Introducing classical music



Classical songs

Amazing Grace – John Newton
Serenade – Schubert
Serenata ‘Rimpianto’ – Enrico Toselli
The Blue Danube – Johann Strauss II
Brahms’ Lullaby
Solveig’s song – Grieg
Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod
Ave Maria – Schubert
Habanera – Georges Bizet
O sole mío – Neapolitan song
Torna a Surriento – Neapolitan song
Un bel dì, vedremo – Puccini
O mio babbino caro – Puccini
Soldiers’ Chorus – Gounod
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

Musical compositions of personal preference

Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 – Beethoven
Minuet in G – Beethoven
Minuet in G – Petzold
Für Elise – Beethoven
Spring song – Mendelssohn
Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman – Mozart
Capricho Italiano – Tchaikovsky
Hungarian Dance No. 5 – Bramhs
Vltava – Smetana
Méditation – Massenet
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 – Liszt
Humoresque – Dvorak
Liebestraum No. 3 – Franz Liszt
Étude Op. 10, No. 3 – Chopin
Moonlight Sonata –  Beethoven
Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish March) – Mozart
Canon – Pachelbel
Nocturne No. 2 – Chopin
Grande valse brillante in E-flat major – Chopin
Prelude in G minor – Rachmaninoff
In a Persian Market – Ketèlbey
1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 – Elgar


Minuetto – Boccherini
Andante in Elvira Madigan – Mozart
Overture, The marriage of Figaro – Mozart
Air on the G String – Bach
Andante Cantabile – Tchaikovsky
1st Movement, Symphony “The Italian” – Mendelssohn
2nd Movement, Clarinet Concerto in A major – Mozart

Long compositions

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart
The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
Divertimento in D major, K. 136  – Mozart

Complete Concertos

Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” – Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 1 – Tchaikovsky


Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” – Dvorak
Symphony No. 25 – Mozart
Symphony No. 35 “Haffner” – Mozart
Symphony No. 40 – Mozart
Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter” – Mozart
Symphony No. 5 “Destiny” – Beethoven
Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” – Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 – Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” – Beethoven


The Nutcracker – Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake  – Tchaikovsky


Carmen – Georges Bizet
The Merry Widow – Franz Lehár
The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Offenbach
Orphée aux enfers – Offenbach
Prince Igor – Borodin
Cavalleria rusticana – Mascagni
William Tell – Gioachino Rossini
Nabucco –  Verdi
Peer Gynt – Grieg
Aida – Verdi
La traviata – Verdi

Vietnamese classical music

Bèo dạt mây trôi


Ode to Joy in Symphony No. 9
Arlésienne in Carmen
Habanera in Carmen
Brindisi in La traviata
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves in Nabucco
Habanera, O sole mío & Brindisi
Rondo Alla Turca – Mozart

Synthesis: A little entertainment

Concluding remark

Basic background

The main periods of classical music
Musical tempos
Musical forms


Due to various reasons, the compiler cannot put the sources for each item in this post which is on a non-profit blog, also not an academic work, not even a serious compilation. The purpose is to excite the love for classical music among those who are still indifferent to it. I hope that once the reader has listened to a pleasant song or a piece of music, he/she would want to listen to more songs and music. Then my quoting information without providing the sources would be tolerated.

When the compiler by chance comes across suitable materials, he puts them together without looking for thorough reviews, simply because he does not have adequate time and means. Due to this reason, the description for each song or a piece of music may be only a small part related to it – other authors may have other ideas. It’s up to you to find more details on the song or the music of your interest.

This article is based on my personal preference. Some knowledgeable people may think better classical songs and pieces of music are not introduced here, and I cannot satisfy all. But I can see that the songs and music introduced here have brought good sentiments to many generations of audience.

Some people think they do not like classical music and do not want to hear it. At first, I were among those people. Due to lack of access, at first all I could hear were some famous songs such as Schubert Serenade, Serenata and the Blue Danube. Eventually, I have more access to classical music, and love some.

Let me introduce you to that “some”, and hope you will love the classical music like I do. Just spend some time listening and watching the music introduced here. I believe you will change your mind, positively, about classical music.

Appreciating classical music

When you just familiarize yourself with classical music, do not care who is who and what is what. Music is related to the sound, so listen to the sound, the melody, first. Later, if you want to know something about classical music, go to the end of this post.

During the initial period when you want to learn to appreciate classical music, first listen to the Sound recording so that you can concentrate in the sound, because such videos do not have noise and often contain top-rated performance.

Find for yourself a separate, personal place to listen to the music. Put a pair of headphones that cover your earlobes (not the earplugs that are plugged into your ears), partially close your eyes, and open your heart the music without any prejudice. You may have a glass of beer, a cup of tea or coffee, but do nothing else.

Next, you may watch and listen to the Live performance. There may be some noise (even coughing!), but it will make you feel like sitting in an opera. And flashmob videos make you feel like being mixed with the crowd.

Going one step further, buy the CDs of your choice. Of course CDs have no noise and contain top-rate performance, so your appreciation would be complete. Consider the following CDs, for instance:

  • Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” (my top choice)
  • Mozart’s Symphonies No. 40 and No. 41
  • Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons
  • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
  • Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5
  • Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1
  • CDs for other compositions of choice, like Boccherini’s Minuetto, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Andante Cantabile…
  • Some CDs of “best” pieces, not introduced in this article.

Meanwhile, upgrade your entertainment system if necessary. A pair of good-quality headphones over the earlobes is a must – instead of earplugs – so that you can receive all notes loud and soft. For myself, I am happy with a Dell laptop, a 14-inch HD screen and a small pair of Bose speakers to use alternately with a pair of Panasonic earphones. (American laptops such as Dell and HP give better sound than Asian products, because American sound cards are better.) For the family, you should have a CD player (of course!), a good amplifier and a good pair of speakers (you don’t need more than 3 speakers), but don’t spend too much money. Up to a certain amount of money can give you desirable quality, but if you pay more the improvement may be insignificant.

Furthermore, go to the opera house for the program of your choice. My experiences at the opera house playing The Nutcracker, From the New World, Carmen, or Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 are all unforgettable.

Classical songs

Amazing Grace – John Newton

The melody does not sound “classical”, but the song is old: it was composed around 1772 by John Newton (1725-1807).

Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by others’ reactions to what they took as his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (conscripted) into service in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. He continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. Amazing Grace was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have simply been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States, however, Amazing Grace was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named New Britain to which it is most frequently sung today.

With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, Amazing Grace is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world. Author Gilbert Chase writes that it is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns”, and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer, estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually. It has had particular influence in folk music, and has become an emblematic African American spiritual. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music. Amazing Grace saw a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.


Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

The Lord hath promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

There are variations in interpretations, some examples are given below.

Sound recording, Elvis Presley:

Live performance, Alan Jackson (Official Music Video):

Live performance, Andrea Bocelli:

Live performance, Mai Chí Công:

Live performance, Hayley Westenra:

MV, BYU Noteworthy, cappella of My Chains Are Gone:

MV, David Döring (panflöte):

Serenade – Schubert

Schubert’s immortal Serenade was written in 1826. It is so familiar that it needs no analysis, nor is one necessary from any point of view. It is simply a lovely melody from first note to last, written upon the inspiration of the moment, and yet characterized by absolute perfection of finish and a grace and beauty of which one never tires. It was originally composed as an alto solo and male chorus and was subsequently rearranged for female voices only. The circumstances of its composition as told by Schubert’s biographer, Von Hellborn, are of more than ordinary interest. Von Hellborn says:

“One Sunday, during the summer of 1826, Schubert with several friends was returning from Potzleinsdorf to the city, and on strolling along through Wahring, he saw his friend Tieze sitting at a table in the garden of the ‘Zum Biersack.’ The whole party determined on a halt in their journey. Tieze had a book lying open before him, and Schubert soon began to turn over the leaves. Suddenly he stopped, and pointing to a poem, exclaimed, ‘such a delicious melody has just come into my head, if I but had a sheet of music paper with me.’ Herr Doppler drew a few music lines on the back of a bill of fare, and in the midst of a genuine Sunday hubbub, with fiddlers, skittle players, and waiters running about in different directions with orders, Schubert wrote that lovely song.”

Sound recording, Nana Mouskouri:

Sound recording, Orquesta Sinfonica:

Live performance, Korean Pops Orchestra:

Live performance, Sheena Gutierrez (violin) and Stepan Rudenko (piano):

Live performance, Camille Thomas and Beatrice Berrut:

Serenata ‘Rimpianto’ – Enrico Toselli

This piece (also known as Toselli’s Serenade, or Nightingale Serenade) is the best-known composition by Enrico Toselli (1883-1926), who was otherwise mainly known through a high society scandal when he married Princess Louise of Tuscany, the eloped former wife of the King of Saxony in 1907.

Sound recording, violin and piano:

Sound recording, Mary Schneider in English:

Live performance, André Rieu:

Live performance, Hans-Georg Arlt (violin) & Berliner Symphoniker:

Live performance, Lilia Vikaruk (soprano), Anna Ivanchuk (piano), Adrian Ivanchuk (violin):

The Blue Danube – Johann Strauss II

Johann Strauss II
Johann Strauss II

The Blue Danube is the common English title of An der schönen blauen Donau (German for “By the Beautiful Blue Danube”), a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. it has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire.

Sound recording, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra:

Live performance, André Rieu at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna:

Live performance, CSU Choir March 2011:

Brahms’ Lullaby

Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms

The song Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), frequently referred to in English as Brahms’s Lullaby or Cradle Song, is the composer’s No. 4, originally written for voice and piano, published in 1868.

The Lullaby was dedicated to Brahms’s friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son. Brahms had been in love with her in her youth and constructed the melody of the Wiegenlied to suggest, as a hidden counter-melody, a song she used to sing to him. The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869.

Lyrics as sung by sung by Jewel

Lullaby, and good night, in the skies stars are bright
May the moon, silvery beams, bring you with dreams
Close you eyes, now and rest, may these hours be blessed
Till the sky’s bright with dawn, when you wake with a yawn

Lullaby, and good night, you are mother’s delight
I’ll protect you from harm, and you’ll wake in my arms

Sleepyhead, close your eyes, for I’m right beside you
Guardian angels are near, so sleep without fear
Lullaby, and good night, with roses bedight
Lilies o’er head, lay thee down in thy bed

Lullaby, and good night, you are mother’s delight
I’ll protect you from harm, and you’ll wake in my arms

Lullaby, and sleep tight, my darling sleeping
On sheets white as cream, with the head full of dreams
Sleepyhead, close your eyes, I’m right beside you
Lay thee down now and rest, may you slumber the best

Go to sleep, little one, think of puppies and kittens.
Go to sleep, little one, think of butterflies in spring.
Go to sleep, little one, think of sunny bright mornings.
Hush, darling one, sleep through the night
Sleep through the night
Sleep through the night

Sound recording in original composition:

Sound recording, Jewel, with lyrics:

Sound recording, harp solo:

Sound recording, for the baby:

* Live performance, Yo-Yo Ma (cello) & Kathryn Stott (piano):

Live performance, Newark Symphony Orchestra & Southern Delaware Choral Society:

Solveig’s song – Grieg

Edvard Grieg (1876)
Edvard Grieg (1876)

Peer Gynt is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) in 1875. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo). The Peer Gynt suites are among his best-known works, however they initially began as incidental compositions.

Solveig’s song is sung by Solveig in Act III of the original score, or in Suite 2 of the 2-suite opera extracted from the original. It is one of the most popular classical songs in the world.

Sound recording, Sissel Kyrkjebø with English sub-titles:

Sound recording, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra:

Live performance, Mirusia Louwerse:

Live performance, Evelyn Novak with Croatian Radiotelevision Symphony Orchestra and Choir:

Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod

Ave Maria is a popular and much-recorded setting of the Latin prayer Ave Maria, originally published in 1853 as Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach. The piece consists of a melody by the French Romantic composer Charles Gounod that he superimposed over an only very slightly changed version of the Prelude No. 1 in C major, from Book I of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, written 137 years earlier.

Sound recording by Maria Callas:

Live performance by Amira Willighagen, 2015 Christmas:

Live performance by Laura Ullrich:

Ave Maria – Schubert

Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellens Gesang III, D. 839, No. 6, 1825), in English: “Ellen’s Third Song”, was composed by Franz Schubert in 1825 as part of his Opus 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott’s popular epic poem The Lady of the Lake, loosely translated into German.

It has become one of Schubert’s most popular works, recorded by a wide variety and large number of singers, under the title of Ave Maria (after Ellen’s song, which is a prayer to the Virgin Mary), in arrangements with various lyrics which commonly differ from the original context of the poem. It was arranged in three versions for piano by Franz Liszt.

Sound recording, Maria Callas:

Sound recording, Celine Dion:

Live performance, Mirusia and André Rieu’s orchestra:

Live performance, Celtic Woman:

Habanera – Georges Bizet

Habanera (music or dance of Havana, Spanish: La Habana) is the popular name for L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (“Love is a rebellious bird”), an aria from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen. It is the entrance aria of the title character, a mezzo-soprano role, in Scene 5 of the first act. It is based on a descending chromatic scale followed by variants of the same phrase in first the minor and then the major key, corresponding to the vicissitudes of love expressed in the lyrics.

Original lyrics in French:

L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser
Et c’est bien en vain qu’on l’appelle
S’il lui convient de refuser.

Rien n’y fait, menace ou prière
L’un parle bien, l’autre se tait
Et c’est l’autre que je préfère
Il n’a rien dit; mais il me plaît.

[with chorus]
L’amour! L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!
L’amour est enfant de Bohême
Il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi
Si tu ne m’aime pas, je t’aime
Si je t’aime, prend garde à toi!

Si tu ne m’aime pas
Si tu ne m’aime pas, je t’aime!
Mais, si je t’aime
Si je t’aime, prend garde à toi!

Si tu ne m’aime pas
Si tu ne m’aime pas, je t’aime!
Mais, si je t’aime
Si je t’aime, prend garde à toi!

L’oiseau que tu croyais surprendre
Battit de l’aile et s’envola
L’amour est loin, tu peux l’attendre
Tu ne l’attends plus, il est là

Tout autour de toi, vite, vite
Il vient, s’en va, puis il revient
Tu crois le tenir, il t’évite
Tu crois l’éviter, et il te tient.


English translation:

[spoken intro]
When will I love you?
Good Lord, I don’t know,
Maybe never, maybe tomorrow.
But not today, that’s for sure.

Love is a rebellious bird
That none can tame,
And it is well in vain that one calls it,
If it suits it to refuse.
Nothing to be done, threat or prayer;
The one talks well, the other is silent,
And it’s the other that I prefer;
He said nothing, but he pleases me.

(Love is a rebellious bird) Love…
(That none can tame,) Love…
(And it is well in vain that one calls it,) Love…
(Because it suits it to refuse.) Love…

Love is a gypsy child,
It has never, never known the law;
If you don’t love me, I love you;
If I love you, do stand on guard! (Do stand on guard!)
If you don’t love me,
If you don’t love me, I love you; (Do stand on guard!)
But if I love you, if I love you,
Do stand on guard!

(Love is a gypsy child,)
(It has never, never known the law;)
(If you don’t love me, I love you;)
(If I love you, do stand on guard!) (Do stand on guard!)

If you don’t love me,
If you don’t love me, I love you; (Do stand on guard!)
But if I love you, if I love you,
Do stand on guard! (Do stand on guard!)

The bird you hoped to catch
Beat its wings and flew away.
Love is far, you can wait for it;
You no longer await it, there it is.
All around you, swift, swift,
It comes, goes, then it returns.
You think to hold it fast, it flees you,
You think to flee it, it holds you!

(All around you, swift,) Love…
(It comes, goes, then it returns.) Love…
(You think to hold it fast, it flees you,) Love…
(You think to flee it, it holds you!) Love…

Love is a gypsy child,
It has never, never known the law;
If you don’t love me, then I love you;
If I love you, do stand on guard! (Do stand on guard!)
If you don’t love me,
If you don’t love me, then I love you; (Do stand on guard!)
But if I love you, if I love you,
Do stand on guard!

(Love is a gypsy child,)
(It has never, never known the law;)
(If you don’t love me, then I love you;)
(If I love you, do stand on guard!) (Do stand on guard!)

If you don’t love me,
If you don’t love me, then I love you; (Do stand on guard!)
But if I love you, if I love you,
Do stand on guard! (Do stand on guard!)

Video of live performance, aria Habanera in opera by Anna Caterina Antonacci:

Video of live performance, aria Habanera in opera by Elina Garanca, with English sub-titles:

Video of live performance, song Habanera by Carmen Monarcha with André Rieu’s band:

O sole mío –Neapolitan song

O sole mio is a globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898. Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi (1878–1972). There are other versions of O sole mio but it is usually sung in the original Neapolitan language. O sole mio is the Neapolitan equivalent of standard Italian Il mio sole and translates literally as “my sunshine”.

Live performance by Andrea Bocelli at Central Park, New York:

Live performance by Amira Willighagen & Patrizio Buanne in South Africa:

Torna a Surriento – Neapolitan song

Torna a Surriento is a Neapolitan song composed in 1902 by Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis to words by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis. The song was copyrighted officially in 1905, and has become one of the most popular songs of this traditional genre, which include others such as O sole mio, Funiculì funiculà, and Santa Lucia.

Tradition holds that the origin of the song dates to 1902, when Guglielmo Tramontano, mayor of Sorrento asked his friend Giambattista De Curtis to write the song for the Prime Minister Giuseppe Zanardelli, then vacationing at his seaside hotel, the Imperial Hotel Tramontano; it was claimed that the piece was meant to celebrate Zanardelli’s stay.

Some claim the song is a plea to Zanardelli to keep his promise to help the impoverished city of Sorrento, which was especially in need of a sewage system. The song reflects the beauty of the city’s great surroundings and the love and passion of its citizens.

More recent research indicates that the song may merely have been reworked for the occasion; family papers indicate that the brothers deposited a copy with the Italian Society of Authors and Editors in 1894, eight years before they claimed to have written it.

Live performance, Hauser & Caroline Campbell:

Live performance, André Rieu:

Un bel dì, vedremo in Madama Butterfly – Puccini

Madama Butterfly (English: Madam Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

Madama ButterflyThe original version of the opera, in two acts, had its premiere in 1904 in Milan. It was poorly received, despite having notable singers, due in part to a late completion by Puccini, and thus inadequate time for rehearsals.

Puccini revised the opera, splitting Act II in two, with the Humming Chorus as a bridge to what became Act III, and making other changes. Success ensued, starting with the first performance in 1904 in Brescia.

Madama Butterfly has become a staple of the operatic repertoire around the world, ranked 6th by Operabase; Puccini’s La bohème and Tosca rank 3rd and 5th.

