almost SEE the rebelling people in the streets.......


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

12/22

Hi, Daisy, Well-written, exciting hub. You touched on one of my weaknesses--classical music. Mostly, I really get into the classical waltzes. They send me into a deep, sensory level that only this music can provide. Voted up and away. You have a great talent, Daisy. I cordially invite you to check out my hubs, that is if you want a good laugh. And I extend that invitation to you to be a follower of mine. I would love that. Merry Christmas and may music always flow in the areas of your heart and soul. Highest regards, Kenneth Avery, from Hamilton, a small northwest Alabama town that favors Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.


collegatariat profile image

collegatariat 4 years ago

Great list-- I agree with every one and would throw in all of Chopin's Nocturnes to boot. The 18th variation of the Rhapsody definitely deserves to be at the top of the list but if you haven't listened to the whole work I would encourage you to do so! Every time I listen to it I hear something new, something I didn't 'get' the last time. So many musical ideas, and so much genius in one work is incredible.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kenneth Avery - Thanks so much for your kind comments. I love waltzes as well - I particularly like dancing to them. In one ballroom class, I learned Viennese waltz which is faster than what Americans are used to. I will be delighted to check out your hubs, and I'm old enough to know where Mayberry was. Incidentally, remember the intro scene where Sheriff Andy and Opie are walking by a pond and Opie skims a rock across it? That was photographed in the Santa Monica mountains just north of Los Angeles!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

collegatariat: Thanks for your comments. I will take your advice and track down the other variations. Both Rachmaninoff and Chopin are composers who, imo, have this undefinable "THING", haunting melodies I guess, that mesmerize me. It's odd that the 18th variation was inspired by a violin solo by Paganini, because that's one musical form that I usually do NOT like.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Daisy...Wow, what a great comment you gave me. And thanks for taking time for me and my hubs. Yes, I do know the scene..which is the opening of the Andy show...I never knew where it was filmed. I always thought it was in a rural section of California that CBS owned. Wow. Thanks. This would make a terrific Andy Trivia question. IOU, big time.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 4 years ago

...must say once again my Miss Daisy of the Divine - another hub which will be posted with honor and pride to my Facebook page with a direct link back here - to let the world know about your classy presentations and yes I love classical music too - discovered many years ago when I saw Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and fell in love with Ludwig Van - I always start my day with classical when I am writing or online with my morning coffee - my favorite instrument is the viola da gamba and my favorite piece is Prelude to Act One by Verdi - his opera La Traviata ..... love this hub and the amount of time and effor you put into it - it's a great teaching tool too for the novice and should be installed into every virtual classroom in the cyber universe.

Will come back and make my way through of these wonderful videos here ....... lake erie time 1:55pm

Boxing Day


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Colin / Epi / Poet Laureate of HubPages,

Many thanks for your kind words and for the Facebook mention. My boyfriend keeps bumping me off the computer so he can listen to this Hub. (What a funny sentence that was!)

We have one computer at home and two 7" touchscreen tablets, so I sometimes have to use my Kindle Fire for my Hub writing. I'm working on a "favorite arias" article. I'll put a publication notice in FB when I've completed it.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Excellent selections Daisy, made more so by the actual videos of each piece. Bach is my favorite -- hard to believe but he was once almost forgotten. Voting this Up and Beautiful.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio,

I'm glad you enjoyed this article. It's nice that as writers, we can enjoy beauty without words.

My boyfriend sometimes listens to my Hub while he's in our computer room at home doing other work...

Listen...to...a...Hub


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I readily admit to being ignorant about classical music so this hub educated as well as entertained me...great job as usual.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Thanks so much for your kind words, Bill. Many pieces of classical music are used as movie themes and in television commercials.


Fullerman5000 profile image

Fullerman5000 4 years ago from Louisiana, USA

I took a classical music class in college thinking it would be an easy A. It was, but after that i fell in love with classical music. its so beautiful and very unappreciated. thanks for this hub. great work.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Ryan (Fullerman5000),

Thanks so much for commenting. I appreciate it. I think if some people would give classical music a chance, they would learn to love it, too.


