Modern life is hectic, but the elevated composure of classical music has the capacity to soothe the mind. We all deserve to make the time for a little rest and relaxation, and to aid you in this we have collated ten of the most famous, transportive, and soothing classical music pieces of all time.
The ten scores that made the cut were written by the most renowned classical composers of European descent between the 17th and 18th centuries. Written in response to the timeless inspirations of nature, landscape, and legend, these pieces have the capacity to change your mood, your day, or perhaps even your life.
1. “Symphony 5” by Ludwig van Beethoven
Composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) composed this outstanding symphony, the opening sequence of which shares the same rhythm as the Morse code for the number five, hence the name. The piece was thus employed during World War II to send vital messages in disguised Morse code.
Allegedly, Beethoven struggled to conceive of a good start to “Symphony 5” when writing it, but was unexpectedly inspired after hearing a knock at the door during a midday break. The knocking rhythm was transformed into the first staccato notes of the composition.
2. “O Fortuna” by Carl Orff
Carl Orff (1895 – 1982) enjoyed great success with this piece owing to its dramatic chord composition. The score was based upon a collection of 24 epic poems named “Carmina Burana,” from the Medieval era.
“O Fortuna” was first staged by the Frankfurt Opera on June 8, 1937, and became one of the most performed symphonies in the entire world.
3. “Hallelujah” by George F. Handel
German Baroque composer George Frideric Handel (1685 – 1759) wrote the English language oratorio “Messiah” in only 24 days. The “Hallelujah” chorus marks the end of Part 2 of the three-part performance.
Nowadays, numerous works have been written based on, or inspired by, “Messiah.” Handel himself claimed that while composing the piece he saw “heaven unfolding before his eyes.” The oratorio’s lyrics were based upon biblical passages that Handel emulated, describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4. “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) created a 4-part masterpiece entitled “The Ring of the Nibelung” of which “Ride of the Valkyries” was an aspect of the second act.
The composition was based upon a Norse saga that chronicles a turbulent family history, and the pursuit of a magical golden ring by a race of gods. It took Wagner an astonishing 26 years to complete the opera.
5. “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Johann S. Bach
This piece is one of the most well-known works of renowned Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach. The composition has a powerful tone and is often incorporated into television and movie scenes for exaggerated dramatic effect.
Bach was arguably the most accomplished fugue composer of all time, and “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire ever written.
6. “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) completed this 15-minute-long legendary composition in only seven days.
Written for a chamber ensemble, it was officially published in the year 1827, long after Mozart’s death.
7. “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig Van Beethoven
Beethoven appears twice in this list for good reason. Yet another masterpiece by the great composer was accomplished in 1834, also comprising the most famous element of the “Symphony No. 9,” titled “Ode to Joy.”
Beethoven had all but completely lost his sense of hearing by the time he composed this piece. As of the 2010s, “Symphony No. 9” stands as one of the most performed symphonies in the whole world.
8. “Spring” by Antonio Vivaldi
Antonio Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) wrote four violin concertos known as “The Four Seasons” around the year 1721. Each concerto represented one season, and the standalone pieces have been incorporated into many film soundtracks over the decades. “Spring” and “Summer” have been the most popular.
The concertos were a revolution in musical thinking. Variously, Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, storms, drunken dancers, and sprawling, frozen landscapes in his beautifully meandering seasonal quartet.
9. “Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel
Johann Pachelbel (1653 – 1706) was yet another celebrated Baroque composer, hailed as one of the greatest composers of the era during his lifetime. He was admired for his technicality and subtlety, and “Canon in D Major” is one of his most adored works.
Pachelbel was hugely popular, had many pupils, and was enduringly influential to the composers of south and central Germany after his passing.
10. “William Tell Overture” by Gioachino Rossini
Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868) wrote this 12-minute symphony as the final part of an overture opera comprising four acts. The opera premiered in 1829 and was the last of Rossini’s 39 operas.
The “William Tell Overture” became especially famous in the 20th century when Warner Bros. used the iconic melody in the title sequence of their “Looney Tunes” animation franchise.
So now you’ve nothing to wait for but the right moment. Slow the speed of modern life and indulge the senses by paying homage to history’s greatest classical music masterminds. And perhaps even experience profound relaxation in the process.
The transportive power of classical music can never be underestimated.