Un bel dì, vedremo (One fine day, we’ll see) is the opera’s most famous aria and one of the most popular pieces in the soprano repertoire.

Dramatic setting

Three years after her marriage to U.S. naval officer named Pinkerton, Cio-Cio San (“Butterfly”) awaits the return of her long-absent husband to Japan. Her maid, Suzuki, does not believe that Pinkerton will come back, but Butterfly is optimistic. Trying to convince Suzuki of Pinkerton’s loyalty, Butterfly sings of an imaginary scene in which a thread of smoke on the far horizon signals the arrival of a white ship into Nagasaki harbor, bringing her long-lost love back to her. The imagined scene culminates in a romantic reunion.

The aria is noted for its lyrical beauty, and it is of particular dramatic importance as Butterfly’s yearning expressed in the song is later met with tragedy. Butterfly’s longed-for “beautiful day” is heralded at the end of Act 2 by the arrival of Pinkerton’s ship, but it proves to be her last; Butterfly learns that Pinkerton has married another woman, and at the end of the opera the distraught Butterfly takes her own life.

Un bel dì vedremo is especially significant as it appeals to audiences with its emotive melody but also encapsulates the tragedy at the heart of the opera, foretelling Cio-Cio San’s inevitable demise.

Translation of the lyrics:

Madama ButterflyOne fine day, we’ll see
A thread of smoke arising
On the far horizon of the sea
And then the ship appears.
Then the white ship
Enters the harbor, thunders her salute.

See you? He has come!
I don’t go down to meet him. Not I! I stay
there on the hill’s brow, and wait, and wait
a lot of time, and I don’t mind
the long waiting.

And … out of the city crowd
a man, a tiny point
starts climbing up the hill.
Who will it be? Who will it be?
And when he has arrived
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call “Butterfly” from the distance.
I, without giving an answer,
will keep myself concealed,
A bit in jest … and a bit as to not die
At the first meeting; and he, a little worried,
will call, will call:
“Oh, little one, dear wife,
You fragrance of verbena”,
The names he called me on coming here.

(to Suzuki)
All this will happen,
I’ll promise,
drive away your fears,
I will wait for him with secure faith.

Sound recording, Maria Callas, whose name is linked to the song:

Live performance, Anna Netrebko:

Live performance, Renee A. Fleming in Diamond Jubilee Concert,2012:

Live performance, excerpt from the opera, The Royal Opera, Ermonela Jaho as Cio-Cio San:

O mio babbino caro – Puccini

O mio babbino caro (Oh my dear daddy) is a soprano aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi (1918) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. It is sung by Lauretta after tensions between her father Schicchi and the family of Rinuccio, the boy she loves, have reached a breaking point that threatens to separate her from Rinuccio. It provides an interlude expressing lyrical simplicity and love in contrast with the atmosphere of hypocrisy, jealousy, double-dealing, and feuding in medieval Florence. It provides the only set-piece in the through-composed opera.

Gianni Schicchi

The aria has been sung by many sopranos. Dame Joan Hammond won a Gold Record in 1969 for 1 million sold copies of this aria.

The aria is frequently performed in concerts and as an encore in recitals by many popular and crossover singers. It is used in several films, and some bands cover the aria in their own style.

Lyrics in Italian

O mio babbino caro
mi piace, è bello, bello
Vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!

Sì, sì, ci voglio andare!
e se l’amassi indarno
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio
ma per buttarmi in Arno!

Mi struggo e mi tormento!
O Dio, vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!

Lyrics in English

Oh my beloved father
I love him, I love him
I’ll go to Porta Rossa
To buy our wedding ring.

Oh yes, I really love him
And if you still say no
I’ll go to Ponte Vecchio
And throw myself below.

My love for which I suffer
At last, I want to die
Father I beg, I beg
Father I beg, I beg.

Live performance by Carmen Monarcha and André Rieu band, in front of a record audience of 38,605 in Melbourne:

Live performance by Sissel:

Soldiers’ Chorus – Gounod

Faust is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod (1818-1893) to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, Part One. It debuted in Paris in 1859.


In Act 4, a military company returns from the war to a military march (Deposons les armes and Gloire immortelle de nos aïeux, the well-known Soldiers’ Chorus).

+ Sound recording, Orchestre du Theatre National de l’Opera de Paris, with Georges Pretre:

Live performance by the Bach Choir & Orchestra of the Netherlands:

Live performance by Bohemian Singers and KBS Symphony Orchestra in Busan, 2011:

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Bach

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is the most common English title of a piece of music derived from a chorale setting of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life), composed in 1723 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The same music on different stanzas of a chorale closes both parts of the cantata.

Bach composed a four-part setting with independent orchestral accompaniment of two stanzas of the hymn Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne, written by Martin Janus in 1661, which was sung to a melody by the violinist and composer Johann Schop, Werde munter, mein Gemüthe. The movements conclude the two parts of the cantata.

Bach scored the chorale movements (6 and 10) from Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben for choir, trumpet, violin, optionally oboe, viola, and basso continuo.

English text

The following is the most commonly heard English version of the piece. It was written by the poet laureate Robert Bridges. It is not a translation of the stanzas used within Bach’s original version, but is inspired by stanzas of the same hymn that Bach had drawn upon: Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne, the lyrics of which were written in 1661 by Martin Janus (or Jahn), and which was sung to Johann Schop’s 1642 Werde munter, mein Gemüte hymn tune.

Jesu, joy of man’s desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

Sound recording, choral conducted by Leopold Stokowski, released by RCA Victor Records in 1992:

Live performance, Bishop’s Stortford College:

Live performance, Sissel Kyrkjebo:

Musical compositions of personal preference

Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 – Beethoven

This is one the music composition that I like the most.

The Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in F major is the second of two such compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). It was written in 1798 but not published until 1805 (by which time Beethoven had completed the other work, Romance No. 1 in G major). The accompaniment is for flute and a pair each of oboes, bassoons and horns, with strings. The length is about eight minutes, but the composer left no tempo indication.

Sound recording, Jascha Heifetz playing violin with the orchestra:

Live performance, Renaud Capuçon playing violin with the orchestra:

Live performance, Juyeon Yun (violin) & Youngsil Kim (piano):

Minuet in G – Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Minuet in G is a composition originally written for orchestra, but was lost and only an arrangement for piano could be found. It has become very popular.

The minuet is in incipient ternary form, A-A-B-A, a type of song form as differentiated from other, such as the binary song form in the format A-B, the ternary A-B-A, or the rondo, A-B-A-C-A or an alternate form but with the “A” theme repeating after each new theme in the sequence of themes.

In terms of A-B-A sections, the three parts are:

1/ Moderato
2/ Trio
3/ Moderato

* Sound recording, The Philadelphia Orchestra:

Live performance, Harry Völker (piano), 2014:

Live performance, Suzuki (violin):

Live performance, Susanne Beer, Katharine O’Kane & Agnieszka, it’s quite rare to hear arrangement for 3 cellos:

Minuet in G – Petzold

The Minuet in G is a keyboard piece included in the 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. For a while, it was first attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach (numbered BWV Anh. 114), but it is now universally attributed to the German composer and organist Christian Petzold (1677-1733). It is a 32-measure piece primarily in the key of G major.

The melody from the 1965 pop song A lover’s concerto, written by American songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, was based on this Minuet in G. The song was recorded by the girl group The Toys and reached number 2 in the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 in the UK Singles Chart. A lover’s concerto sold more than two million copies and was awarded gold record certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Sound recording_Minuet in G, piano:

* Sound recording_Minuet in G, orchestra:

Live performance_Minuet in G, Lang Lang (piano):

Live performance_Minuet in G, Ton Koopman (harpsichord):

* Sound recording_A lover’s concerto, Kelly Chen:

Live performance_A lover’s concerto, Tongjuan Wang (harp):

Live performance_A lover’s concerto, Sarah Collins:

Für Elise – Beethoven

Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor for solo piano, commonly known as Für Elise in German (English: For Elise), is one of most popular compositions composed by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). It was not published during his lifetime, only being discovered (by Ludwig Nohl) forty years after his death, and may be termed either a Bagatelle or an Albumblatt. The identity of “Elise” is unknown.

MV, Lang Lang, a video production, with excellent sound and image:

Live performance, Lola Astanova (piano) and Hauser (cello):

Live performance, Deborah Henson-Conant (arranged and performed):

Spring song – Mendelssohn

“Songs Without Words” (Lieder ohne Worte) is a series of short lyrical piano pieces by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), written between 1829 and 1845.

The eight volumes of “Songs Without Words”, each consisting of six “songs” (German: Lieder), were written at various points throughout Mendelssohn’s life, and were published separately. The piano became increasingly popular in Europe during the early nineteenth century, when it became a standard item in many middle-class households. The pieces are within the grasp of pianists of various abilities and this undoubtedly contributed to their popularity. This great popularity has caused many critics to under-rate their musical value.

Particularly Volume 5 (composed during 1842-1844) included Song No. 6 Spring song. It was also sometimes known in England as “Camberwell Green”, being the place in London where Mendelssohn composed it while staying with the Benneckes, relatives of his wife.

Sound recording:

Sound recording:

Live performance, Marios Panteliadis (piano solo):

Live performance, Saskia Schneider (flute) & Piotr Machnik (piano):

Live performance, Orchestral Ensemble Seoul:

Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman – Mozart

According to Britannica, Twelve Variations on Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman, K 265, set of variations for solo piano composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and published in Vienna in 1785. The variations are based upon the French folk song Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman (English: “Ah, Mother, if I could tell you”), with the same melody as that of the English-language nursery songs Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and ABC song.

The work begins by stating the basic theme and proceeds by offering variations in rhythm, harmony, and texture. The simplicity and familiarity of the original theme make this work a paradigmatic example of musical variation; despite elaborate modification and ornamentation, the popular tune remains recognizable throughout. The final variation recapitulates the earlier variations in a dazzling show of technical virtuosity.

Sound recording with musical score:

Live performance, Elena Ivanina (11 years old):

Sound recording with lyrics of the song Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star:

Capricho Italiano – Tchaikovsky

I like very much this composition by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), which is for the orchestra.

The Capriccio was inspired by a trip Tchaikovsky took to Rome with his brother Modest as respite from the composer’s disastrous marriage with Antonina Miliukova. It was in Rome, however, that the observant Tchaikovsky called Raphael a “Mozart of painting.”

While in Rome, he wrote to his friend Nadezhda von Meck:

I have already completed the sketches for an Italian fantasia on folk tunes for which I believe a good fortune may be predicted. It will be effective, thanks to the delightful tunes which I have succeeded in assembling partly from anthologies, partly from my own ears in the streets.

Conductor JoAnn Falletta says:

We are hearing foreigners’ views of Italy… [however,] Capriccio Italien has great power, even though it’s practically a pops piece, Tchaikovsky knows what the instruments can do in a virtuoso way. He brings them to their limit in the most thrilling fashion. He has a gift for mixing families of instruments just right – like cantabile strings along with mighty brass. I hear the ballet element in everything Tchaikovsky writes, in his sense of rhythm. You can practically dance to both these scores!

The piece, initially called Italian Fantasia after Mikhail Glinka’s Spanish pieces, was originally dedicated to the virtuosic cellist Karl Davydov and premiered in Moscow on 18 December 1880, with Nikolai Rubinstein conducting the Imperial Russian Musical Society.

Sound recording:

Live performance, Orquestra Sinfônica de Minas Gerais, 2016:

Live performance, Sinfónica de Galicia conducted by Jesús López Cobos:

Hungarian Dance No. 5 – Bramhs

This famous composition became even more famous thanks to a scene in Charlie Chaplin’s movie The Great Dictator in which a barber moves with the tune when working on a client.

The Hungarian Dances (German: Ungarische Tänze, Hungarian: Magyar táncok) by Johannes Brahms are a set of 21 lively dance tunes based mostly on Hungarian themes, completed in 1869. They vary from about a minute to five minutes in length. They are among Brahms’s most popular works and were the most profitable for him. Each dance has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments and ensembles. Brahms originally wrote the version for piano four hands and later arranged the first ten dances for solo piano.

The best-known Hungarian Dance was No. 5 in G minor for orchestra, which was based on the czardas Bártfai emlék (Memories of Bártfa) by Hungarian composer Béla Kéler, which Brahms mistakenly thought was a traditional folksong. A footnote on the Ludwig-Masters edition of a modern orchestration of Hungarian Dance No.1 states: “The material for this dance is believed to have come from the Divine Csárdás (ca. 1850) of Hungarian composer and conductor Miska Borzó.”

Live performance, the Random Quartet, also showing Charlie Chaplin’s movie clip:

Live performance, piano duet by Alexandra Zlătior & Nathan Tinker:

Live performance, Polish Youth Symphony Orchestra, with also Hungarian Dance 6:

Vltava – Smetana

Má vlast (meaning “My homeland” in the Czech language) is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879 by the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). He worked on it while he was completely deaf. While it is often presented as a single work in six movements and – with the exception of Vltava – is almost always recorded that way, the six pieces were conceived as individual works.

In these works Smetana combined the symphonic poem form pioneered by Franz Liszt with the ideals of nationalistic music which were current in the late nineteenth century. Each poem depicts some aspect of the countryside, history, or legends of Bohemia.

Vltava, also known by its English name The Moldau, and in German Die Moldau, was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered in 1875. It is about 13 minutes long, and is in the key of E minor. In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers.

The piece contains Smetana’s most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor, Giuseppe Cenci, which, in a borrowed Romanian form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The tune also appears in an old Czech folk song, Kočka leze dírou (“The Cat Crawls Through the Hole”); Hanns Eisler used it for his Song of the Moldau; and Stan Getz performed it as Dear old Stockholm (probably through another derivative of the original tune, Ack Värmeland du sköna).

The Vltava River

In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia’s great rivers. In his own words:

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the cold and warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer’s wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night’s moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John’s Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German).

Sound recording:

Live performance, Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra of Slovania trình diễn năm 2018 conducted by Nejc Bečan:

Live performance, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest o.l.v. Urbański:

Live performance, solo harp by Valérie Milot, 2012:

Méditation – Massenet

Méditation (is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs by French composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912). The piece is written for solo violin and orchestra. The opera premiered at the Opéra Garnier in Paris in 1894.

The Méditation is an instrumental entr’acte performed between the scenes of Act II in the opera Thaïs. In the first scene of Act II, Athanaël, a Cenobite monk, confronts Thaïs, a beautiful and hedonistic courtesan and devotée of Venus, and attempts to persuade her to leave her life of luxury and pleasure and find salvation through God. It is during a time of reflection following the encounter that the Méditation is played by the orchestra. In the second scene of Act II, following the Méditation, Thaïs tells Athanaël that she will follow him to the desert.

The piece is in D major and is approximately five minutes long (although there are a number of interpretations that stretch the piece to over six minutes). Massenet may also have written the piece with religious intentions; the tempo marking is Andante religioso, signifying his intention that it should be played religiously (which could mean either strictly in the tempo or literally with religiously-founded emotion) and at walking tempo, or around 60 BPM.

The piece opens with a short introduction by the harps, with the solo violin quickly entering with the motif. After the violin plays the melody twice, the piece goes into a section marked animato, gradually becoming more and more passionate (Massenet wrote poco a poco appassionato). The climax is reached at a place marked poco piu appassionato (a little more passion) and is then followed by a short cadenza-like passage from the soloist and returns to the main theme. After the theme is played twice, the soloist joins the orchestra while playing harmonics on the upper register as the harps and strings quietly play below the solo line.

Live performance, Rusanda Panfili (violin) & Donka Angatscheva (piano):

Live performance, Clara-Jumi Kang (violin):

* Live performance, Stjepan Hauser (cello):

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 – Liszt

Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt, 4 months before death

The Hungarian Rhapsodies (Hungarian: Magyar rapszódiák), is a set of 19 piano pieces based on Hungarian folk themes, composed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) during 1846-1853, and later in 1882 and 1885. Liszt also arranged versions for orchestra, piano duet and piano trio.

Some are better known than others, with Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 being particularly famous and No. 6, No. 10, No. 12 and No. 14 (especially as arranged for piano and orchestra as the Hungarian Fantasy) also being well known.

In their original piano form, the Hungarian Rhapsodies are noted for their difficulty (Liszt was a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer).

This famous concerto became even more famous as it was played by Tom and Jerry, so it has been known as “the Cat Concerto”.

Sound recording, piano:

Live performance, 16-year old Yannie Tan (piano) playing “the Cat Concerto”, at one point Jerry interferred by playing The Entertainer:

* Live performance, Valentina Lisitsa (piano solo):

Live performance, the Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Volker Hartung, in March 2012, Laeiszhalle Hamburg, German.

Humoresque – Dvorak

The Humoresques (Czech: Humoresky) is a piano cycle by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), written during the summer of 1894.

The cycle consists of eight pieces:

1/ Vivace (E♭ minor)
2/ Poco andante (B major)
3/ Poco andante e molto cantabile (A♭ major)
4/ Poco andante (F major)
5/ Vivace (A minor)
6/ Poco allegretto (B major)
7/ Poco lento e grazioso (G♭ major)
8/ Poco andante – Vivace – Meno mosso, quasi Tempo I (B♭ minor)

One writer says “the seventh Humoresque is probably the most famous small piano work ever written after Beethoven’s Für Elise.”

Since the seventh Humoresque is too well-known, music lovers refer to it simply as Humoresque, and forget that there are seven more seven Humoresques.

Sound recording, SWR Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern, 2012:

Sound recording, the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, 2013:

Live performance, Yo Yo Ma & Itzhak Perlman, the image is bad but the sound is excellent:

Live performance, 8-year old Leonard Razboršek (cello) and Lilijana Žerajić (piano):

Liebestraum No. 3 – Franz Liszt

Liebesträume (German for “Dreams of Love”) is a set of three solo piano works by Franz Liszt (1811-1886), published in 1850. Originally the three Liebesträume were conceived as lieder after poems by Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath. In 1850, two versions appeared simultaneously as a set of songs for high voice and piano, and as transcriptions for piano two-hands.

Liebestraum No. 3 is the last of the three that Liszt wrote, and the most popular. It can be considered as split into three sections, each divided by a fast cadenza requiring dexterous finger work and a very high degree of technical ability.

The same melody is used throughout the piece, each time varied, especially near the middle of the work, where the climax is reached.

Sound recording:

Live performance, Lang Lang, the image is bad but the sound is excellent:

Live performance, Tiffany Poon:

Live performance, American skating dance pairs, Kaitlin Hawayek & Kaitlin Hawayek, the fourth in 2017 Skate Canada:

Étude Op. 10, No. 3 – Chopin

Étude Op. 10, No. 3, in E major, is a study for solo piano composed by Frédéric Chopin in 1832. It was first published in 1833 in France, Germany, and England as the third piece of his Études Op. 10. This is a slow cantabile study for polyphonic and legato playing. Chopin himself believed the melody to be his most beautiful one. It became famous through numerous popular arrangements.

