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Top 10 Instrumental Works & Opera Favorites


Music is found in every known culture, past and present.  It has been in
existence for at least 50,000 years and has evolved to become a
fundamental aspect of human life.  A country’s music is influenced by all
areas of that culture, including social and economic organization and
experience, climate, and access to technology.  Some of the most influential
people in history have contributed to the landscape of music.  Composers
have been around for generations, creating rhythm, sound, and happiness.  I
have collected a list of 10 of the most influential compositions and opera

10. Hungarian Dance No. 5 (1889)

Composed By: Johannes Brahms

The Hungarian Dances by Johannes Brahms are a set of 21 lively dance
tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes.  Only numbers 11, 14, and 16 are
entirely original compositions.  In fact, number 5 was based on the csárdás
by Kéler Béla titled Bártfai emlék, which Brahms mistakenly thought was a
traditional folksong.  The collection is among Brahms' most popular work
and was certainly the most profitable for him.  Each dance piece has been
arranged with a wide variety of instruments and ensembles.  I have included
the most famous Hungarian Dance No. 5 in F minor.  

9. Nessun dorma (1926)

Performed By: Luciano Pavarotti

Nessun dorma (none shall sleep) is an aria from the final act of Giacomo
Puccini's opera Turandot.  It is one of the best-known tenor arias in all
opera.  Giacomo Puccini was a famous Italian composer who wrote many
operas in the early 20th century.  In Turandot the song is performed by
Calaf, who falls in love with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot.
However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three
riddles.  If he fails, he will be beheaded.  In 1990, Nessun dorma was
recorded by Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

Pavarotti’s version of the song was used as the theme song of BBC
television's coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy.  It subsequently
reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart, the highest placing ever for a classical
recording.  Nessun dorma has been featured in many motion pictures,
including The Killing Fields, The Sum of All Fears, and Bend It Like

8. Adagio for Strings (1936)

Composed By: Samuel Barber

Adagio for Strings is a composed work arranged by American Samuel
Barber.  The piece was developed for a string orchestra.  It originated as the
second movement in his String Quartet No. 1, Op. 11, composed in 1936.
Barber’s composition follows a violently contrasting first movement, and is
succeeded by a brief reprise.  Adagio for Strings is performed in the key of
B-flat minor.  In 2004, listeners of the BBC's Today program voted Adagio
the "saddest classical" work ever.  In the United States the song is often
played in mourning of the September 11, 2001 attacks.  It has been sampled
by the British rock band Muse and appeared in feature films Platoon and

7. Piano Concerto No. 2 (1900)

Composed By: Sergei Rachmaninoff

The Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, is a concerto for piano and
orchestra, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff between the autumn of 1900
and April 1901.  Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian-American composer,
pianist, and conductor.  He was one of the finest pianists of his day.  As a
composer Rachmaninoff was one of the last great representations of late
Russian Romantic classical music.  The piano plays a prominent role in
Rachmaninoff's compositional output, either as a solo instrument or as part
of an ensemble.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is written in a three-movement
concerto form.  It uses 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 4 horns, 3 trombones (2 tenor,
bass), tuba, bass drum, solo piano, strings, and many more instruments.
The opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tolling on the piano,
eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme.

6. Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 (1833)

Composed By: Frédéric Chopin

Performed By: Yundi Li

The Nocturnes, Op. 9 are a set of three nocturnes written by Frédéric Chopin
between 1830 and 1832.  They were dedicated to Madame Camille Pleyel.
Frédéric Chopin
was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist.  He was one
of the great masters of Romantic music.  Chopin's compositions were
written primarily for the piano as a solo instrument.  He was responsible for
major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, étude,
impromptu and prélude.  Chopin composed Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 when he
was only 20-years-old.  Like much of Chopin's music, this nocturne is tinged
with melancholy.  It is reflective until it suddenly becomes passionate near
the conclusion.  Frédéric Chopin died in Paris when he was only 39-years-
old.  He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. 

5. Time to Say Goodbye (1997)

Performed By: Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

Con te partirò is an Italian song written by Francesco Sartori (music) and
Lucio Quarantotto (lyrics).  It was first sung by Andrea Bocelli at the 1995
San Remo Festival and recorded on his album.  In 1997, Bocelli and
soprano Sarah Brightman collaborated on the song and renamed it Time to
Say Goodbye.  Time to Say Goodbye was an international success and
reached #1 all over the world.  It is the best selling single in the history of
opera music and has sold an astounding 11 million copies. 