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

This is a fabulous cannon of listening enjoyment. I LOVE the Blue Danube. I like the very intense classical music.. The Planets (especially Mars) by Holtz, Winter and Summer by Vivaldi, and the Sabre Dance. It seems I prefer the heaviest, most aggressive music in any genre. I love these suggestions and will check out a few I don't know. Awesome!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Tammy,

Thanks for reading and commenting in another of my Hubs. This article took a long time to write...because I kept stopping to listen to the music.

I think many people don't realize now beautiful classical music can be.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Very nice musical tribute to your favorite music. Shared!:)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Thanks so much, Sunshine. This type of Hub is a lot of fun to create.


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

This was a wonderful hub. The videos made it really stand out. I like all of these with the exception of a couple. If I had thought to do such a great hub I would also add Debussy's Afternoon of the Fawn. It's been a favorite since I was a child. Thank you so much for putting this together. I'm bookmarking to listen at will.


girltalksshop 4 years ago

Most of these pieces remind me of a time my mother use to read books to us before bed, sitting between our rooms with classical music like these chosen composers, playing on our little, portable record player while playing the 33's for atmosphere. Great hub! Thanks for sharing it. Voted up and useful. : )


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

I am a sucker for the Pathetique!


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

I have heard music of some legends/musicians and some are new to me, Daisy.

Surprisingly my kid is aware of all of the above. Gotta come back for a refresher course now :)

thanks and voted up as useful :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Cyndi,

Thanks for visiting another of my Hubs. I wish more people would be open to listening to classical music.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

Thanks for commenting. I agree with you...Pathetique is a beautiful piece.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

girltalksshop,

It's nice to meet you. Playing classical music recordings as background music for bedtime stories is a great idea!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Ruchira,

Thanks for visitng another of my Hubs. I appreciate it. I'm so glad you were introduced to some new pieces of music.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

There are so many emotions captured here by this wonderful smorgasbord of music you've compiled for us in one place. There is majesty, love, serenity, drama, tragedy, fear, passion, elegance and eternal enjoyment. There are some of my very favorite pieces of music here. Thank you with all my heart for putting them all together for our delectation. Daisy, you are a connoisseur of classical music. hugs.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thank you for reading yet another of my articles and commenting in it.

I greatly appreciate your continued support of, and appreciation for, my writing. It's wonderful to have a friend who has the same love of the performing arts and music as I do.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

I know nothing of Western Classical music. All I have heard is the names like Beethoven and Wagner.

Thanks for this interesting lesson.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Vinaya,

Thanks for listening to my Hub. I'm glad my article has expanded your knowledge of Western Classical music.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

You definitely have a fine taste in music! I am definitely a big Chopin and Rachmaninoff fan. My favorite composers, though, are Debussy, Liszt and Mendelssohn. A great pianist that does almost perfect renditions of Romantic/Modernist music would be Martha Argerich. Definitely give her a look!

Oh, on note about Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, it was written between 1901 and 1902 and was first played in 1901, but first recorded in the thirty's before Rachmaninoff's death in 1943.Full Moon and Empty Arms ripped off Rachmaninoff's greatest concerto :( I hate when that happens...

Other than that, this was an outstanding hub!

Oh, another thing to add: Did you know that a music notation program is named after Jean Sibelius? His music is some of the greatest in the Modernist Era. I would give my life to live in that time to meet him...

Again, outstanding job! Definitely learned a thing or two :)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Keith (KDuBarry03),

Thanks for reading my article and listening to the musical selections. I'm very impressed with your knowledge of music and musical history. Are you a musician? If I were to guess, I would say that you play piano.

I wouldn't call myself a musician, but I do have a 61-key electric keyboard. With my writing Hubs and working on consulting assignments, I don't have very much time for playing my keyboard.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I've never been a fan of classical music. Chances are I'll never be. Great hub tribute to the many musical talents!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Linda (Sunshine),

Thanks for visiting my Hub and commenting. There are so many musical genres, it's difficult to find enough time to experience all of them, and to be become a fan. The important thing is to experience and appreciate music.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

A great list. My favorite is always Beethoven. He is awesome. enjoyed your hub.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the music videos I selected.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

Fantastic, awesome hub! I'm afraid I have to admit I'm no expert on classical music; this hub is a very good presentation of some of the big names! Thanks.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mike,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I tried to select pieces of music that both the classical music lover and occasional listener would enjoy.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 3 years ago from South Africa

Daisy, this is the most beautiful selection of classical music. So beautiful, I feel like crying....