Although this étude is sometimes identified by the names “Tristesse” (Sadness) or “Farewell (L’Adieu)”, neither is a name given by Chopin, but rather his critics.

Live performance, Lang Lang at The Berlin Philharmonic:

Live performance, Tiffany Poon:

Moonlight Sonata –  Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia” popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata, is a piano sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). It was completed in 1801 and dedicated in 1802 to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi.


The piece is one of Beethoven’s most popular compositions for the piano, and it was a popular favorite even in his own day. Beethoven wrote the Moonlight Sonata in his early thirties, after he had finished with some commissioned work; there is no evidence that he was commissioned to write this sonata.

The sonata consists of three movements:

1/ Adagio sostenuto. A melody that Hector Berlioz called a “lamentation”. The movement is played pianissimo or “very quietly”, and the loudest it gets is piano or “quietly”.

2/ Allegretto. Franz Liszt is said to have described the second movement as “a flower between two chasms”. The slight majority of the movement is in piano, but a handful of sforzandos and forte-pianos helps to maintain the movement’s cheerful disposition.

3/ Presto agitato. The stormy final movement, in sonata form, is the weightiest of the three. An effective performance of this movement demands lively and skillful playing, and is significantly more demanding technically than the 1st and 2nd movements.

Of the final movement, Charles Rosen has written “it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing.”

Video piano tutorial:

Live performance for 1st movement, Lola Astanova (piano) andHauser (cello) for 1st movement:

Live performance, for 1st movement, Olga Kocab (harp):

Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish March) – Mozart

The Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), is a piano sonata in three movements. It is uncertain where and when Mozart composed the sonata; however, Vienna or Salzburg around 1783 is currently thought to be most likely (Paris and dates as far back as 1778 have also been suggested).

The sonata consists of three movements:

1/ Andante grazioso
2/ Menuetto
3/ Alla turca – Allegretto

All of the movements are in the key of A major or A minor; therefore, the work is homotonal. A typical performance of this entire sonata takes about 20 minutes.

The last movement, marked Alla turca, popularly known as the Turkish Rondo or Turkish March, is often heard on its own and is one of Mozart’s best-known piano pieces.

Sound recording:

Live performance, piano duet by Lang Lang & Clayton Stephenson:

Live performance, piano solo by Rousseau:

Live performance, piano solo by HJ Lim:

Canon – Pachelbel

Pachelbel’s Canon is the common name for an accompanied canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) in his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo, sometimes referred to as Canon in D, or simply Canon. Neither the date nor the circumstances of its composition are known (suggested dates range from 1680 to 1706), and the oldest surviving manuscript copy of the piece dates from the 19th century.

Pachelbel’s Canon, like his other works, although popular during his lifetime, went out of style, and remained in obscurity for centuries. A 1968 arrangement and recording of it by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra gained popularity over the next decade, and in the 1970s the piece began to be recorded by many ensembles; by the early 1980s its presence as background music was deemed inescapable. From the 1970s to the late 2010s, elements of the piece, especially its chord progression, were used in a variety of pop songs. Since the 1980s, it has also been used frequently in weddings and funeral ceremonies in the Western world.

The canon was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo and paired with a gigue. Both movements are in the key of D major.

Sound recording, piano solo by Lee Galloway:

Sound recording, the London Symphony Orchestra:

Live performance, Anna Comellas (cello) and Rosalind Beall (guitar):

Live performance, Sophie Moser (violin) and Katja Huhn (piano):

Live performance, the Ímpetus Madrid Baroque Ensemble:

Nocturne No. 2 – Chopin

The Nocturnes are a set of three nocturnes written by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) between 1830 and 1832, published that year, and dedicated to Madame Marie Pleyel. The second nocturne of the work is regarded as Chopin’s most famous piece.

Sound recording, Vadim Chaimovich (piano solo):

Live performance, Rousseau (piano solo):

Live performance, Lola Astanova (piano) and Hauser (cello):

Grande valse brillante in E-flat major – Chopin

The Grande valse brillante in E-flat major was composed by Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) in 1833 and published in 1834. This was his first published waltz composition for solo piano, although prior to 1834 he had written at least sixteen waltzes that were either destroyed or eventually published posthumously.

Chopin also gave the title Grande valse brillante to the next three waltzes in the Op. 34 set, published in 1838.

In 1909, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky made an orchestral arrangement of this waltz for Sergei Diaghilev’s 1907 ballet Les Sylphides. Other composers who orchestrated this waltz for that ballet are Alexander Gretchaninov, Gordon Jacob, Roy Douglas, and Benjamin Britten.

Sound recording, London Festival Orchestra:

Live performance, Valentina Lisitsa (piano):

* Live performance, Lang Lang (piano), in “Global Awards”, 2019:

Prelude in G minor – Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff 1921
Sergei Rachmaninoff

Prelude in G minor is a piece of music by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), completed in 1901. It was included in his Opus 23 set of ten preludes, despite having been written two years earlier than the other nine. Rachmaninoff himself premiered the piece in Moscow on February 10, 1903, along with Preludes No. 1 and 2.

Sound recording, played by Rachmaninoff himself:

* Live performance, Yuja Wang in Berlin, 2018:

Live performance, Paul Barton:

In a Persian Market – Ketèlbey

In a Persian Market is a piece of light classical music for orchestra with optional chorus by Albert Ketèlbey who composed it in 1920. Subtitled Intermezzo Scene, it was published by Bosworth in 1921. It evokes exotic images of camel-drivers, jugglers, and snake-charmers. When it was first published in a version for piano, it was advertised as an “educational novelty”.

In a Persian market

Sound recording, La Orquesta Y Coros Del Festival De Praga:

Live performance, Symphonette Raanana Orchestra, Israel, 2015:

1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky

The Year 1812 Solemn Overture, festival overture in E♭ major, popularly known as the 1812 Overture, is a concert overture written in 1880 by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) to commemorate the successful Russian defence against Napoleon’s invading Grande Armée in 1812.

The overture debuted in Moscow in 1882 under a tent near the then-unfinished Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which also memorialized the 1812 defence of Russia. Tchaikovsky himself conducted another performance at the dedication of Carnegie Hall in New York City. That was one of the first times a major European composer visited the United States.

1812 Overture_Red Square
Playing 1812 Overture on the Red Square, Moscow

The overture is best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire, ringing chimes, and brass fanfare finale. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays on the United States’ Independence Day. The 1812 Overture went on to become one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular works, along with his ballet scores to The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake.

Sound recording, Berlin Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado:

Live performance, Hong Kong Festival Orchestra and Voices with Music Director and Conductor Sean Li:

Live performance, Valentina Lisitsa (piano solo):

Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 – Elgar

Quite a number of people do not like classical music but have to listen to this composition when it is played in their graduation ceremony. This is the tradition at many high schools and colleges in the U.S. The tradition also spreads to the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok: when the graduating students enter the auditorium to receive their degree, this composition is played. Thus, its tune leaves good memories to many people including this writer. The composition has been known as the Graduation March. The tune is quite suitable for a graduation ceremony: the graduating students walk in solemn air the first steps onto their career.

The Pomp and Circumstance Marches (full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches), are a series of marches for orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar. They include some of Elgar’s best-known compositions.

The best known of the six marches, Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1 in D had its premiere, along with March No. 2, in Liverpool in 1901.

March No. 1 was used for the 1902 coronation of Britain’s Edward VII (the son of Queen Victoria who lent his name to the Edwardian age). The tune began its association with American graduations four years later at Yale University, when Elgar was given an honorary doctorate. Then, though, it was played as he walked offstage, not as he walked up to receive his diploma.

Live performance, Berliner Philharmonike, duration reduced to 2 ½ minutes, much like the Graduation March:

Live performance, BBC Symphony Orchestra, complete, nearly 9 minutes:

Piano Sonata No. 16 in C – Mozart

The Piano Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was described by Mozart himself in his own thematic catalogue as “for beginners”, and it is sometimes known by the nickname “Simple sonata” (Sonata semplice).

Mozart added the work to his catalogue on June 26, 1788, the same date as his Symphony No. 39. The exact circumstances of the work’s composition are not known, however. Although the piece is well-known today, it was not published in Mozart’s lifetime and first appeared in print in 1805.

The 3 movements are:

1/ Alegro: the most well known
2/ Andante
3/ Rondo

Live performance, Daniel Barenboim, fast, 8 minutes:

Live performance, Lucas Jayden, slow, 12 minutes:


Minuetto – Boccherini

This is one of excerpts that I like the most.

Ridolfo Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805) was an Italian composer and cellist of the Classical era, whose music retained a courtly and “galante” style even while he matured somewhat apart from the major European musical centers. He is best known for a minuetto from his String Quintet in E.

The String Quintet has 3 movements:

1/ Amoroso
2/ Allegro e con spirito
3/ Minuetto

Even though intended for a quintet, this composition can be played with different interpretations by different instrumental sets, as we can see below. Classical music lovers love the Minuetto, so I think you would love it, too.

Sound recording:

Live performance with Mitsuko Ito (violon) and Tomoko Asai (piano):

Live performance, Harry Völker (piano solo), slow and romantic:

Live performance, BMMC / Andrés Valero-Castells, large orchestra for a composition written for quintet:

Live performance, quartet Cuarteto Europeo:

Live performance, a quintet with interpretation for fast timing:

Andante in Elvira Madigan – Mozart

This excerpt is another of my favorite.

Elvira Madigan, byname of Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, three-movement concerto for piano and orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), the best known of his many piano concerti.

The concerto is scored for solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns in C, two trumpets in C, timpani and strings.

Piano Concerto No. 21 is among the most technically demanding of all Mozart’s concerti. The composer’s own father, Leopold Mozart, described it as “astonishingly difficult.” The difficulty lies less in the intricacy of the notes on the page than in playing those many notes smoothly and elegantly. Mozart made the challenge look easy, as newspapers of his time attest, though his letters reveal the hard work behind those performances.

The concerto has three movements:

1/ Allegro maestoso. The opening movement begins quietly with a march figure, but quickly moves to a more lyrical melody interspersed with a fanfare in the winds. The music grows abruptly in volume, with the violins taking up the principal melody over the march theme, which is now played by the brass. This uplifting theme transitions to a brief, quieter interlude distinguished by a sighing motif in the brass. The march returns, eventually transitioning to the entrance of the soloist. The piano then introduces new material. A series of rising and falling chromatic scales then transition the music to the true second theme of the piece,

2/ Andante in F major. This is the famous movement. The opening section is for orchestra only and features muted strings. The second section introduces the solo piano. It is not a literal repeat, though, as after the first few phrases, new material is interjected. The third section begins with the dreamlike melody again. Over the course of this final section, the music makes its way back to the tonic keys, and a short coda concludes the movement.

3/ Allegro vivace assai. The final rondo movement begins with the full orchestra espousing a joyous “jumping” theme. After a short cadenza, the piano joins in and further elaborates. A “call and response” style is apparent, with the piano and ensemble exchanging parts fluidly. The soloist gets scale and arpeggio figurations that enhance the themes, as well as a short cadenza that leads right back to the main theme. The main theme appears one final time, leading to an upward rush of scales that ends on a triumphant note.

The second movement was featured in the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan. As a result, the piece has become widely known as the Elvira Madigan concerto.

Sound recording for Andante, Prague Philharmonic Orchestra:

Sound recording for Andante, James Last:

Live performance for Andante, Budapest Scoring Symphonic Orchestra directed by Zoltan Kokenyessy:

Live performance for complete Elvira Madigan, Yeol Eum Son (piano) with orchestra, 31 minutes:

Overture, The marriage of Figaro – Mozart

The Marriage of Figaro (Italian: Le nozze di Figaro) is an opera buffa (comic opera) in four acts composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1786. The opera’s libretto is based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”), which was first performed in 1784. It tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna and teaching him a lesson in fidelity.

The opera is a cornerstone of the repertoire and appears consistently among the top ten in the Operabase list of most frequently performed operas.

Sound recording, Tbilisi Symphonic Orchestra:

Live performance, Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Fabio Luisi, 2006 i Tokyo:

Live performance, Budapest Scoring Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Pejtsik:

Air on the G String – Bach

Air on the G String is August Wilhelmj’s arrangement of the second movement in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. The arrangement differs from the original in that the part of the first violins is transposed down so that it can be played entirely on a violin’s lowest string, i.e., the G string. It is played by a single violin (instead of by the first violins as a group).

Bach’s third Orchestral Suite in D major, composed in the first half of the 18th century, has an “Air” as second movement, following its French overture opening movement. The suite is composed for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings (two violin parts and a viola part), and basso continuo. In the second movement of the suite however only the strings and the continuo play. This is the only movement of the suite where all other instruments are silent.

Sound recording, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle:

Live performance, using original instruments from the time of Bach:

Live performance, two cellos Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser in Zagreb, Croatia, 2015:

Live performance, Anastasiya Petryshak (violin), in Milan, 2015:

Andante Cantabile – Tchaikovsky

String Quartet No. 1 in D major by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was the first of his three completed string quartets that were published during his lifetime. Composed in 1871, it was premiered in Moscow in the same year.

The melancholic second movement known as Andante Cantabile, which has become famous in its own right, was based on a folk song the composer heard at his sister’s house at Kamenka, whistled by a house painter.

Live performance, Rastrelli Cello Quartett:

Live performance, Nathan Chan (cello) and a quintet:

1st Movement, Symphony “The Italian” – Mendelssohn

The Symphony No. 4 in A major,  commonly known as “The Italian”, is an orchestral symphony written by German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

The work has its origins (as had the composer’s Scottish 3rd Symphony and The Hebrides overture) in the tour of Europe which occupied Mendelssohn from 1829 to 1831. Its inspiration is the color and atmosphere of Italy, where Mendelssohn made sketches but left the work incomplete:

This is Italy! And now has begun what I have always thought… to be the supreme joy in life. And I am loving it. Today was so rich that now, in the evening, I must collect myself a little, and so I am writing to you to thank you, dear parents, for having given me all this happiness.

He also wrote from Rome to his sister Fanny,

The Italian Symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece I have ever done, especially the last movement. I have not found anything for the slow movement yet, and I think that I will save that for Naples.

The Italian Symphony was finished in Berlin on 13 March 1833, in response to an invitation for a symphony from the London (now Royal) Philharmonic Society; he conducted the first performance himself in London in 1833 at a London Philharmonic Society concert. The symphony’s success, and Mendelssohn’s popularity, influenced the course of British music for the rest of the century. The Germania Musical Society of Boston gave the first performance in the United States in 1851.

Mendelssohn himself, however, remained dissatisfied with the composition, which cost him, he said, some of the bitterest moments of his career; he revised it in 1834 and even planned to write alternative versions of the second, third, and fourth movements. He never published the symphony, and it appeared in print only in 1851; thus it is numbered as his “Symphony No. 4”, even though it was in fact the third he composed.

The 4 movements are:

1/ Allegro vivace (A major): joyful, in sonata form.

2/ Andante con moto (D minor): an impression of a religious procession the composer witnessed in Naples.

3/ Con moto moderato  (A major): a minuet in which French horns are introduced in the trio.

4/ Presto & Finale: Saltarello (A minor): dance figurations from the Roman saltarello and the Neapolitan tarantella.

It is among the first large multi-movement works to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor, another example being Brahms’s first piano trio.

A typical performance lasts about half an hour.

Only the 1st Movement is introduced. It is up to you to explore the entire symphony.

Sound recording _1st Movement, organ:

Sound recording _1st Movement, Philharmonia Orchestra János / Sándor, 8 minutes:

Live performance _1st Movement, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, shortened to 3 minutes:

Live performance _1st Movement, Berliner Philharmoniker / Riccardo Chailly, shortened to 3 minutes:

2nd Movement, Clarinet Concerto in A major – Mozart

Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, was written in 1791 for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. It consists of three movements, in a fast–slow–fast succession:

1/ Allegro (in A major and in sonata form)
2/ Adagio (in D major and in ternary form) – the most well-known
3/ Rondo: Allegro (in A major and in rondo form)

This is the only Mozart’s concerto written for clarinet. Also, it is perhaps the best-known concerto for clarinet, an instrument that is rarely played solo.

Sound recording_2nd Movement, Béla Kovács and Dàn nhạc Giao hưởng Budapest, 1978:

* Sound recording_2nd Movement, Jack Brymer and Dàn nhạc Giao hưởng Hoàng gia:

Movie excerpt_2nd Movement, Out of Africa:

Live performance_2nd Movement, Sharon Kam (clarinet) and Dàn nhạc Giao hưởng Czech:

Long compositions

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major) is a 1787 composition for a chamber ensemble by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The German title means “a little serenade”, though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as “a little night music”. The work is written for an ensemble of two violins, viola, and cello with optional double bass but is often performed by string orchestras.

The serenade was completed in Vienna on 10 August 1787, around the time Mozart was working on the second act of his opera Don Giovanni. It is not known why it was composed. Wolfgang Hildesheimer, noting that most of Mozart’s serenades were written on commission, suggests that this serenade, too, was a commission, whose origin and first performance were not recorded.

Today, the serenade is widely performed and recorded; indeed, both Jacobson and Hildesheimer opine that the serenade is the most popular of all Mozart’s works. Of the music, Hildesheimer writes, “even if we hear it on every street corner, its high quality is undisputed, an occasional piece from a light but happy pen.”

The work has four movements:

1/ Allegro (G major – D major – G major). This first movement is in sonata-allegro form. It opens with an ascending Mannheim rocket theme. The second theme is more graceful and in D major, the dominant key of G major. The exposition closes in D major and is repeated. The development section begins on D major and touches on D minor and C major before the work returns to G major for the recapitulation. There is a brief coda.

2/  Romanze: Andante (C major). The second movement, with the tempo marked Andante, is a Romanze in the subdominant key of C major. It is in rondo form, taking the shape A–B–A–C–A plus a final coda. The keys of the sections are C major for A and B, C minor for C. The middle appearance of A is truncated, consisting of only the first half of the theme. Daniel Heartz describes the movement as evoking gavotte rhythm: each of its sections begins in the middle of the measure, with a double upbeat.

3/  Menuetto: Allegretto (G major). The third movement, marked Allegretto, is a minuet and trio, both in 3/4 time. The minuet is in the home key of G major, the contrasting trio in the dominant key of D major. As is normal in this form, the minuet is played again da capo following the trio..

4/  Rondo: The fourth and last movement is in lively tempo, marked Allegro; the key is again G major. The movement is written in modified sonata form where the first subject from the recapitulation is placed after the second. Mozart specifies repeats not just for the exposition section but also for the following development and recapitulation section. The work ends with a long coda.