4. Cello Suite No.1- Prelude (1723)

Composed By: Johann Sebastian Bach

The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are
acclaimed as some of the greatest works ever written for solo cello.  They
were most likely composed during the period 1717–1723, when Bach served
as a Kapellmeister in
Köthen, Germany.  Johann Sebastian Bach’s
contributions to choir, orchestra, and solo instruments helped identify the
strands of the Baroque period of music.

The suites contain a great variety of technical devices, a wide range of
emotionally soothing content, and some of Bach's most compelling voice
interactions and conversations.  It is their intimacy that has made the suites
amongst Bach's most popular works today.  The Prelude to Suite No. 1 is
probably the best known movement from the entire set and is regularly heard
on television and films. 

3. The Music of the Night (1986)

Composed By: Andrew Lloyd Webber

The Music of the Night is a song from the musical The Phantom of the
Opera.  The music was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by
Charles Hart.  The composition was made famous by Michael Crawford, the
actor who originated the role of the Phantom both in London and on
Broadway.  The Music of the Night has sold millions of copies worldwide
and has been translated into many different languages.

In the musical, it is sung after the Phantom lures Christine Daaé down to his
lair beneath the Opera House.  He seduces Christine with "his music" of the
night, with his voice putting her into a trance.  The Phantom of the Opera is
the most successful entertainment project in history, grossing more than US
$5 billion worldwide by 2007.

2. Requiem (1791)

Composed By: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Requiem Mass in D minor was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart in 1791, during the last year of his life.  The requiem was Mozart's
last composition and is one of his most popular and respected works.  It is
scored for 2 basset-horns, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones (alto, tenor
& bass), timpani (2 drums), violins, viola, and basso continuo.   In his life
Mozart wrote over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of
symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music.  He is
among the most popular of all classical composers.  Sadly, Mozart died of a
sudden and mysterious sickness in 1791.  He was only 35-years-old. 

Piano Concerto No. 21

The Piano Concerto No. 21 was completed on March 9, 1785 by Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, four weeks after the completion of the previous D minor
concerto.  It contains three movements and is one of Mozart’s most prized

1. Piano Sonata No. 14 (1801)

Composed By: Ludwig van Beethoven

The Piano Sonata No. 14 is a work by German composer Ludwig van
Beethoven.  It is popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata and is rumored to
be dedicated to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi.  Beethoven was a
crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic
eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the most acclaimed
and influential composers of all time.  His hearing began to deteriorate in the
late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after
becoming completely deaf.  The Moonlight Sonata possesses an end-
weighted trajectory, so the climax is not reached until the third movement.  It
remains one of Beethoven’s most cherished creations. 

Honorable Mentions

Pomp and Circumstance March Number 1 (1901)

Composed By: Edward Elgar

The Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39 are a series of marches for
orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar.  Elgar was a famous English
composer during the early 19th century. 
He composed many works,
including oratorios, chamber music, songs, and symphonies.  Elgar was
appointed Master of the King's Musick in 1924.  March No. 1 was composed
in 1901 and dedicated "To my friend Alfred E. Rodewald and the members
of the Liverpool Orchestral Society.”

It is the best known piece of Elgar’s collection and uses a wide variety of
musical instruments.  In the United States, the Trio section "Land of Hope
and Glory" of March No. 1 is played as the processional tune at virtually all
high school and college graduation ceremonies.  It was first played at such a
ceremony on 28 June 1905, at Yale University.

Lux Aeterna (2000)

Composed By: Clint Mansell

Lux Aeterna (the eternal light) is a composition by Clint Mansell.  It was
created for the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream.  Clint Mansell is a British
musician, composer, and former lead singer and guitarist of the band Pop
Will Eat Itself.  Mansell broke into the world of film scoring in 1996 with the
movie π.  The popularity of Lux Aeterna has led to its use in popular culture,
mostly in film trailers and commercials.  It has been used for the movies
Avatar, I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lord of the Rings. 

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted January 20, 2010