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What Are Your Five Classical Music Picks?

In the current issue of Ravinia Program Magazine, we asked several music professionals to select five pieces that they thought might “hook” a first-time classical listener. Here are my selections. Feel free to tell us what works you would choose. In the coming weeks, we will share other answers with you too. So stay tuned!

John Schauer
Associate Director of Communications, Publications
Ravinia Festival

Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2
First movement: [Allegro]

Perhaps more than any other Baroque piece, this work for me typifies the thrilling sound of brilliant Baroque orchestration. It’s like Las Vegas neon turned into glorious sound.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
First movement: Allegro con brio

Sometimes it’s hard not to believe that this is the most thrilling symphonic movement of all time. The final coda—that moment when you first think the movement will end, but instead Beethoven takes off on a final, frantic flight—can really take your breath away.

Rossini: Overture to Guillaume Tell
Baby Boomers and those even older will forever associate the final portion of the “William Tell Overture,” as it is usually called, with The Lone Ranger television and radio series, but that still doesn’t destroy the incredible excitement it can generate.

Donizetti: Sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor

Here is a selection that has been lampooned by many artists, not the least of which are the Three Stooges. When properly sung, it clearly demonstrates the glory of human voices joined in a gorgeous ensemble. And that tune! Just try to get it out of your head.

Tchaikovsky: “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is performed to death by countless ballet companies every Christmas, but that still hasn’t dulled the luster of this catchy piece. The sudden minor-key interlude by the cellos inevitably brings tears to my eyes.

References (13)

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Reader Comments (12)

1. Tchaikovsky, "Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35"
2. Rachmaninoff, "Variations on a Theme of Paganini"
3. Shostakovich, "Symphony No. 5 in D minor" (Mvmt IV: Allegro non troppo)
4. Barber, "Adagio for Strings"
6. Rimsky-Korsakov, Symphonic Suite from "Scheherazade"

August 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

1. Tchaikovsky, "Swan Lake Waltz"
2. Ravel, "Bolero"
3. Rachmaninoff, "Variations on a
Theme of Paganini"
4. Rodrigo, "Concierto de
Aranjuez" (Mvmt II: Adagio)
5. Puccini, "O soave fanciulla"
(La Boheme)

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Pavlina

Thomas Pavlina
Vernon Hills, IL

1. Tchaikovsky, "Swan Lake Waltz"
2. Ravel, "Bolero"
3. Rachmaninoff, "Variations on a
Theme of Paganini"
4. Rodrigo, "Concierto de
Aranjuez" (Mvmt II: Adagio)
5. Puccini, "O soave fanciulla"
(La Boheme)

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Pavlina

1. Smetana, "The Moldau"
2. Ferde Rose, "The Grand Canyon Suite"
3. Johann Strauss, Waltzes
4. Giancarlo-Menotti, "Amahl & the Night Visitors"
5. Gilbert & Sullivan, "The Mikado"

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarijon

1. Copland: Symphony No. 3 (Fanfare for the Common Man)
2. Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
3. Elgar: Enigma Variations (Adagio) "Nimrod"
4. Barber: Adagio for Strings
5. Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

September 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHolly Hickman

1. Brahms Symphony No. 4, mvt. I
2. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, entire piece
3. Sibelius Violin Concerto, mvt. I
4. Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Russian Dance
5. Dvorak Symphony No. 9, mvt. IV

October 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Park, M.D.

1) Beethoven - Violin Concerto op 61 (and a added bonus Rachmaninoff - Vocalise)

2)Sibelius - Violin Concerto in D minor, opus 47

3) Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 1 (can't you close your eyes and see what this music is about).

4) Rachmaninoff Variation on a Theme of Paganini

5)Bach Violin Concerto No 1

6) AND always to be included
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major ( i listen to this old WARHORSE at least twice a week )

November 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

1) Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2
2) Sibelius Violin Concerto
3) Dvorak Cello Concerto
4) Barber Adagio for Strings
5) Schumann Cello Concerto

November 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

1. Mozart's Symphony No. 5 in G minor. Allegro Con Brio.
2. Credo movement of Puccini's Messa di Gloria
3. Puccini's Nessun Dorma
4. Daemon Irrepit Callidus (short but fantastically percussive and fun to listen to)
5. R. Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem

I'm a student in High School and and the choral pieces are ones that my fellow students and I fell in love with when we listened to or sung them in class, even the people that "hate classical music."
Hope this helps.

December 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlyn Connors

Anonymous said...
1. Rachmaninoff, "Variations on a
Theme of Paganini"
2. Mozart's Jupiter Symphony
3. Beethoven's piano sonata #21
4. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
5. Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony

January 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I believe that these pieces would hook a first time listener.

1.Rimsky-Korsakov: "Scheherazade"
2.Rachmaninoff: "Variations on a Theme by Paganini"
3. Elgar: "Enigma Variations"
4. Tchaikov"sky: "Symphony No. 4"
5: Mahler: Symphony No. 5"

January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyler Murphy

1. L. Bernstein's "Mass"
2. Puccini, "Turandot"
3. Philip Glass, "Etudes"
4. Stravinsky, "Rite of Spring"
5. Jake Heggie, "For a Look or a

February 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNorm Knott

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