During the first period when you are learning to appreciate classical music, it may suffice for you to listen to the 1st movement only. However, the entire composition is worth listening (and I particularly love the 2nd movement also). Thus, it is advisable to listen to the entire composition. It takes only 20-24 minutes.

Live performance for 1st movement Allegro, New Century Chamber Orchestra, Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg:

Live performance for 1st movement Allegro, The Ivy String Quartet:

Live performance for 2nd movement Romanze, The Gewandhaus Quartet:

Live performance for 2nd movement Allegro, New Century Chamber Orchestra, Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg:

Sound recording for entire composition, Slovak Chamber Orchestra conducted by Bohdan Warchal, 24 minutes:

1/ Serenade. Allegro
2/ Romance. Andante
3/ Minuet. Allegretto
4/ Rondo. Allegro

Live performance for entire composition, McGill Symphony conducted by Alexis Hauser, in Montréal, 2016, 24 minutes, with excellent sound and image:

The Four Seasons – Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi

The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a group of four concerti grossi by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. They were written around 1721 and were published in 1725 in Amsterdam.

The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi’s works. A performance of all four concerti may take about 40-43 minutes.

Sound recording of all four concerti, the Budapest Strings, conducted by Bela Banfalvi:

Spring 0:00
Summer 10:31
Autumn 20:59
Winter 32:48

Live performance, Spring (La Primavera), Classical Concert Chamber Orchestra & Ashot Tigranyan:

Live performance, Winter (L’Inverno), Cynthia Miller Freivogel and Early Music ensemble Voices of Music:

Live performance of all four concerti, Antal Zalai (violin) and The Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, 44 minutes:

Click YouTube function SHOW MORE then click the color-highlighted section to jump to it:

1. Allegro 0:01
2. Largo 3:23
3. Allegro 6:05

1. Allegro non molto 10:43
2. Adagio e piano – Presto e forte 16:09
3. Presto 18:25

1. Allegro 21:40
2. Adagio molto 26:51
3. Allegro 29:03

1. Allegro non molto 32:48
2. Largo 36:19
3. Allegro 38:28

Live performance of all four concerti, Janine Jansen (violin) in Internationaal Kamermuziek Festival 2014, 49 minutes:

Click YouTube function SHOW MORE then click the color-highlighted section to jump to it:

La Primavera/ Spring
Spring Movement 1 (Allegro) – 0:04
Spring Movement 2 (Largo) – 3:31
Spring Movement 3 (Allegro) – 6:02

L’estate/ Summer
Summer Movement 1 (Allegro non molto) – 10:22
Summer Movement 2 (Adagio) – 15:41
Summer Movement 3 (Presto) – 17:54

L’autunno/ Autumn
Autumn Movement 1 (Allegro) – 21:01
Autumn Movement 2 (Adagio molto) – 26:10
Autumn Movement 3 (Allegro) – 28:41

L’inverno/ Winter
Winter Movement 1 (Allegro non molto) – 32:05
Winter Movement 2 (Largo) – 35:21
Winter Movement 3 (Allegro) – 37:00

Divertimento in D major, K. 136  – Mozart

Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (K. 125a), is the first of a group of works collectively known as the “Salzburg” symphonies. These works stands apart from Mozart’s remaining symphonies, in that they are set for strings alone, rather than for the otherwise customary mixed instrumentation including winds. A further point which separates these compositions from Mozart’s others in the symphonic genre, is that they are comprised of just three, rather than four individual movements, each lacking the usual Minuet. And lastly, the compact three-movement form further distinguishes the “Salzburg” symphonies from Mozart’s true Divertimentos and Serenades, which were mulit-movement creations on a large scale, regularly spanning six movements and sometimes even more.

In keeping with classical conventions, works such as these for string orchestra could also be played by the four voices of the string quartet when the occasion demanded. Indeeed, a likely explanation for the origin of these so-called “Quartet Divertimentos” is to be found in the facts of Mozart’s life at the time of composition, early in 1772. Mozart was then just 16 years of age, and already held the post of Court Concertmaster to Hieronymus Coloredo, Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. This period fell between Mozart’s second and third visits to Italy, where he may well have found the impulse to compose works in the style of the three-movement Sinfonias and Concerti Grossi which had been popular since the times of Corelli. This, however, is still a matter of considerable conjecture, and besides, had these been pieces to be played exclusively by solo instrumentalists, Mozart surely would have considered them as true string quartets.

Divertimento in D major, K. 136 (K. 125a) – also known as Divertimento for string orchestra K. 136  or “Salzburg Symphony No. 1” (1772) – is a well-known and high-spirited composition for string quartet or string orchestra. Note that “Divertimento in D major” consists of several different compositions, distinguished by the K number.

This Divertimento consists of (1) a lively opening Allegro, in simple sonata form; (2) a charming central Andante; and (3) a brilliant concluding Presto. The brilliant inventiveness and virtuosity of the D major Divertimento is, to echo the words of Alfred Einstein (writing about another closely related work, Mozart’s perennial Eine kleine nachtmusik, the Serenade in G, K. 525) “a masterpiece of masterpieces, on the smallest possible scale.”

Sound recording, Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester Mannheim, Conductor: Florian Heyerick:

Live performance, New York Classical Players, conducted by Dongmin Kim:

1. Allegro (00:07)
2. Andante (04:15)
3. Presto (10:06)

Live performance, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France:

Complete Concertos

Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” – Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven

If you want to listen to only one complete concerto in your life, then you should listen to this one! Its duration is approximately forty minutes. It is considered to be the best romantic concerto.

Emperor Concerto, byname of Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, piano concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven known for its grandeur, bold melodies, and heroic spirit. The work was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, who was a friend and student of the composer. It premiered in Leipzig, Germany, in 1811, and it remains the best known and most frequently performed of Beethoven’s five piano concerti.

Beethoven began his work on this piece in 1808, about the time that he completed his fifth and sixth symphonies and fourth piano concerto. Despite difficult living conditions—in 1809 the city of Vienna was under bombardment by Napoleon’s troops—the composer finished it promptly. Because his profound deafness prevented his own performance of the solo part, the honour fell to a 25-year-old church organist, Friedrich Schneider.

The success of the Emperor Concerto was due in part to technological developments in piano production that enabled a greater measure of expressive power. The piece quickly won for itself a place in the piano repertoire, and it became a great favourite of Franz Liszt.

The concerto’s sobriquet “Emperor” dates from Beethoven’s time, and it is sometimes attributed to German-born English pianist and music publisher Johann Baptist Cramer, whom Beethoven reportedly regarded as the greatest pianist of the day. Whatever the origins of the concerto’s nickname, it is unlikely to have pleased Beethoven himself.

The concerto is divided into three movements:

1/ Allegro in E major. The first movement begins with the solo piano unfurling a series of virtuosic pronouncements punctuated by large, strong chords from the full orchestra. The vigorous, incessantly propulsive main theme follows, undergoing complex thematic transformation, with a secondary theme of tonic and dominant notes and chords. When the piano enters with the first theme, the expository material is repeated with variations, virtuoso figurations, and modified harmonies. The second theme enters in the unusual key of B minor before moving to B major and at last to the expected key of B♭ major several bars later.

Following the opening flourish, the movement follows Beethoven’s three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano introduces a triumphant, virtuosic third theme that belongs solely to the solo instrument, a trademark of Beethoven’s concertos. The coda elaborates upon the open-ended first theme, building in intensity before finishing in a final climactic arrival at the tonic E♭ major.

2/ Adagio un poco mosso[a] in B major. The second movement forms a quiet nocturne for the solo piano, muted strings, and wind instruments that converse with the solo piano. The third movement begins without interruption when a lone bassoon note B drops a semitone to B♭, the dominant of the tonic key E♭. The end of the second movement was written to build directly into the third.

3/ Rondo: Allegro in E major. The final movement of the concerto is a seven-part rondo form (ABACABA). The solo piano introduces the main theme before the full orchestra affirms the soloist’s statement. The rondo’s B-section begins with piano scales, before the orchestra again responds. The C-section is much longer, presenting the theme from the A-section in three different keys before the piano performs a passage of arpeggios. Rather than finishing with a strong entrance from the orchestra, however, the trill ending the cadenza dies away until the introductory theme reappears, played first by the piano and then the orchestra. In the last section, the theme undergoes variation before the concerto ends with a short cadenza and robust orchestral response.

Sound recording, Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta, 39 minutes:

00:00 I. Allegro moderato
19:56 II. Adagio un poco mosso
28:28 III. Rondo: Allegro

Live performance, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia with Maurizio Pollini (piano) and conducted by Daniele Pollini, 44 minutes:


Allegro (0:35)
Adagio un poco mosso (21:00)
Rondo. Allegro (28:53)

Live performance, New York Philharmonic with Stephen Hough (piano), 40 minutes:

Piano Concerto No. 1 – Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

If you want to listen to the next complete concerto, then I’d like to introduce this to you.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B♭ minor was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in 1874-1875. It is one of the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s compositions and among the best known of all piano concertos. The work is particularly famed for the sequence of pounding chords with which the soloist’s part launches the first movement.

The concerto follows the traditional form of three movements:

Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito (B♭ minor – B♭ major). The first movement opens with a bold horn call heralding a series of powerful chords from the soloist. The strings introduce an expansive theme, which is then taken up by the piano.

Andantino semplice – Prestissimo – Tempo I (D♭ major). The second movement, by contrast, is languid, with lighter use of the orchestral instruments.

Allegro con fuoco – Molto meno mosso – Allegro vivo (B♭ minor – B♭ major). For the finale, Tchaikovsky offers a rondo with various alternating melodies, some of which are heard more than once, and ends by returning to the powerful driven energy of the opening.

A standard performance lasts between 30 and 36 minutes, the majority of which is taken up by the first movement.

Sound recording_First movement, Bruno Orchestra, shortened to 9 minutes:

Live performance_First movement, shortened to 3 minutes and a half:

Below, do not look at the blurred screen, just open your heart to listen to Lang Lang:

Live performance_Concerto, Lang Lang (piano) and Orchestre de Paris, 2015:

Live performance_Concerto, Anna Fedorova (piano) and Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie led by Yves Abel, 2018:


Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” – Dvorak

Antonin Dvorak 1868
Antonín Dvořák

This symphony is my top favorite. If you want to listen to only one entire symphony in your life, then you should listen to this one!

The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World, popularly known as the New World Symphony, was composed by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America from 1892 to 1895. It is by far his most popular symphony, and one of the most popular of all symphonies. Astronaut Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of the New World Symphony along during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969.

In the traditional structure, the piece has four movements:

1/ Adagio, 4/8 – Allegro molto, 2/4, E minor, 10 minutes.
2/ Largo, common time, begins E major to D♭ major, then later C♯ minor, 11 minutes and a half.
3/ Scherzo: Molto vivace – Poco sostenuto, 3/4, E minor, 8 minutes.
4/ Allegro con fuoco, common time, E minor, ends in E major, 12 minutes.

Dvořák was interested in Native American music and the African-American spirituals he heard in North America. While director of the National Conservatory he encountered an African-American student, Harry T. Burleigh, who sang traditional spirituals to him. Burleigh, later a composer himself, said that Dvořák had absorbed their ‘spirit’ before writing his own melodies. Dvořák stated:

I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.

The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered in 1893, at Carnegie Hall conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald on 15 December 1893, Dvořák further explained how Native American music influenced his symphony:

I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral color.

At the premiere, the end of every movement was met with thunderous clapping and Dvořák felt obliged to stand up and bow. This was one of the greatest public triumphs of Dvořák’s career. When the symphony was published, several European orchestras soon performed it. Alexander Mackenzie conducted the London Philharmonic Society in the European premiere on 21 June 1894. Clapham says the symphony became “one of the most popular of all time” and at a time when the composer’s main works were being welcomed in no more than ten countries, this symphony reached the rest of the musical world and has become a “universal favorite.”

The symphony had been performed [as of 1978] more often “than any other symphony at the Royal Festival Hall, London” and is in “tremendous demand in Japan.”

First, go to the following links, click the icon to play, close your eyes and listen to probably the most beautiful piece of classical music in pure sound:

Sound recording_2nd Movement, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:–symphony-no-9-from-the-new-world-ii-largo

+ Sound recording_2nd Movement, Radio Symphony Orchestra Ljubljana, conducted by Anton Nanut:

+ Sound recording_2nd Movement, U.S. Marine Band, conducted by Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig, 2017:

+ * Live performance_2nd Movement, The Chamberlain Brass, 2017:

Live performance_3rd Movement, New York Philharmonic:

* Live performance_Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Neeme Järvi, 48 minutes:

00:36 1st movement : Adagio – Allegro molto
13:30 2nd movement : Largo
25:57 3rd movement : Scherzo Molto Vivace
33:27 4th movement : Allegro con fuoco

* Live performance_Symphony, Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra of Slovania conducted by Nejc Bečan, 43 minutes:

Going home

The theme from the 2nd Movement-Largo was adapted into the spiritual-like song Going home by Dvořák’s student William Arms Fisher, who published the lyrics in 1922. He died in 1948, but his song (often mistakenly considered a folk song or traditional spiritual) lives forever.

This song is often played at the ceremonies to welcome back Americans who sacrificed for the country. A scene of such ceremony can be seen in the movie Clear and present danger (1994) starring Harrison Ford.

Sound recording, Going home, Libera with lyrics:

Sound recording, Going home, Annie Haslam:

Live performance, Going home, Sissel Kyrkjebo:

Going home (Dvořák / Fisher) lyrics as sung by Sissel Kyrkjebo

Going home, going home
I’m jus’ going home
Quiet like, some still day
I’m jus’ going home

It’s not far, yes close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Going to fear no more

Mother’s there ‘specting me
Father’s waiting, too
Lots of folk gathered there
All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

All the friends I knew

I’m going home


Nothing lost, all’s gain
No more fret nor pain
No more stumbling on the way
No more longing for the day
Going to roam no more

Morning stars light the way
Restless dream all done
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life yes begun

There’s no break, aint no end
Jus’ a livin’ on
Wide awake with a smile
Going on and on

Going home, going home
I’m jus’ going home
It’s not far, yes close by
Through an open door
I’m jus’ going home

Going home, going home

Symphony No. 25 – Mozart

The Symphony No. 25 in G minor was written by the then 17-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) in October 1773. It was supposedly completed in Salzburg on October 5, a mere two days after the completion of his Symphony No. 24, although this remains unsubstantiated.

This is one of two symphonies Mozart composed in G minor, sometimes referred to as the “little G minor symphony”. The other is the Symphony No. 40. G minor has been considered the key through which Mozart best expressed sadness and tragedy, and many of his minor key works are in G minor. Though Mozart touched on various minor keys in his symphonies, G minor is the only minor key he used as a main key for his numbered symphonies.

The symphony has a standard structure:

1/ Allegro con brio, 4/4, in G minor
2/ Andante, 2/4, in E-flat major
3/ Menuetto & Trio, ¾, in G minor, Trio in G major
4/ Allegro, 4/4, in G minor

The first movement is widely known as the opening music in Miloš Forman’s film Amadeus.

Sound recording, 20 minutes:

Live performance, Weinberger Chamber Orchestra, Gábor Takács-Nagy, 23 minutes:

Symphony No. 35 “Haffner” – Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Symphony No. 35 in D major, was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) in 1782 and is also called the Haffner Symphony. It did not start its life as a symphony, but rather as a serenade to be used as background music for the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner.

The Mozarts knew the Haffners through Sigmund Haffner’s father, Sigmund Haffner the Elder [DE], who had been mayor of Salzburg and who had helped them out on their early tours of Europe. The elder Haffner died in 1772, but the families remained in contact. In 1776, the younger Haffner commissioned a serenade for the wedding of Marie Elizabeth Haffner to Franz Xavier Spath. This work became the famous Haffner Serenade which was so successful that, when the younger Sigmund Haffner was to be ennobled, it was only natural that Mozart was called upon to write the music for the occasion.

The request to write music actually came via Mozart’s father on 20 July 1782 when Mozart had no spare time. Mozart was “up to his eyeballs with work”. Not only was he teaching, but he also had to rearrange the score of his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail before July 28. In addition to these demands, his proposed marriage to Constanze Weber was threatened by a number of complications, including moving to a house on the Hohe Brücke in Vienna.

Nevertheless, Mozart worked on the music, and sent it through section by section to his father. What Mozart wrote at this time was a new serenade – a completely different work from the serenade presented four years earlier – with an introductory march and two minuets. According to historical evidence, it is quite possible that Mozart did not actually meet his father’s deadline to have the music completed by Sigmund Haffner’s ennoblement. Mozart later reworked this music into what we now know as the Haffner Symphony.

At the end of December 1782, Mozart decided to present music from the new Haffner Serenade at a concert. After asking his father to send the score of the serenade back again, Mozart was amazed at its quality, given the fact that it was composed in so short a time. He set to work to make a number of alterations to the score in order to convert the new Haffner Serenade into the Haffner Symphony. Mozart also gave the Haffner Symphony a fuller sound by adding two flutes and two clarinets to the woodwind section of the first and last movements. These added woodwind parts are not new melodic material, but simply a doubling of octaves within the woodwinds.

The performance of the Haffner Symphony, as we know it today, at the first concert in 1783 proved very successful. Cuyler (1995) classifies the Haffner, Linz (No. 36) and Prague (No. 38) symphonies, as “three symphonies that transcend all his former symphonic works.”

The autograph manuscript currently resides in the archives of the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

The four movements are:

1/ Allegro con spirito, 2/2. When communicating with his father Leopold, Mozart stated that this movement was to be played with fire. The movement is in sonata form with a short development section.

2/ Andante, 2/4. The G major second movement provides a welcome relief with its slow, graceful melodies announced by the woodwind section. The movement is in an abridged sonata form. This movement has been summarized by some as being delicate and elaborate, but definitely relaxing.

3/ Menuetto, 3/4. The D major minuet provides a bright change of atmosphere from the previous slow, serious “Andante” movement. One may notice when listening to this movement the constant tug between two main chords – the tonic and dominant keys. Only three times do we see chords other than the tonic or dominant. Leading straight on from the “Menuetto”, the “Trio” provides a complement to the character of this “Menuetto”. As indicated by Mozart in the score, the “Trio” immediately follows the “Menuetto” without a moment of silence. The “Menuetto” is brighter and lighter; whereas the “Trio” creates a more flowing effect.

4/ Presto, 2/2. The last movement maintains just as much fire as the first movement. Like the first movement, this movement is in the key of D major, and the form of the “Presto” movement is clearly in sonata-rondo form. Permeated with silences, rapid dynamic shifts, and a bright grace note passage near the closing of the movement, one may expect the unexpected.

