Top 10 German Classical Music Pieces

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May 12th, 2017 - 13:05 • Rankings

Perhaps you've already read our article on the top 10 german composers, but in case you didn’t have time to check out their music, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best german classical music pieces:

1- Ludwig van Beethoven - Fifth Symphony

This masterpiece was written between 1804 and 1808 and is one of the most frequently played symphonies. Of the four movements of this piece, the first is without a doubt the most recognized. Its four opening notes are can be heard in several movies, such as The Breakfast Club, Love Potion and Mystery Men.

2. Johann Sebastian Bach - Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

The Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor (BWV 565) is probably one of Bach’s most famous pieces. It is often used to depict cruelty, horror and villainy. It has been used as film score even before the movies had recorded soundtracks. It was later used in Sunset Boulevard, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and also the dystopian science fiction movie Rollerball. 

3. Johannes Brahms - Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68

This piece took Brahms at least 14 years to finish (21 according to his own words, from 1855 to 1876). This long composition time was due probably to the following factors: the composer was terribly self-critical and insecure, and his friends and public expected him to be the heir to Beethoven’s musical tradition. He didn’t feel at that level, but anyway he composed this wonderful masterpiece.

4. Carl Orff -“O Fortuna” from “Carmina Burana”

Probably the most famous piece by Orff and one of Germany’s most important pieces, this piece is known for its usage of dramatic instrumental and vocal resources. The work is based on the medieval poem Carmina Burana. It is usually used to depict epic situations in movies, such as The General’s Daughter, Last of the Mohicans, and the cinematic trailer of Léon: The Professional.

5. Georg Frideric Handel - Messiah

Though Handel was german, he lived most of his life in England. That’s why The Messiah (HWV 56) is an English-language oratorio. The Hallelujah of this oratorio is among the most famous pieces of music in the world, and it is included in movies such as Shrek, Lord of War and Watchmen. It is also featured several times in different episodes of Ren & Stimpy cartoon show.

6. Wagner - Die Walküre

This musical drama in three acts was entirely written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is the second of four operas that form Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). The story of this opera is based on Norse mythology. A valkyrie is one in a group of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and which live. The best known part of this wonderful piece is the "Ride of the Valkyries", which is known for being featured in the film Apocalypse now, among others.

7. Robert Schumann - Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 (138)

Schumann’s fourth symphony was completed in 1841, and later revised in 1851. The composer suffered from the same issues that Brahms: the Beethovenian shadow. He abandoned the composition of the symphony for about 10 years thinking he could not achieve the quality he had to. The composer preferred the revised version because he felt that their parts were more related between them. 

Set to music by several composers, this Goethe poem is most known in its Schubert’s version, which is considered to be one of the greatest songs ever written. It is scored for two performers, voice and piano. The poem depicts a conversation between a father, a son and the evil Erl-King who is tempting the child to “go with him”.

8 - Felix Mendelssohn - Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61

Mendelssohn wrote incidental music for Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a commision from King Frederick William IV of Prussia. The Wedding March acts as the intermezzo between acts IV and V, and it has become one of the most ubiquitous pieces of music ever written. It is worldwide known, so there is no need to tell where it was included, as the list would be almost infinite. 

9. Johann Pachelbel - Canon in D

Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo, commonly known as Canon in D was composed sometime between 1680 and 1706. It was a really popular piece in its time, but as most of the music composed in that period, went out of style and was kept unknown for the next century. It was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo, but there are arrangements for almost any instrument and it is now one of the most famous pieces in the world.

10. Ludwig van Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor “Moonlight Sonata”

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2, also known as Moonlight Sonata is among Beethoven’s most famous pieces. It was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to the composer’s pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. This piece is one of Beethoven's most popular compositions for the piano, and it was already popular in germany and the rest of the walrd even in his own day.

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