All of a sudden, again, I miss my job of 20 years at a music school, where I've heard classical music practiced by students on instruments of all kinds all day long, and then the concerts...

I wish I could have stayed there until my dying day. But sadly, there is a time to arrive and a time to depart. The school needed me for only 20 years, like a child needs a mother until he is big and old enough to take care of himself.

This is a beautiful hub!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Martie,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. What fun it must have been, working in the msic school!

Thanks, too, for your very kind words about my article. This Hub took longer to write than I anticipated. I kept listening to musical selections, trying to decide which ones to include.

Vladimir Horowitz playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is terrific, isn't it? How fortunate that so many great performances were preserved for all time!


MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

I *love* the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini---I know it from the "Somewhere in Time" movie soundtrack. The Pathetique is my favorite Beethoven Sonata; I used to have all 3 movements memorized (I play the piano) and find it tremendously moving. These are lovely choices and I was so pleased to see some of my favorites on your list too! The Bach Brandenburg Concertos are brilliant. The Moonlight Sonata is a classic that I wish everyone could hear. I also have to echo collegetariat's comment above about Chopin's Nocturnes---they are my favorite collection of classical music. Thank you for a wonderful reminder of the rich cultural treasures we have in these works.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Lurana,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading my article and adding your insightful comment. I appreicate your taking the time to do so.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I remember playing Beethoven's Pathetic on the piano as a child. I still love it today. Thank you for the lovely peaceful music video and sharing of the classical favorites.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Diana (teaches12345),

Thanks for reading, listing to, and commenting in my article. (I love saying "listening to my article"!) I appreciate your very kind words.

A few people have told me that they enjoy listing to the musical selections while doing other work on their computer. I think that's a great idea!


bivoj 3 years ago

Recently I've started appreciating classical music and I wanted to educate myself more in this genre, but I have no idea what to start with. So I wanted to say thanks for this list, where I found some beautiful musical pieces I had never heard before. Being Czech myself, I knew only Smetana's Vltava (Moldau) and I must say that it felt great that somebody beyond borders of my country appreciates this wonderful symphony... Sorry for my bad English.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

bivoj,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for visiting HubPages, reading my article, listening to the music, and posting your comment. I appreciate it.


chinesescore profile image

chinesescore 3 years ago from china

Famous composer and beautiful music.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

chinesescore,

Welcome to HubPages! It's nice to meet you. Thank you for reading my article and posting your comment.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Great choices, Daisy. I love classical music and enjoyed all your choices here. Great introduction for the newbie to classical music.


Kenneth Avery 2 years ago

This was a beautifully-written hub. Very in-depth. I love it when writers provide as many details of the topic as possible. You are a talented writer. I think I will leave you some fan mail and follow you, if I am not already.

My Best to you in all of your writing projects.

Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Suzette (suzettenaples),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I appreciate the support.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kenneth,

Thanks for reading my article and commenting. Thanks, too, for leaving fan mail for me.

Articles like this one are fun to write, but they take a lot of time...I keep stopping to listen to the music.


Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

A wonderful list of pieces from classical music. I am always amazed at how many commercials, TV shows and other media use classical music for background music.


sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

so musical an article


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Paula,

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. There are probably people who like classical music ... in commercials, television programs, movies ... and not even realize that the music is from the classical genre.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Sujaya,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment.


Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

Daisy, I think you are absolutely right. Just like there are people who like Queen music which also appears in a lot of the same venues and don't know it. :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Really some beautiful choices here!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Paula,

Thanks for visiting again and adding another comment.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

I appreciate your stopping by another time. Thank you.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear Daisy,

I see by your reply that it was 4 months ago? Am I seeing things? Has it been that long since I commented on your wonderful hub?

Then I ask you to please forgive me for being so slothful in replying. I have no excuse. Just look past my short-comings.

Are you a follower? If so, thanks and if not, Please, I invite you to be one of my followers.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 2 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kenneth,

Thanks for visiting again. I've been one of your many followers for quite some time.

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