The Haffner Symphony usually runs somewhere around 20 minutes in length.

Sound recording:

Live performance, Swedish Chamber Orchestra with conductor Nathalie Stutzman, 2014:

Symphony No. 40 – Mozart

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) in 1788. It is sometimes referred to as the “Great G minor symphony”, to distinguish it from the “Little G minor symphony”, No. 25. The two are the only extant minor key symphonies Mozart wrote.

Symphony No. 40 is one of only two symphonies he wrote in minor keys and reflects his interest in the artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), in which darker and stronger emotions were showcased.

The year 1788 was a dark one for Mozart. Viennese audiences were proving less eager to hear his concerts and recitals, bills were piling up, and his infant daughter Theresia had just died. Letters to friends reveal that he was finding it difficult to look beyond the shadows, and some have suggested that this fact influenced this unusually anxious symphony.

Yet there is more at work here than one man’s daily sorrows. At this time in history, German and Austrian composers were increasingly drawn to the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) movement, a school of thought that also affected artists and writers. In response, composers began producing works that were the audible expression of angst. Haydn wrote Sturm und Drang symphonies, frequently in the key of G minor that Mozart uses here. So did the London-based Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of the great Johann Sebastian, and this younger Bach had strongly influenced the pre-teen Mozart during that youth’s extended visit to England. In this atmosphere, it is no surprise that Mozart, too, turned, at least occasionally, to minor keys. Symphony No. 40 proves that this man, whose music could so easily provoke delight, could also spur tears.

However, it is only one of three symphonies Mozart would write this summer, apparently at the eventually abandoned prospect of a concert tour to London. The other two symphonies – No. 39 in E-flat Major and No. 41 in C Major – are bright and sunny in nature. One might imagine that Mozart loaded his somber feelings into this one work, though even here, all is not sorrow. At no point in his career would this composer allow music to stay long in sober moods.

As usually seen at the time of Mozart, this symphony has four movements as follows:

1/ Molto allegro, 2/2, fast. This movement makes much of plaintive sighs, though gentle graceful melodies also appear and even occasional bursts of jubilation. This movement is among the best-loved pieces of the general audience.

2/ Andante, 6/8, slow. This movement is softly elegant, as if of a quiet moonlit evening. Here, Mozart entirely sets aside the shadows of minor keys in favor of brighter major keys.

3/ Menuetto: Allegretto–Trio, 3/4. The third movement offers darkness as well as light, the dark passages strongly assertive and the light ones sweeter.

4/ Finale: Allegro assai, 2/2, fast. Mozart returns to a general focus upon more serious moods, often given an urgent and fretful turn.

Although interpretations differ, the symphony is unquestionably one of Mozart’s most greatly admired works, and it is frequently performed and recorded. Ludwig van Beethoven knew the symphony well, copying out 29 measures from the score in one of his sketchbooks. It is thought that the opening theme of the last movement may have inspired Beethoven in composing the third movement of his Fifth Symphony.

First, close your eyes to listen to the well-known 1st Movement before you go on with the entire symphony.

Live performance_1st Movement, Mozart Kammerphilharmonie:

Sound recording_Symphony, Camerata Academica des Mozarteums Salzburg:


1/ Molto allegro — 0:06
2/ Andante — 7:40
3/ Menuetto — 15:23
4. Finale — 19:43

Live performance_Symphony, Berlin State Opera conducted by Julien Salemkour, 26 minutes:

0:27 I. Molto allegro
7:38 II. Andante
15:10 III. Menuetto (Allegretto)
19:28 IV. Finale (Allegro assai)

Live performance_Symphony, Omega Ensemble, Paul Meyer (conductor):

I. Molto allegro
II. Andante (7:48)
III. Menuetto. Allegretto (18:02)
IV. Finale. Allegro assai (21:49)

Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter” – Mozart

Symphony No. 41 – known since the early 19th century as the “Jupiter” – is the last symphony that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composed. It is known for its good humour, exuberant energy, and unusually grand scale for a symphony of the Classical period. These qualities likely earned the symphony its nickname “Jupiter” – for the chief god of the ancient Roman pantheon.

The Jupiter was completed in 1788 and was Mozart’s last symphony, and it is uncertain whether the work was performed during the composer’s lifetime. The nickname was allegedly coined by German musician, impresario, and longtime London resident Johann Peter Saloman and was probably first used in print in a London concert program in 1821.

Mozart rarely composed on a whim. Generally, he wrote on commission (by order of a paying customer or patron) or for his own concerts, or he created new pieces as gifts for friends. Such transactions were usually cataloged in the composer’s letters and writings, which have survived in large number. However, in the case of his last three symphonies (K 543, K 550, and K 551) dating from the summer of 1788, the historical record is silent. Music scholars have found no indication of a commission, so perhaps Mozart composed the works in hopes of selling them or presenting them in a concert in Vienna.

Four movements were composed in the typical structure:

1/ Allegro, 4/4, fast and bright in sonata form.
2/ Andante 3/4, sentimental, more subdued.
3/ Menuetto: Allegretto-Trio, stately.
4/ Molto allegro: 2/2, in sonata form, bold and brisk, with a strident fugal coda that is a hallmark of the piece.

The Jupiter Symphony is the largest and most complex of Mozart’s symphonies. Although at moments jovial, as if Jupiter himself were laughing heartily in the celebratory key of C Major, the work generally carries a serious spirit – especially in the first and fourth movements – that hints at the grand Romantic symphonies, which were soon to come with Beethoven.

Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony inspired many composers, especially Haydn, who used it as a model for his own Symphony No. 95 and Symphony No. 98. Perhaps the most succinct reflection on the work’s importance is found in the critiques of German composer and journalist Robert Schumann, who in 1835 wrote, “About many things in this world there is simply nothing to be said—for example, about Mozart’s C-Major symphony with the fugue, much of Shakespeare, and some of Beethoven.” For Schumann, at least, the Jupiter Symphony secured for Mozart an eternal position within the realm of the masters.

During the first period when you are learning to appreciate classical music, you may listen only to the 1st Movement – also one of my top favorites. As your love to classical music progresses, you may listen to other movements, or the complete symphony.

Sound recording_1st Movement:

Sound recording_Third Movement:

Sound recording_Final Movement:

Sound recording_Symphony, Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Riccardo Muti, 30 minutes:

Live performance_Symphony, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia conducted by Lorin Maazel, 41 minutes:

Allegro vivace (00:26)
Andante cantabile (13:29)
Menuetto (Allegretto) (26:46)
Molto allegro (31:54)


Symphony No. 5 “Destiny” – Beethoven

The Symphony No. 5 in C minor of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), was written between 1804 and 1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies. First performed in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien in 1808, the work achieved its prodigious reputation soon afterward. E. T. A. Hoffmann described the symphony as “one of the most important works of the time”. As is typical of symphonies in the classical period, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in four movements.

It begins with a distinctive four-note “dit-dit-dit-daah” motif. The symphony, and the four-note opening motif in particular, are known worldwide, with the motif appearing frequently in popular culture, from disco versions to rock and roll covers, to uses in film and television.

Since the Second World War, The Symphony No. 5 has sometimes been referred to as the “Victory Symphony”. “V” is coincidentally also the Roman numeral character for the number five, and the phrase “V for Victory” became well known as a campaign of the Allies of World War II. That Beethoven’s Victory Symphony happened to be his Fifth (or vice versa) is coincidence. Some thirty years after this piece was written, the rhythm of the opening phrase – “dit-dit-dit-daah” – was used for the letter “V” in Morse code, though this is probably also coincidental. During the Second World War, the BBC prefaced its broadcasts to Europe with those four notes, played on drums. Then, the drum sound at the beginning of the movie The longest day, also represents those four notes.

Like Beethoven’s Eroica (heroic) and Pastorale (rural), Symphony No. 5 was given an explicit name, besides the numbering. It became popular under Schicksals-Sinfonie (Symphony of Destiny). This is one of the most popular symphonies.

A typical performance usually lasts around 30–40 minutes. The work is in four movements:

1/ Allegro con brio
2/ Andante con moto
3/ Scherzo. Allegro
4/ Allegro.

The Fifth Symphony is remarkable in that the compelling energy of the entire first movement is derived from only a short opening motive of four notes. Literally every element is derived from this motive. Even the “contrasting” second subject is built upon the melodic outlines of the first bars and is accompanied by the motive itself.

The development section makes use not only of the motive as a whole, but also of the individual parts. The rhythm alone drives the movement relentlessly. After such an outburst, the ear and mind long for a respite. Beethoven offers one by providing a simple second movement consisting of two alternating themes in the unexpected key of A-flat major. Even here, however, some of the first movement’s fury is present, as evidenced by the fact that the second theme is hammered out by trumpets and drums.

Formally, the third movement is a scherzo in a minor key. Here again, the rhythm of the opening motive drives the music forward. The energetic trio consists of fugal passages beginning in the bass parts. When one expects to hear a literal repeat of the scherzo, the music returns quietly and fragmented.

Then, in place of an ending, a long, mysterious crescendo leads directly into the triumphant C major march which concludes the symphony. Here again, all is not predictable. The opening motive and parts of the scherzo return near the conclusion of the march. The last movement marks the first use of piccolo, contrabassoon, and trombones in a symphony.

Listen first to the 1st Movement to get a feel, before you move on to the entire symphony.

Live performance_1st Movement, Philharmonisches Kammerorchester Berlin:

Live performance_1st Movement, Tristan Lauber (piano solo):

Live performance_1st Movement, piano duet:

Sound recording_Symphony, Wiener Philharmoniker, Sir Georg Solti, 33 minutes:

Live performance_Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Chung Myung-Whun, 33 minutes:

1st Movement: Allegro con brio [00:01]
2nd Movement: Andante con moto [07:33]
3rd Movement: Allegro [18:17]
4th Movement: Allegro [23:17]

Live performance_Symphony, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Christian Thielemann, 35 minutes:

Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” – Beethoven

The Symphony No. 6 in F major, also known as the Pastoral Symphony (German: Pastorale), is a symphony composed by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and completed in 1808. One of Beethoven’s few works containing explicitly programmatic content (like story-telling), the symphony was first performed in 1808.

Beethoven was a lover of nature who spent a great deal of his time on walks in the country. He frequently left Vienna to work in rural locations. The composer said that the Sixth Symphony is “more the expression of feeling than painting”, a point underlined by the title of the first movement.

A performance of the work lasts about 40 minutes and consists of 5 movements.

1/ Allegro ma non troppo: Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the country. The symphony begins with a placid and cheerful movement depicting the composer’s feelings as he arrives in the country. The movement, in 2/4 meter, is in sonata form, and its motifs are extensively developed. At several points, Beethoven builds up orchestral texture by multiple repetitions of very short motifs. Yvonne Frindle commented that “the infinite repetition of pattern in nature is conveyed through rhythmic cells, its immensity through sustained pure harmonies.”

2/ Andante molto mosso: Scene at the creek. The second movement is another sonata-form movement, this time in 12/8 and in the key of B♭ major, the subdominant of the main key of the work. It begins with the strings playing a motif that clearly imitates flowing water. The cello section is divided, with just two players playing the flowing-water notes on muted instruments, and the remaining cellos playing mostly pizzicato notes together with the double basses.

Toward the end is a cadenza for woodwind instruments that imitates bird calls. Beethoven helpfully identified the bird species in the score: nightingale (flute), quail (oboe), and cuckoo (two clarinets).

3/ Allegro: Joyful get-together of the country people. The third movement is a scherzo in 3/4 time, which depicts country folk dancing and reveling. It is in F major, returning to the main key of the symphony. The movement is an altered version of the usual form for scherzi, in that the trio appears twice rather than just once, and the third appearance of the scherzo theme is truncated. Perhaps to accommodate this rather spacious arrangement, Beethoven did not mark the usual internal repeats of the scherzo and the trio. Theodor Adorno identifies this scherzo as the model for the scherzos by Anton Bruckner.

The final return of the theme conveys a riotous atmosphere with a faster tempo. The movement ends abruptly, leading without a pause into the fourth movement.

4/ Allegro: Thunderstorm. The fourth movement, in F minor, depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, building from just a few drops of rain to a great climax with thunder, lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. The storm eventually passes, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance. There is a seamless transition into the final movement.

5/ Allegretto: Happy and thankful feelings after the storm. The finale, which is in F major, is in 6/8 time. The movement is in sonata rondo form, meaning that the main theme appears in the tonic key at the beginning of the development as well as the exposition and the recapitulation. Like many classical finales, this movement emphasizes a symmetrical eight-bar theme, in this case representing the shepherds’ song of thanksgiving.

The coda starts quietly and gradually builds to an ecstatic culmination for the full orchestra (minus “storm instruments”) with the first violins playing very rapid triplet tremolo on a high F. There follows a fervent passage suggestive of prayer, marked by Beethoven pianissimo, sotto voce; most conductors slow the tempo for this passage. After a brief period of afterglow, the work ends with two emphatic F-major chords.

Sound recording_1st Movement, The Royal Sound Orchestra:

Live performance_1st Movement, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra – Itzhak Perlman:

Live performance_Symphony, Wiener Philharmoniker, Christian Thielemann:

1/ Allegro ma non troppo
[14:00] 2/ Andante molto mosso
[27:50] 3/ Allegro
[33:20] 4/ Allegro
[37:04] 5/ Allegretto, Shepherd’s song.

Live performance_Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe & director Yannick Nézet-Séguin:

Symphony No. 9 – Beethoven

The Symphony No. 9 in D minor is the final complete symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), completed in 1824. By that time, its composer was completely and totally deaf. It was first performed in Vienna on 7 May 1824. At the end of the performance, Beethoven did not notice that the massive final choral movement had ended, and the first violinist had to come to him and turned him around to acknowledge the rapturous audience.

One of the best-known works in common practice music, it is regarded by many critics and musicologists as one of Beethoven’s greatest works and one of the supreme achievements in the history of Western music. In the 2010s, it stands as one of the most performed symphonies in the world.

The symphony was the first example of a major composer using voices in a symphony (thus making it a choral symphony). The words are sung during the final (4th) movement of the symphony by four vocal soloists and a chorus. They were taken from the Ode to Joy, a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with text additions made by Beethoven.

In 2001, Beethoven’s original, hand-written manuscript of the score, held by the Berlin State Library, was added to the United Nations Memory of the World Programme Heritage list, becoming the first musical score so designated.

The four movements are as follows:

1: Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso. The first movement is in sonata form without an exposition repeat. It begins with open fifths (A and E) played pianissimo by tremolo strings, steadily building up until the first main theme in D minor at m. 17.

2: Scherzo: Molto vivace – Presto. The second movement is a scherzo and trio. Like the first movement, the scherzo is in D minor, with the introduction bearing a passing resemblance to the opening theme of the first movement, a pattern also found in the Hammerklavier piano sonata, written a few years earlier.

3: Adagio molto e cantabile – Andante Moderato – Tempo Primo – Andante Moderato – Adagio – Lo Stesso Tempo. The third movement is a lyrical, slow movement in B♭ major – a minor sixth away from the symphony’s main key of D minor. It is in a double variation form, with each pair of variations progressively elaborating the rhythm and melodic ideas.

4: Presto; Allegro molto assai (Alla marcia); Andante maestoso; Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato. The choral finale is Beethoven’s musical representation of universal brotherhood based on the Ode to Joy theme and is in theme and variations form. The movement starts with an introduction in which musical material from each of the preceding three movements – though none are literal quotations of previous music – are successively presented and then dismissed by instrumental recitatives played by the low strings. Following this, the Ode to Joy theme is finally introduced by the cellos and double basses. After three instrumental variations on this theme, the human voice is presented for the first time in the symphony by the baritone soloist, who sings words written by Beethoven himself: O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere. (“Oh friends, not these sounds! Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!”)

At about 24 minutes in length, the last movement is the longest of the four movements. Indeed, it is longer than some entire symphonies of the Classical era.

The movement has a thematic unity in which every part is based on either the main theme, the Seid umschlungen theme, or some combination of the two.

Sound recording_Ode to Joy, orchestra with English sub-titles, 4 minutes:

Sound recording_Ode to Joy, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, 9 minutes:

Live performance_Ode to Joy, André Rieu, 4 minutes:

Live performance_4th Movement, Folsom Symphony and Sacramento Master Singers conducted by Michael Neumann, 23 minutes:

Live performance_4th Movement, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim, with English sub-titles, 30 minutes:

Sound recording_Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Josef Krips, 1 hour and 5 minutes:

Live performance_Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Riccardo Muti, with English sub-titles, 1 hour and 21 minutes:

Click YouTube function SHOW MORE then click the color-highlighted section to jump to it:

1st movement: 1:49
2nd movement: 19:34
3rd movement: 35:27
4th movement: 52:12
Ode to Joy: 54:48
Choral: 59:23

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” – Beethoven

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Majo symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is known as the Eroica Symphony for its supposed heroic nature. The work premiered in Vienna in 1805, and was grander and more dramatic than customary for symphonies at the time. It was Beethoven’s largest solely instrumental work.

It has been called the Bonaparte Symphony, called that by no less an authority than Beethoven himself. The occasion was a letter to the Leipzig-based publisher Breitkopf und Härtel, to which he wrote August 26, 1804, about this newest symphony, observing, “I think it will interest the musical public.” Certainly, Napoleon was a name in the news at the time, and Beethoven was favorably impressed by the man’s efforts to reform society so that the working classes would enjoy more equality. Writing a symphony inspired by the Corsican’s spirit not only spoke to Beethoven’s heart, but also to that of the general public. Besides, at the time, Beethoven was planning a concert tour to France.

At least, that was the case when the composer completed the symphony and sent that letter to his publisher. A few months later – specifically on December 2, 1804 – Napoleon had himself named Emperor of France. According to his friend and student Ferdinand Ries (1784–1838), Beethoven greeted that news with fury: his hero had become a tyrant, and the composer would not dedicate a symphony to such a person. In disgust, the composer tore the title page from the symphony and cancelled the French tour.

He gave the symphony a new sub-title, Eroica, implying more of a general heroism than specific deeds. A further inscription added the thought “composed to celebrate the memory of a great man,” seemingly referring to the earlier Napoleon, that idealistic young hero who now lived only in memory. When the work was published in 1806, it was dedicated not to Bonaparte, but to Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz (1772–1816), one of Beethoven’s most loyal patrons. That Lobkowitz had offered to pay handsomely for the privilege even before Beethoven became disenchanted with Napoleon may well have precipitated the composer’s action.

In one particular fashion, Symphony No. 3 remained Napoleonic. It was a hugely ambitious work that refused to stay within boundaries, stunning in its epic scope and emotional impact. The work premiered in Vienna April 7, 1805. Beethoven’s friend and colleague Carl Czerny later recalled hearing an audience member call out, “I’d give another kreutzer if it would stop.” That listener would not have been the only one in the concert hall who was overwhelmed. Audiences that had become accustomed to music being purely for entertainment suddenly faced a radical new idea, that like a literary masterpiece, a symphony could present its creator’s image of the world. That concept lay at the heart of the Romantic revolution, of which Beethoven was one of the early adherents.

Four years later, Beethoven himself conducted the work at a charity concert at Vienna’s Theater-an-der-Wien. By the time of the latter performance, France and Austria had fallen into war. The French had occupied Vienna, and French troops filled the streets. Napoleon was in town, but did not attend the concert. Whether the diminutive ruler ever knew of the work’s connection to himself is uncertain.

The four movements are as follows:

1/ Allegro con brio, 12–18 minutes, E♭ major. Beethoven starts off with a bang—in fact, two of them: a pair of powerful chords that fling wide the gate. What follows is music of great contrast, with big scenes and gentler ones appearing in turn. If he leans more often toward energy and drama, it is, after all, declared to be a “heroic” work, requiring some assertive moods.

2/ Marcia funebre: Adagio assai (funeral march), 14–18 minutes, C minor. A darker turn arrives. The shadowy atmosphere is set by the strings from the first measure; subsequent woodwind solos add sweetness, but not sunlight. Yet this “funeral” is more tearful than anguished, and a strong march beat never develops. As this movement is the longest of the four, it is apparently the concept for which Beethoven wished to make the strongest point.

3/ Scherzo: Allegro vivace, 5–6 minutes, E♭ major. A bright and bouncy antidote to the preceding Adagio. Strings and woodwinds set off in a dancing mood in a very brisk triple meter. In its central pages, one finds a contrasting melody redolent of hunting horns. At last, the first melody returns, somewhat abridged, bringing the festive scene to a close.

4/ Allegro molto, 10–14 minutes, E♭ major. Drand moods and mysterious ones appear in turn. One theme first presented by pizzicato strings and staccato woodwinds broadens, building to bold statements expanded from the rhythms of that earlier pizzicato line. If, as the title declares, this is a “heroic” symphony, then here is the victory parade, with some quieter, lyric scenes, as if evoking a lady presenting medals. Again and again in this symphony, Beethoven shows how a melodic idea can be recast into very different moods.

The total duration is 41-56 minutes.

Sound recording of 1st Movement, Camerata Cassoviae conducted by Walter Attanasi:

Sound recording of complete symphony, 47 minutes:

1: Allegro con brio (0:00)
2: Marcia funebre: Adagio assai in C minor (15:10)
3: Scherzo: Allegro vivace (30:17)
4: Finale: Allegro molto (36:06)

Live performance of complete symphony, Aurora Orchestra (at BBC Proms), with explanation in English for the first 27 minutes, followed by 47 minutes of music:


We enjoy ballet through two aspects: body movement and background music. The two ballets introduced here are excellent in both aspects. Particularly excerpts of their background music are often played in the concerts without the associated danses.

The Nutcracker – Tchaikovsky

The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet with a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). The libretto is adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

Although the original production was not a success, the 20-minute suite that Tchaikovsky extracted from the ballet was. The complete ballet has enjoyed enormous popularity since the late 1960s and is now performed by countless ballet companies, primarily during the Christmas season, especially in North America. Major American ballet companies generate around 40% of their annual ticket revenues from performances of The Nutcracker. The ballet’s score has been used in several film adaptations of Hoffmann’s story.

Tchaikovsky’s score has become one of his most famous compositions.


Below is a synopsis based on the original 1892 libretto by Marius Petipa. The story varies from production to production, though most follow the basic outline. The names of the characters also vary. In the original E. T. A. Hoffmann story, the young heroine is called Marie Stahlbaum and Clara (Klärchen) is her doll’s name. In the adaptation by Dumas on which Petipa based his libretto, her name is Marie Silberhaus. In still other productions, such as Baryshnikov’s, Clara is Clara Stahlbaum rather than Clara Silberhaus.

Act I, Scene 1: The Stahlbaum Home. It is Christmas Eve. Family and friends have gathered in the parlor to decorate the beautiful Christmas tree in preparation for the party. Once the tree is finished, the children are sent for. They stand in awe of the tree sparkling with candles and decorations.


The party begins. A march is played. Presents are given out to the children. Suddenly, as the owl-topped grandmother clock strikes eight, a mysterious figure enters the room. It is Drosselmeyer, a local councilman, magician, and Clara’s godfather. He is also a talented toymaker who has brought with him gifts for the children, including four lifelike dolls who dance to the delight of all. He then has them put away for safekeeping.

Clara and Fritz are sad to see the dolls being taken away, but Drosselmeyer has yet another toy for them: a wooden nutcracker carved in the shape of a little man. The other children ignore it, but Clara immediately takes a liking to it. Fritz, however, breaks it, and Clara is heartbroken.


During the night, after everyone else has gone to bed, Clara returns to the parlor to check on her beloved nutcracker. As she reaches the little bed, the clock strikes midnight and she looks up to see Drosselmeyer perched atop it. Suddenly, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow to dizzying heights. The nutcracker also grows to life size. Clara finds herself in the midst of a battle between an army of gingerbread soldiers and the mice, led by their king. They begin to eat the soldiers.

The nutcracker appears to lead the soldiers, who are joined by tin ones and dolls who serve as doctors to carry away the wounded. As the Mouse King advances on the still-wounded nutcracker, Clara throws her slipper at him, distracting him long enough for the nutcracker to stab him.


Act I, Scene 2: A Pine Forest. The mice retreat and the nutcracker is transformed into a handsome Prince. He leads Clara through the moonlit night to a pine forest in which the snowflakes dance around them, beckoning them on to his kingdom as the first act ends.


Act II, Scene 1: The Land of Sweets. Clara and the Prince travel to the beautiful Land of Sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Prince’s place until his return. He recounts for her how he had been saved from the Mouse King by Clara and transformed back into himself. In honor of the young heroine, a celebration of sweets from around the world is produced: chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, and candy canes from Russia all dance for their amusement; Danish shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her children, the Polichinelles, emerge from under her enormous hoop skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a dance.


A final waltz is performed by all the sweets, after which the Sugar Plum Fairy ushers Clara and the Prince down from their throne. He bows to her, she kisses Clara goodbye, and leads them to a reindeer drawn sleigh. It takes off as they wave goodbye to all the subjects who wave back.

Beautiful, exotic dances are mainly in Act II as follows:

  • Chocolate (Spanish Dance)
  • Coffee (Arabian Dance)
  • Tea (Chinese Dance)
  • Trepak (Russian Dance)
  • Dance of the Reed Flutes
  • Mother Ginger and the Polichinelles
  • Waltz of the Flowers
  • Pas de Deux
  • Intrada (Sugar Plum Fairy and Her Cavalier)
  • Variation I: Tarantella
  • Variation II: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
  • Final Waltz and Apotheosis

You may watch first separate excerpts, then when you have more time, the entire ballet.

Live performance, ballet excerpts by the Moscow Ballet:

1 Overture:

2 Moscow skyline:

3 Arriving at the Stahlbaum’s Party:

4 Kissy Doll:

5 Harlequinn:

6b Matrushka and Moor Dolls:

7 Party and Gift Giving:

8 Growing Tree and Mice!:

9 The Rat King Appears:

11 Dove of Peace:

12 Russian Variation:

13 Chinese Variation:

14 French Variation:

15 Spanish Variation:

16 Arabian Variation:

Live performance, ballet excerpts by the Royal Ballet, England:

Waltz of the Snowflakes:

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux:

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:

Waltz of the Flowers:

Live performance, other ballet excerpts:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Vũ khúc của trẻ nhà Mirlitons, Đoàn Ballet Kirov:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Waltz of the Snowflakes, Perm Opera Ballet Theatre:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Đoàn Ballet Bolshoi:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Waltz of the Flowers, Sergey Chumakov và Elena Petrichenko:

Live performance, complete Nutcracker, Mariinsky Ballet, Saint Petersburg, 2012, 1 hour 43 minutes:


Click YouTube function SHOW MORE then click the color-highlighted section to jump to it:

0:00 Overture
29:39 Act I
52:08 (Prelude to) Act II
Dances in Act II:
55:58 Spanish Dance
1:02:29 Eastern Dance
1:07:12 Chinese Dance
1:08:36 Trepak (Russian Dance)
1:09:59 Pas de trois (Dance of the reed pipes)
1:13:38 Waltz of the Flowers
1:21:05 Pas de deux – Intrada
1:27:57 Pas de deux – Tarantella
1:29:05 Pas de deux – Dance of the sugar plum fairy
1:31:31 Pas de deux – Coda
1:33:32 Final Waltz and Apotheosis

Live performance, complete Nutcracker, ballet: Dutch National Ballet, music: Holland Symfonia, 2011, 1 hour 45 minutes, 720p:

Live performance, complete Nutcracker, Monterey Peninsula Ballet Theatre Inaugural Nutcracker 2017, 1 hour 30 minutes, 1080p:

Swan Lake  – Tchaikovsky

Swan Lake (Russian: Лебединое озеро, translit. Lebedinoye ozero) is a ballet composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) in 1875-76. It is now one of the most popular of all ballets.

The scenario, initially in two acts, was fashioned from Russian and German folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The ballet was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Although it is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their stagings both choreographically and musically on the 1895 revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on 15 January 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. For this revival, Tchaikovsky’s score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre’s chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.


Act 1: A magnificent park before a palace. Prince Siegfried is celebrating his birthday with his tutor, friends and peasants. The revelries are interrupted by Siegfried’s mother, the Queen, who is concerned about her son’s carefree lifestyle. She tells him that he must choose a bride at the royal ball the following evening (some productions include the presentation of some possible candidates). Siegfried is upset that he cannot marry for love. His friend Benno and the tutor try to lift his troubled mood. As evening falls, Benno sees a flock of swans flying overhead and suggests they go on a hunt. Siegfried and his friends take their crossbows and set off in pursuit of the swans.

Swan Lake_B

Act 2: A lakeside clearing in a forest by the ruins of a chapel. A moonlit night. Siegfried has become separated from his friends. He arrives at the lakeside clearing, just as a flock of swans land. He aims his crossbow, but freezes when one of them transforms into a beautiful maiden, Odette. At first, she is terrified of Siegfried. When he promises not to harm her, she explains she and her companions are victims of a spell cast by the evil owl-like sorcerer Rothbart. By day they are turned into swans and only at night, by the side of the enchanted lake – created from the tears of Odette’s mother – do they return to human form. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever. Rothbart suddenly appears. Siegfried threatens to kill him but Odette intercedes – if Rothbart dies before the spell is broken, it can never be undone.

Swan Lake_A

As Rothbart disappears, the swan maidens fill the clearing. Siegfried breaks his crossbow, and sets about winning Odette’s trust as the two fall in love. But as dawn arrives, the evil spell draws Odette and her companions back to the lake and they are turned into swans again.

Act 3: An opulent hall in the palace. Guests arrive at the palace for a costume ball. Six princesses are presented to the prince, as candidates for marriage. Rothbart arrives in disguise with his daughter, Odile, who is transformed to look like Odette. Though the princesses try to attract the prince with their dances, Siegfried has eyes only for Odile. Odette appears (usually at the castle window) and attempts to warn Siegfried, but he does not see her. He then proclaims to the court that he will marry “Odette” (Odile) before Rothbart shows him a magical vision of Odette. Grief-stricken and realizing his mistake, Siegfried hurries back to the lake.

Swan Lake_D

Act 4: By the lakeside. Odette is distraught. The swan-maidens try to comfort her. Siegfried returns to the lake and makes a passionate apology. She forgives him, but his betrayal cannot be undone. Rather than remain a swan forever, Odette chooses to die. Siegfried chooses to die with her and they leap into the lake. This breaks Rothbart’s spell over the swan maidens, causing him to lose his power over them and he dies. In an apotheosis, the swan maidens watch as Siegfried and Odette ascend into the Heavens together, forever united in love.

Live performance of the music suite, Symphony Orchestra of the Feliks Nowowiejski Music School in Gdansk, Poland, conducted by Sylwia Anna Janiak, 23 minutes:

00:26 No. 1 Scene. Moderato
03:35 No. 2 Waltz. Tempo di Valse
11:08 No. 3 Swan Dance. Allegro moderato
12:46 No. 4 Scene. Andante
19:24 No. 5 Hungarian Dance. Czardas. Moderato assai

Swan Lake_C

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Dance of the little swans, Landscape Classics:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: The Odette solo, Bolshoi Theater, 2015:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Odile/Black Swan solo, The Royal Ballet:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Entrée and Adage from the Black Swan pas de deux, The Royal Ballet:

Live performance, ballet excerpt: Finale, The Royal Ballet:

Live performance, complete Swan Lake, Vienna State Ballet & Orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper, 2 hour 12 minutes, 2014, 1080p:

Live performance, complete Swan Lake, ballet: Le Corps de ballet de l’opéra national de Paris, music: Orchestre de l’opéra national de Paris, 1 hour and 16 minutes, 2019, 1080p:


While waiting for an opportunity to watch an opera at the opera house, you may enjoy first the arias (the songs) and selected parts of the operas. Later on, before going to watch an opera, learn about its synopsis so that you can enjoy it better.

Carmen – Georges Bizet

Carmen is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet (1838-1875). The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences.

Synopsis (song titles are in italic)

Act: A square, in Seville. On the right, a door to the tobacco factory. At the back, a bridge. On the left, a guardhouse. A group of soldiers relaxes in the square, waiting for the changing of the guard and commenting on the passers-by (Sur la place, chacun passe). Micaëla appears, seeking José. Moralès tells her that “José is not yet on duty” and invites her to wait with them. She declines, saying she will return later. José arrives with the new guard, who is greeted and imitated by a crowd of urchins (Avec la garde montante).

Carmen-Seatle Opera
Carmen of Seattle Opera

As the factory bell rings, the cigarette girls emerge and exchange banter with young men in the crowd (La cloche a sonné). Carmen enters and sings her provocative Habanera on the untameable nature of love (L’amour est un oiseau rebelle). The men plead with her to choose a lover, and after some teasing she throws a flower to Don José, who thus far has been ignoring her but is now annoyed by her insolence.

As the women go back to the factory, Micaëla returns and gives José a letter and a kiss from his mother (Parle-moi de ma mère!). He reads that his mother wants him to return home and marry Micaëla, who retreats in shy embarrassment on learning this. Just as José declares that he is ready to heed his mother’s wishes, the women stream from the factory in great agitation. Zuniga, the officer of the guard, learns that Carmen has attacked a woman with a knife. When challenged, Carmen answers with mocking defiance (Tra la la… Coupe-moi, brûle-moi); Zuniga orders José to tie her hands while he prepares the prison warrant. Left alone with José, Carmen beguiles him with a seguidilla, in which she sings of a night of dancing and passion with her lover—whoever that may be—in Lillas Pastia’s tavern. Confused yet mesmerised, José agrees to free her hands; as she is led away she pushes her escort to the ground and runs off laughing. José is arrested for dereliction of duty.

Act 2: Lillas Pastia’s Inn. Two months have passed. Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès are entertaining Zuniga and other officers (Les tringles des sistres tintaient) in Pastia’s inn. Carmen is delighted to learn of José’s release from two months’ detention. Outside, a chorus and procession announces the arrival of the toreador Escamillo (Vivat, vivat le Toréro). Invited inside, he introduces himself with the Toreador Song (Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre) and sets his sights on Carmen, who brushes him aside. Lillas Pastia hustles the crowds and the soldiers away.

When only Carmen, Frasquita and Mercédès remain, smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado arrive and reveal their plans to dispose of some recently acquired contraband (Nous avons en tête une affaire). Frasquita and Mercédès are keen to help them, but Carmen refuses, since she wishes to wait for José. After the smugglers leave, José arrives. Carmen treats him to a private exotic dance (Je vais danser en votre honneur … La la la), but her song is joined by a distant bugle call from the barracks. When José says he must return to duty, she mocks him, and he answers by showing her the flower that she threw to him in the square (La fleur que tu m’avais jetée). Unconvinced, Carmen demands he show his love by leaving with her. José refuses to desert, but as he prepares to depart, Zuniga enters looking for Carmen. He and José fight, and are separated by the returning smugglers, who restrain Zuniga. Having attacked a superior officer, José now has no choice but to join Carmen and the smugglers (Suis-nous à travers la campagne).

Act 3: A wild spot in the mountains. Carmen and José enter with the smugglers and their booty (Écoute, écoute, compagnons); Carmen has now become bored with José and tells him scornfully that he should go back to his mother. Frasquita and Mercédès amuse themselves by reading their fortunes from the cards; Carmen joins them and finds that the cards are foretelling her death, and José’s. The women depart to suborn the customs officers who are watching the locality. José is placed on guard duty.

Micaëla enters with a guide, seeking José and determined to rescue him from Carmen (Je dis que rien ne m’épouvante). On hearing a gunshot she hides in fear; it is José, who has fired at an intruder who proves to be Escamillo. José’s pleasure at meeting the bullfighter turns to anger when Escamillo declares his infatuation with Carmen. The pair fight (Je suis Escamillo, toréro de Grenade), but are interrupted by the returning smugglers and girls (Holà, holà José). As Escamillo leaves he invites everyone to his next bullfight in Seville. Micaëla is discovered; at first, José will not leave with her despite Carmen’s mockery, but he agrees to go when told that his mother is dying. As he departs, vowing he will return, Escamillo is heard in the distance, singing the Toreador’s Song.


Act 4: A square in Seville. At the back, the walls of an ancient amphitheatre. Zuniga, Frasquita and Mercédès are among the crowd awaiting the arrival of the bullfighters (Les voici ! Voici la quadrille!). Escamillo enters with Carmen, and they express their mutual love (Si tu m’aimes, Carmen). As Escamillo goes into the arena, Frasquita and Mercedes warn Carmen that José is nearby, but Carmen is unafraid and willing to speak to him. Alone, she is confronted by the desperate José (C’est toi ! C’est moi!). While he pleads vainly for her to return to him, cheers are heard from the arena. As José makes his last entreaty, Carmen contemptuously throws down the ring he gave her and attempts to enter the arena. He then stabs her, and as Escamillo is acclaimed by the crowds, Carmen dies. José kneels and sings Ah! Carmen! ma Carmen adorée!; as the crowd exits the arena, José confesses to killing the woman he loved.

Sound recording, Ouverture: Les Toréadors by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, Les dragons d’Alcala (The dragoons of alcala) by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, La Garde montante (Chorus of urchins, Zuniga) by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, Aragonaise (Aragon Dance) by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, Marche des Contrebandiers (March of smugglers) by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, Chanson du toréador (Toreador’s Song) by symphony orchestra:

Sound recording, Danse Bohême  (Gypsy Dance)by symphony orchestra:

Live performance of music, Danse Bohême (Gypsy Dance), Französische Kammerphilharmonieconducted conducted by Philip van Buren:

Live performance of music, Danse Bohême (Gypsy Dance), Yakima Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Golan:

Live performance of music: Suite No. 2, Moniuszko School of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrzej Kucybała, 24 minutes:

00:34 Marche des contrebandiers
04:55 Habanera
07:03 Nocturne
11:35 Chanson du Toréador
14:19 La garde montante
18:09 Danse Bohème

Live performance of complete opera, Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper conducted by Andris Nelsons, 2 hours 38 minutes:


The Merry Widow – Franz Lehár

The Merry Widow (German: Die lustige Witwe) is an operetta by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár (1870-1948). The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen’s attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L’attaché d’ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac.

The operetta has enjoyed extraordinary international success since its 1905 premiere in Vienna and continues to be frequently revived and recorded. Film and other adaptations have also been made. Well-known music from the score includes the Vilja Song, Da geh’ ich zu Maxim (You’ll Find Me at Maxim’s), and the Merry Widow Waltz.


At the Paris embassy of the Principality of Pontévédro, Baron Mirko Zeta and his wife Valencienne are giving a reception in honour of a rich Pontevedrian widow, Hanna Glawari, whom they would like to see married off to one of her compatriots so that her late husband’s fortune will not leave the country. Count Danilo seems to be the ideal candidate, especially as Hanna is visibly taken with him. But in order to avoid her thinking that he is only attracted to the rich widow’s money, Danilo feigns indifference, until the unfolding of certain misunderstandings leads him to declare his love. Despite Danilo’s scruples, the wedding will take place, for the greater happiness of all.

Act 1. In Paris, Mirko Zeta, ambassador of the Principality of Pontevedro, throws a party, where everyone is awaiting the arrival of Hanna Glawari, a very wealthy widow who has just arrived in the capital. While his wife Valencienne fends off the advances of young Camille Roussillon, the ambassador is concerned with getting Hanna Glawari quickly married to one of his compatriots so as to keep her fortune from leaving Pontevedro, which would bankrupt the country. Count Danilo seems to be the perfect candidate, but he refuses resolutely. In fact, he knows Hanna, whom he was to have married earlier had an aristocratic uncle not objected to such a misalliance. Danilo doesn’t want it thought that he would now marry the young woman for her fortune.

The Merry widow_Metropolitan Opera
The Merry Widow at The Metropolitan Opera, New York City

Act 2. Hannah throws a party in turn. She sings for her guests the Song of Vilja, a young wood nymph who seduces a hunter. Given Danilo’s repeated refusals, the other gentlemen declare themselves candidates for the marriage. Valencienne is about to give in to the Camille’s insistent flirtations after she joins him in a small pavilion. Her husband has realized what is going on, but when he opens the pavilion, he discovers Hanna, who has had sufficient time to take Valencienne’s place next to Camille. This subterfuge fools the ambassador, who is dismayed by the young widow’s forthcoming marriage to a Frenchman. Danilo, furious, shows his jealousy, thereby informing Hanna of his true feelings.

Act 3. For her reception, Hanna has re-created at home, with songs and pretty girls, the atmosphere of Maxim’s, from which Danilo returns having met no one there. Mirko Zeta receives a catastrophic dispatch informing him that only the young widow’s fortune can save Pontevedro from bankruptcy. He beseeches Danilo, who easily convinces Hanna not to marry Camille. She explains to him the ruse staged in the pavilion. They express their love for one another in the famous duet: “Lippen schweigen (Heure exquise – The Merry Widow Waltz)”. Zeta has discovered his wife’s fan in the pavilion; he now asks for a divorce, and he himself asks for Hanna’s hand in marriage. He gives up on this plan as soon as he learns that the widow loses her fortune if she marries. Danilo can finally propose to Hanna unambiguously. He will no longer be able to withdraw his proposal, even when he learns that the widow will lose her fortune … to her new husband!

Sound recording, Merry Widow Waltz:

Live performance of the song, Merry Widow Waltz, by Martínez & Domingo:

Live performance of the song, Merry Widow Waltz, by André Rieu:

Live performance of the song, Merry Widow Waltz, KBS Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi, with Haeran Hong (soprano) & Yosep Kang (tenor):

Live performance of the opera, Vilja aria, English National Opera:

Live performance of the opera, “We’re the Ladies of the Chorus”, Metropolitan Opera:

Live performance of the opera, Act 1, in English with English sub-titles for the songs:

Live performance of the opera, Act 2, in English with English sub-titles for the songs:

Live performance of the opera, Act 3, in English with English sub-titles for the songs:

The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart

The Marriage of Figaro (Italian: Le nozze di Figaro) is an opera buffa (comic opera) in four acts composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with an Italian libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It premiered at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1786. The opera’s libretto is based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (“The Mad Day, or The Marriage of Figaro”), which was first performed in 1784. It tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna and teaching him a lesson in fidelity.

The opera is a cornerstone of the repertoire and appears consistently among the top ten in the Operabase list of most frequently performed operas.

Figaro_Countess Almaviva, Susanna, Figaro, Count Almaviva, Antonio at Seattle Opera
Countess Almaviva, Susanna, Figaro, Count Almaviva, Antonio at Seattle Opera

The opera was the first of three collaborations between Mozart and Da Ponte; their later collaborations were Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte. It was Mozart who originally selected Beaumarchais’s play and brought it to Da Ponte, who turned it into a libretto in six weeks, rewriting it in poetic Italian and removing all of the original’s political references. In particular, Da Ponte replaced Figaro’s climactic speech against inherited nobility with an equally angry aria against unfaithful wives. Contrary to the popular myth, the libretto was approved by the Emperor before any music was written by Mozart.

Synopsis (italics indicate the names of the songs)

The Marriage of Figaro continues the plot of The Barber of Seville several years later, and recounts a single “day of madness” (la folle journée) in the palace of Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain. Rosina is now the Countess; Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his plans to marry Rosina himself; and Count Almaviva has degenerated from the romantic youth of Barber into a scheming, bullying, skirt-chasing baritone. Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to exercise his droit du seigneur – his right to bed a servant girl on her wedding night – with Figaro’s bride-to-be, Susanna, who is the Countess’s maid. He keeps finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, which is arranged for this very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to embarrass the Count and expose his scheming. He retaliates by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she really is his mother. Through Figaro’s and Susanna’s clever manipulations, the Count’s love for his Countess is finally restored.

Overture. Place: Count Almaviva’s estate, Aguas-Frescas, three leagues outside Seville, Spain.

The overture is in the key of D major; the tempo marking is presto; i.e. very fast. The work is well-known and often played independently as a concert piece.

Act 1: A partly furnished room, with a chair in the centre. Figaro happily measures the space where the bridal bed will fit while Susanna tries on her wedding bonnet in front of a mirror (in the present day, a more traditional French floral wreath or a modern veil are often substituted, often in combination with a bonnet, so as to accommodate what Susanna happily describes as her wedding cappellino). (Duet: Cinque, dieci, venti – “Five, ten, twenty”). Figaro is quite pleased with their new room; Susanna far less so (Duettino: Se a caso madama la notte ti chiama – “If the Countess should call you during the night”). She is bothered by its proximity to the Count’s chambers: it seems he has been making advances toward her and plans on exercising his droit du seigneur, the purported feudal right of a lord to bed a servant girl on her wedding night before her husband can sleep with her. The Count had the right abolished when he married Rosina, but he now wants to reinstate it. The Countess rings for Susanna and she rushes off to answer. Figaro, confident in his own resourcefulness, resolves to outwit the Count (Cavatina: Se vuol ballare signor contino – “If you want to dance, sir count”).

Figaro departs, and Dr. Bartolo arrives with Marcellina, his old housekeeper. Figaro had previously borrowed a large sum of money from her, and, in lieu of collateral, had promised to marry her if unable to repay at the appointed time; she now intends to enforce that promise by suing him. Bartolo, seeking revenge against Figaro for having facilitated the union of the Count and Rosina (in The Barber of Seville), agrees to represent Marcellina pro bono, and assures her, in comical lawyer-speak, that he can win the case for her (aria: La vendetta – “Vengeance”).

Bartolo departs, Susanna returns, and Marcellina and Susanna exchange very politely delivered sarcastic insults (duet: Via resti servita, madama brillante – “After you, brilliant madam”). Susanna triumphs in the exchange by congratulating her rival on her impressive age. The older woman departs in a fury.

Cherubino then arrives and, after describing his emerging infatuation with all women, particularly with his “beautiful godmother” the Countess (aria: Non so più cosa son – “I don’t know anymore what I am”), asks for Susanna’s aid with the Count. It seems the Count is angry with Cherubino’s amorous ways, having discovered him with the gardener’s daughter, Barbarina, and plans to punish him. Cherubino wants Susanna to ask the Countess to intercede on his behalf. When the Count appears, Cherubino hides behind a chair, not wanting to be seen alone with Susanna. The Count uses the opportunity of finding Susanna alone to step up his demands for favours from her, including financial inducements to sell herself to him. As Basilio, the music teacher, arrives, the Count, not wanting to be caught alone with Susanna, hides behind the chair. Cherubino leaves that hiding place just in time, and jumps onto the chair while Susanna scrambles to cover him with a dress.

When Basilio starts to gossip about Cherubino’s obvious attraction to the Countess, the Count angrily leaps from his hiding place (terzetto: Cosa sento! – “What do I hear!”). He disparages the “absent” page’s incessant flirting and describes how he caught him with Barbarina under the kitchen table. As he lifts the dress from the chair to illustrate how he lifted the tablecloth to expose Cherubino, he finds … the self same Cherubino! The count is furious, but is reminded that the page overheard the Count’s advances on Susanna, something that the Count wants to keep from the Countess. The young man is ultimately saved from punishment by the entrance of the peasants of the Count’s estate, a preemptive attempt by Figaro to commit the Count to a formal gesture symbolizing his promise that Susanna would enter into the marriage unsullied. The Count evades Figaro’s plan by postponing the gesture. The Count says that he forgives Cherubino, but he dispatches him to his own regiment in Seville for army duty, effective immediately. Figaro gives Cherubino mocking advice about his new, harsh, military life from which all luxury, and especially women, will be totally excluded (aria: Non più andrai – “No more gallivanting”).

Act 2: A handsome room with an alcove, a dressing room on the left, a door in the background (leading to the servants’ quarters) and a window at the side. The Countess laments her husband’s infidelity (aria: Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro – “Grant, love, some comfort”). Susanna comes in to prepare the Countess for the day. She responds to the Countess’s questions by telling her that the Count is not trying to seduce her; he is merely offering her a monetary contract in return for her affection. Figaro enters and explains his plan to distract the Count with anonymous letters warning him of adulterers. He has already sent one to the Count (via Basilio) that indicates that the Countess has a rendezvous of her own that evening. They hope that the Count will be too busy looking for imaginary adulterers to interfere with Figaro and Susanna’s wedding. Figaro additionally advises the Countess to keep Cherubino around. She should dress him up as a girl and lure the Count into an illicit rendezvous where he can be caught red-handed. Figaro leaves.

Cherubino arrives, sent in by Figaro and eager to co-operate. Susanna urges him to sing the song he wrote for the Countess (aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor – “You ladies who know what love is, is it what I’m suffering from?”). After the song, the Countess, seeing Cherubino’s military commission, notices that the Count was in such a hurry that he forgot to seal it with his signet ring (which would be necessary to make it an official document).

Susanna and the Countess then begin with their plan. Susanna takes off Cherubino’s cloak, and she begins to comb his hair and teach him to behave and walk like a woman (aria of Susanna: Venite, inginocchiatevi – “Come, kneel down before me”). Then she leaves the room through a door at the back to get the dress for Cherubino, taking his cloak with her.

While the Countess and Cherubino are waiting for Susanna to come back, they suddenly hear the Count arriving. Cherubino hides in the closet. The Count demands to be allowed into the room and the Countess reluctantly unlocks the door. The Count enters and hears a noise from the closet. He tries to open it, but it is locked. The Countess tells him it is only Susanna, trying on her wedding dress. At this moment, Susanna re-enters unobserved, quickly realizes what’s going on, and hides behind a couch (Trio: Susanna, or via, sortite – “Susanna, come out!”). The Count shouts for her to identify herself by her voice, but the Countess orders her to be silent. Furious and suspicious, the Count leaves, with the Countess, in search of tools to force the closet door open. As they leave, he locks all the bedroom doors to prevent the intruder from escaping. Cherubino and Susanna emerge from their hiding places, and Cherubino escapes by jumping through the window into the garden. Susanna then takes Cherubino’s former place in the closet, vowing to make the Count look foolish (duet: Aprite, presto, aprite – “Open the door, quickly!”).

The Count and Countess return. The Countess, thinking herself trapped, desperately admits that Cherubino is hidden in the closet. The enraged Count draws his sword, promising to kill Cherubino on the spot, but when the door is opened, they both find to their astonishment only Susanna (Finale: Esci omai, garzon malnato – “Come out of there, you ill-born boy!”). The Count demands an explanation; the Countess tells him it is a practical joke, to test his trust in her. Shamed by his jealousy, the Count begs for forgiveness. When the Count presses about the anonymous letter, Susanna and the Countess reveal that the letter was written by Figaro, and then delivered by Basilio. Figaro then arrives and tries to start the wedding festivities, but the Count berates him with questions about the anonymous note. Just as the Count is starting to run out of questions, Antonio the gardener arrives, complaining that a man has jumped out of the window and damaged his carnations while running away. Antonio adds that he tentatively identified the running man as Cherubino, but Figaro claims it was he himself who jumped out of the window, and pretends to have injured his foot while landing. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess attempt to discredit Antonio as a chronic drunkard whose constant inebriation makes him unreliable and prone to fantasy, but Antonio brings forward a paper which, he says, was dropped by the escaping man. The Count orders Figaro to prove he was the jumper by identifying the paper (which is, in fact, Cherubino’s appointment to the army). Figaro is at a loss, but Susanna and the Countess manage to signal the correct answers, and Figaro triumphantly identifies the document. His victory is, however, short-lived: Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio enter, bringing charges against Figaro and demanding that he honor his contract to marry Marcellina, since he cannot repay her loan. The Count happily postpones the wedding in order to investigate the charge.

Act 3: A rich hall, with two thrones, prepared for the wedding ceremony. The Count mulls over the confusing situation. At the urging of the Countess, Susanna enters and gives a false promise to meet the Count later that night in the garden (duet: Crudel! perchè finora – “Cruel girl, why did you make me wait so long”). As Susanna leaves, the Count overhears her telling Figaro that he has already won the case. Realizing that he is being tricked (recitative and aria: Hai già vinta la causa!Vedrò, mentr’io sospiro – “You’ve already won the case!” … “Shall I, while sighing, see”), he resolves to punish Figaro by forcing him to marry Marcellina.

Figaro’s hearing follows, and the Count’s judgment is that Figaro must marry Marcellina. Figaro argues that he cannot get married without his parents’ permission, and that he does not know who his parents are, because he was stolen from them when he was a baby. The ensuing discussion reveals that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. A touching scene of reconciliation occurs. During the celebrations, Susanna enters with a payment to release Figaro from his debt to Marcellina. Seeing Figaro and Marcellina in celebration together, Susanna mistakenly believes that Figaro now prefers Marcellina to her. She has a tantrum and slaps Figaro’s face. Marcellina explains, and Susanna, realizing her mistake, joins the celebration. Bartolo, overcome with emotion, agrees to marry Marcellina that evening in a double wedding (sextet: Riconosci in questo amplesso – “Recognize in this embrace”).

All leave, before Barbarina, Antonio’s daughter, invites Cherubino back to her house so they can disguise him as a girl. The Countess, alone, ponders the loss of her happiness (aria: Dove sono i bei momenti – “Where are they, the beautiful moments”). Meanwhile, Antonio informs the Count that Cherubino is not in Seville, but in fact at his house. Susanna enters and updates her mistress regarding the plan to trap the Count. The Countess dictates a love letter for Susanna to send to the Count, which suggests that he meet her (Susanna) that night, “under the pines”. The letter instructs the Count to return the pin which fastens the letter (duet: Sull’aria… Che soave zeffiretto – “On the breeze… What a gentle little zephyr”).

A chorus of young peasants, among them Cherubino disguised as a girl, arrives to serenade the Countess. The Count arrives with Antonio and, discovering the page, is enraged. His anger is quickly dispelled by Barbarina, who publicly recalls that he had once offered to give her anything she wants in exchange for certain favors, and asks for Cherubino’s hand in marriage. Thoroughly embarrassed, the Count allows Cherubino to stay.

The act closes with the double wedding, during the course of which Susanna delivers her letter to the Count (Finale: Ecco la marcia – “Here is the procession”). Figaro watches the Count prick his finger on the pin, and laughs, unaware that the love-note is an invitation for the Count to tryst with Figaro’s own bride Susanna. As the curtain drops, the two newlywed couples rejoice.

Act 4: The garden, with two pavilions. Night. Following the directions in the letter, the Count has sent the pin back to Susanna, giving it to Barbarina. However, Barbarina has lost it (aria: L’ho perduta, me meschina – “I have lost it, poor me”). Figaro and Marcellina see Barbarina, and Figaro asks her what she is doing. When he hears the pin is Susanna’s, he is overcome with jealousy, especially as he recognises the pin to be the one that fastened the letter to the Count. Thinking that Susanna is meeting the Count behind his back, Figaro complains to his mother, and swears to be avenged on the Count and Susanna, and on all unfaithful wives. Marcellina urges caution, but Figaro will not listen. Figaro rushes off, and Marcellina resolves to inform Susanna of Figaro’s intentions. Marcellina sings an aria lamenting that male and female wild beasts get along with each other, but rational humans can’t (aria: Il capro e la capretta – “The billy-goat and the she-goat”). (This aria and Basilio’s ensuing aria are usually omitted from performances due to their relative unimportance, both musically and dramatically; however, some recordings include them.)

Motivated by jealousy, Figaro tells Bartolo and Basilio to come to his aid when he gives the signal. Basilio comments on Figaro’s foolishness and claims he was once as frivolous as Figaro was. He tells a tale of how he was given common sense by Donna Flemma (“Dame Prudence”) and learned the importance of not crossing powerful people. (aria: In quegli anni – “In those years”). They exit, leaving Figaro alone. Figaro muses bitterly on the inconstancy of women (recitative and aria: Tutto è disposto … Aprite un po’ quegli occhi – “Everything is ready … Open those eyes a little”). Susanna and the Countess arrive, each dressed in the other’s clothes. Marcellina is with them, having informed Susanna of Figaro’s suspicions and plans. After they discuss the plan, Marcellina and the Countess leave, and Susanna teases Figaro by singing a love song to her beloved within Figaro’s hearing (aria: Deh vieni, non tardar – “Oh come, don’t delay”). Figaro is hiding behind a bush and, thinking the song is for the Count, becomes increasingly jealous.

The Countess arrives in Susanna’s dress. Cherubino shows up and starts teasing “Susanna” (really the Countess), endangering the plan. (Finale: Pian pianin le andrò più presso – “Softly, softly I’ll approach her”) The Count gets rid of him by striking out in the dark. His punch actually ends up hitting Figaro, but the point is made and Cherubino runs off.

The Count now begins making earnest love to “Susanna” (really the Countess), and gives her a jeweled ring. They go offstage together, where the Countess dodges him, hiding in the dark. Onstage, meanwhile, the real Susanna enters, wearing the Countess’ clothes. Figaro mistakes her for the real Countess, and starts to tell her of the Count’s intentions, but he suddenly recognizes his bride in disguise. He plays along with the joke by pretending to be in love with “my lady”, and inviting her to make love right then and there. Susanna, fooled, loses her temper and slaps him many times. Figaro finally lets on that he has recognized Susanna’s voice, and they make peace, resolving to conclude the comedy together (Pace, pace, mio dolce tesoro – “Peace, peace, my sweet treasure”).

The Count, unable to find “Susanna”, enters frustrated. Figaro gets his attention by loudly declaring his love for “the Countess” (really Susanna). The enraged Count calls for his people and for weapons: his servant is seducing his wife. (Ultima scena: Gente, gente, all’armi, all’armi – “Gentlemen, to arms!”) Bartolo, Basilio and Antonio enter with torches as, one by one, the Count drags out Cherubino, Barbarina, Marcellina and the “Countess” from behind the pavilion.

All beg him to forgive Figaro and the “Countess”, but he loudly refuses, repeating “no” at the top of his voice, until finally the real Countess re-enters and reveals her true identity. The Count, seeing the ring he had given her, realizes that the supposed Susanna he was trying to seduce was actually his wife. Ashamed and remorseful, he kneels and pleads for forgiveness himself (Contessa perdono! – “Countess, forgive me!”). The Countess, more kind than he (Più docile io sono – “I am more mild”), forgives her husband and all are contented. The opera ends in universal celebration.

Cherubino’s Aria

Voi che sapete che cosa e amor” (You who know what love is) is sung in the second act by Cherubino, who is traditionally played by a woman with a soprano voice. In the song, Cherubino is lamenting his amorous habits even as he pines for the Countess’ love.

Original lyrics in Italian:

Voi che sapete che cosa e amor
Donne, vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor
Donne, vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor.

Quello ch’io provo, vi ridiro
E per me nuovo capir nol so
Sento un affetto pien di desir
Ch’ora e diletto, ch’ora e martir.

Gelo e poi sento l’alma avvampar
E in un momento torno a gelar
Ricerco un bene fuori di me
Non so chi il tiene, non so cos’ e.

Sospiro e gemo senza voler
Palpito e tremo senza saper
Non trovo pace notte ne di
Ma pur mi piace languir cosi.

Voi, che sapete che cosa e amor
Donne, vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor
Donne, vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor
Donne, vedete, s’io l’ho nel cor

English translation:

You who know what love is
Women, see whether it’s in my heart
Women, see whether it’s in my heart.

What I am experiencing I will tell you
It is new to me and I do not understand it
I have a feeling full of desire
That now, is both pleasure and suffering.

At first frost, then I feel the soul burning
And in a moment I’m freezing again
Seek a blessing outside myself
I do not know how to hold it, I do not know what it is.

I sigh and moan without meaning to
Throb and tremble without knowing
I find no peace both night or day
But even still, I like to languish.

You who know what love is
Women, see whether it’s in my heart
Women, see whether it’s in my heart
Women, see whether it’s in my heart.

Sound recording for music_Overture, Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra:

Live performance for music_Overture, Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Fabio Luisi, 2006 in Tokyo:

Live performance for music_Overture, Budapest Scoring Symphonic Orchestra with conductor Peter Pejtsik:

Live performance for music_aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, Camille Thomas (cello):

Live performance for music_aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, Catherine Trottmann:

Live performance for music_aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, Hồng Nhung ft pianist Đăng Quang (a rare occasion for her to sing opera):

Live performance for opera excerpt_aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, Isabel Leonard with English sub-titles:

Live performance for opera excerpt_aria: Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, Marianne Crébassa:

Live performance for complete opera, Royal College of Music, with English sub-titles:

The famous song Voi che sapete che cosa è amor at 56:00.

Live performance for complete opera, University of California Santa Barbara, 2 hours 45 minutes:

The famous song Voi che sapete che cosa è amor at 53:00.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Offenbach

The Tales of Hoffmann, (original title in French: Les Contes d’Hoffmann), opera by German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), with a French libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier, the latter of whom was a coauthor of the play of the same name, from which the opera was derived. The opera premiered in Paris in 1881. It was the last and easily the most serious of the many Offenbach operas. Its premiere came posthumously. Left unfinished at Offenbach’s death, the work was completed by the composer’s colleagues.


Prologue: A tavern in Nuremberg. The Muse appears and reveals to the audience her purpose is to draw Hoffmann’s attention, and make him abjure all other loves, so he can be devoted to her: poetry. She takes the appearance of Hoffmann’s closest friend, Nicklausse. The prima donna Stella, performing Mozart’s Don Giovanni, sends a letter to Hoffmann, requesting a meeting in her dressing room after the performance. The letter and the key to the room are intercepted by Councillor Lindorf (Dans les rôles d’amoureux langoureux – In the languid lovers’ roles), the first of the opera’s incarnations of evil, Hoffmann’s nemesis. Lindorf intends to replace Hoffmann at the rendezvous. In the tavern, students wait for Hoffmann. He finally arrives, and entertains them with the legend of Kleinzach the dwarf (Il était une fois à la cour d’Eisenach – Once upon a time at the court of Eisenach). Lindorf coaxes Hoffmann into telling the audience about his three great loves.

Act 1 (Olympia).  This act is based on a portion of Der Sandmann (The Sandman).

Hoffmann’s first love is Olympia, an automaton created by the scientist Spalanzani. Hoffmann falls in love with her, not knowing Olympia is a mechanical doll (Allons! Courage et confiance…Ah! vivre deux! – Come on! Courage and confidence … Ah! to live!). To warn Hoffmann, Nicklausse, possessing the truth about Olympia, sings a story of a mechanical doll with the appearance of a human, but Hoffmann ignores him (Une poupée aux yeux d’émail – A doll with enamel eyes). Coppélius, Olympia’s co-creator and this act’s incarnation of Nemesis, sells Hoffmann magic glasses to make Olympia appear as a real woman (J’ai des yeux – I have eyes).

The Tales of Hoffmann_Act 1B
Olympia sings Les oiseaux dans la charmille (The Doll Song)

Olympia sings one of the opera’s most-famous arias, Les oiseaux dans la charmille (The birds in the arbor, nicknamed The Doll Song), during which she runs-down and needs to be wound-up before she can continue. Hoffmann is tricked into believing his affections are returned, to the bemusement of Nicklausse, subtly attempting to warn his friend (Voyez-la sous son éventail – See her under her fan). While dancing with Olympia, Hoffmann falls on the ground and his glasses break. At the same time, Coppélius appears, tearing Olympia apart to retaliate against Spalanzani after cheating him of his fees. With the crowd ridiculing him, Hoffmann realizes he loved an automaton.

Act 2 (Antonia). This act is based on Rath Krespel.

After a long search, Hoffmann finds the house where Crespel and his daughter Antonia are hiding. Hoffmann and Antonia loved each other, but were separated after Crespel decided to hide his daughter from Hoffmann. Antonia inherited her mother’s talent for singing, but her father forbids her to sing because of her mysterious illness. Antonia wishes her lover would return to her (Elle a fui, la tourterelle – “She fled, the dove”). Her father also forbids her to see Hoffmann, encourages Antonia in her musical career, and therefore, endangers her without knowing it. Crespel tells Frantz, his servant, to stay with his daughter, and after Crespel leaves, Frantz sings a comical song about his talents Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre – “Day and night, I quarter my mind.”

After Crespel leaves his house, Hoffmann takes advantage of the occasion to sneak-in, and the lovers are re-united (love duet: C’est une chanson d’amour – “It’s a love song”). After Crespel returns, he receives a visit from Dr Miracle, the act’s Nemesis, forcing Crespel to let him heal her. Eavesdropping, he learns Antonia may die if she sings too-much. He returns to her boudoir, and makes her promise to give-up her artistic-dreams. Antonia reluctantly accepts her lover’s will.

After she is alone, Dr Miracle enters Antonia’s boudoir to persuade her to sing and follow her mother’s path to glory, stating Hoffmann is sacrificing her to his brutishness, and loves her only for her beauty. With mystic powers, he raises a vision of Antonia’s dead mother and induces Antonia to sing, causing her death. Crespel arrives just in time to witness his daughter’s last breath. Hoffmann enters, and Crespel wants to kill him, thinking he is responsible for his daughter’s death. Nicklausse saves his friend from the old man’s vengeance.

Act 3 (Giulietta). This act is loosely-based on Die Abenteuer der Silvester-Nacht (A New Year’s Eve Adventure).

Venice. The act opens with the barcarolle Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour – “Beautiful night, oh night of love”. Hoffmann falls in love with the courtesan Giulietta, and thinks she returns his affections (Amis, l’amour tendre et rêveur – “Friends, tender and dreamy love”). Giulietta is not in love with Hoffmann, but seducing him under the orders of Captain Dapertutto, promising to give her a diamond if she steals Hoffmann’s reflection from a mirror (Scintille, diamant – “Sparkle, diamond”). The jealous Schlemil (cf. Peter Schlemihl for a literary antecedent), a previous-victim of Giulietta and Dapertutto (he gave Giulietta his shadow), challenges the poet to a duel, but is killed.

Nicklausse wants to take Hoffmann away from Venice, and goes looking for horses. Meanwhile, Hoffmann meets Giulietta, and cannot resist her (O Dieu! de quelle ivresse – “O God! of what intoxication”): he gives her his reflection, only to be abandoned by the courtesan, to Dapertutto’s great pleasure. Hoffmann tells Dapertutto his friend Nicklausse will come and save him. Dapertutto prepares a poison to get rid of Nicklausse, but Giulietta drinks it by mistake, dropping dead in the poet’s arms.

Epilogue. The tavern in Nuremberg: Hoffmann, drunk, swears he will never love again, and explains Olympia, Antonia, and Giulietta are three facets of the same person, Stella. They represent, respectively, the young girl’s, the musician’s, and the courtesan’s side of the prima donna. After Hoffmann says he doesn’t want to love any more, Nicklausse reveals she is the Muse and reclaims Hoffmann: Renaîtra un poète! Je t’aime, Hoffmann! Sois à moi!  – “Be reborn a poet! I love you, Hoffmann! Be mine!” The magic of poetry reaches Hoffmann as he sings O Dieu! de quelle ivresse – “O God! of what intoxication” once more, ending with Muse que j’aime, je suis à toi!  – “Muse, whom I love, I am yours!”

At this moment, Stella, tired of waiting for Hoffmann to come to her rendezvous, enters the tavern and finds him drunk. The poet tells her to leave (Adieu, je ne vais pas vous suivre, fantôme, spectre du passé – “Farewell, I will not follow you, phantom, spectre of the past” –), and Lindorf, waiting in the shadows, comes forth. Nicklausse explains to Stella Hoffmann does not love her any more, but Councillor Lindorf is waiting for her. Some students enter the room for more drinking, while Stella and Lindorf leave together.


The opera is perhaps best known for its barcarolle Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour. Thus eventially the song is simply known as Barcarolle.

Lyrics of Barcarolle:

Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour
Ô, belle nuit d’amour!

Le temps fuit et sans retour
Emporte nos tendresses
Loin de cet heureux séjour
Le temps fuit sans retour

Zéphyrs embrasés
Versez-nous vos caresses
Zéphyrs embrasés
Donnez-nous vos baisers!

Vos baisers! Vos baisers! Ah!

Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour
Ô, belle nuit d’amour!

Ah! souris à nos ivresses!
Nuit d’amour, ô, nuit d’amour!
Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!

Sound recording for music: Barcarolle, Nana Mouskouri:

Live performance for music: Barcarolle, duet by Symphony Orchestra of the Ryszard Bukowski Secondary Music School in Wroclaw conducted by Artur Wrobel, 2014:

Live performance for music: Barcarolle, Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nejc Bečan, 2011:

* Live performance for music: The Doll Song, soprano Patricia Janečková with Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava, conducted by Heiko Mathias Förster, 2016:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Barcarolle, Kate Lindsey & Christine Rice, with English sub-titles:

Live performance for opera excerpt: The Doll Song, soprano Elizabeth Futral as Olympia:

Live performance for opera excerpt: The Doll Song, Kathleen Kim as Olympia, Metropolitan Opera, 2009:

Live performance for complete opera: Metropolitan Opera, with English sub-titles, 2 hours 51 minutes:

Live performance for complete opera: Ópera de Stuttgart, 3 hours 17 minutes:

Orphée aux enfers – Offenbach

Orphée aux enfers (English: Orpheus in the Underworld) is a comic operetta by French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), French libretto by Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy, is a satirical treatment of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus. It premiered in 1858 in Paris. The work’s best-known music is the Can Can that appears in the overture and the final scene. The work was originally structured in two acts, though Offenbach later expanded it into four acts.

The classic story of Orpheus concerns a renowned musician who is so distraught over the death of his wife, Eurydice, that he attempts to rescue her from the Underworld, the place of the dead. This tragic tale was adapted for opera by many composers.


Unlike the other composers, Offenbach gave the story a farcical twist. In his version Orpheus and Eurydice, though married to each other, are amicably living separate lives, each blissfully occupied with a new lover. Like Eurydice in the original Greek story, Offenbach’s heroine is fatally bitten by a snake, but, rather than dying tragically, she willingly relocates to the Underworld to be with Pluto – the ruler of the Underworld – who in a mortal form had become her lover while she was alive. In Offenbach’s version Orpheus acts to retrieve Eurydice much against his will. Both he and Eurydice are pleased when his attempt fails. Offenbach was equally irreverent in terms of music, pairing courtly minuets with high-kicking cancans and quoting satirically from Gluck’s earlier opera.

When Offenbach’s opera premiered, critics expressed shock, both because it mocked Gluck’s revered telling of the tale and because it dismissed the idea of the perfection of ancient Greece. Audiences, however, loved it, and within a few years Orpheus in the Underworld became an international success.

In particular, the Overture is perhaps among the most impressive overture of all operas.

Sound recording of music: Overture, 9 minutes:

Live performance of music: Overture, Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra under conductor maestro Nejc Bečan, 9 minutes:

Live performance of music: Overture, MÁV Symphony Orchestra, Budapest, Conductor: Balázs Bánfi, 10 minutes:

Live performance of music: Can Can dance, 10 minutes:

Live performance of opera excerpt: Act II Final, University of Minnesota Opera Theatre, with French & English sub-titles:

Prince Igor – Borodin

Prince Igor (Russian: Князь Игорь, Knyaz’ Igor’) is an opera in four acts with a prologue, written and composed by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887). The composer adapted the libretto from the Ancient Russian epic The Lay of Igor’s Host, which recounts the campaign of Rus’ prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the invading Cuman (“Polovtsian”) tribes in 1185.

Borodin also incorporated material drawn from two medieval Kievan chronicles. The opera was left unfinished upon the composer’s death in 1887 and was edited and completed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov. It was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1890.

The Polovtsian Dances

The Polovtsian Dances, or Polovetsian Dances (Russian: Половецкие пляски) form an exotic scene at the end of act 2 of Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor.

Polovtsian dances

The work remained unfinished when the composer died, although he had worked on it for more than a decade. Several versions, or “completions”, of the opera have been made. The dances are performed with chorus and last between 11 and 14 minutes. They occur in Act 1 or Act 2, depending on which version of the opera is being used. Their music is popular and sometimes given in concert as an orchestral showpiece. At such performances the choral parts are often omitted. The opera also has a Polovtsian March which opens Act 3, and an overture at the start. When the dances are given in concert, a suite may be formed: Overture – Polovtsian Dances and March from Prince Igor.

Principal dances comprise:

  • Flowing Dance of the Young Maidens [4/4, Andantino]
  • Dance of the Savage Men [4/4, Allegro vivo]
  • General Dance [3/4, Allegro]
  • Dance of the Young Boys [Presto, 6/8]
  • Flowing Dance of the Young Maidens [4/4, Andantino]
  • Dance of the Young Boys
  • Dance of the Men
  • General Dance

If you think there is a modern song that has the tune of The Polovtsian Dances, you are right. It is the song Stranger in Paradise whose melody was taken from the opera overture.

At the beginning of the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014, some of Borodin’s music from this opera was played while an eclipsed sun, crescent-shaped, drifted across the upper levels of the center of the stadium, showing the basis of Russian history in the Prince Igor story.

Sound recording for dance music, Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert von Karajan, 12 minutes:

Live performance for dance music, Korea Wind Philharmony conducted by Dong-sin Lee, 10 minutes:

Live performance for dance music, Symphony Orchestra of the Felix Nowowiejski Music School in Gdańsk, Poland, conducted by Sylwia Anna Janiak and Adam Kałduńsk (piano), 15 minutes:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Polovtsian Dances, Bolshoi Theatre with French sub-titles, 11 minutes:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Polovtsian Dances, Kirov (Mariyinksky) Opera Company with English sub-titles, dài 10 minutes:

Cavalleria rusticana – Mascagni

Pietro Mascagni

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) composed two operas prior to Cavalleria Rusticana. After his dismissal from the Milan Conservatory in 1884 for his lack of application, he endured six years of poverty and obscurity touring as a conductor, then teaching and conducting in Cerignola, Puglia.

Here, in 1889, he heard of a competition sponsored by the music publisher Sonzogno offering a prize for the best one-act opera to be submitted. Mascagni took a story – a passionate love tragedy that takes place on Easter morning – by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga, which the author had already adapted into a play and which Mascagni had admired in Milan.

“I asked my friend and townsman Targioni-Tozzetti [later assisted by Guido Menasci] to write a libretto that was very close to Verga’s action, simply adding occasional lyrical pieces to cover the naked drama of the plot,” Mascagni recalled. “I received the verses a few at a time but I already had all the situation clear in my mind: I identified with the drama to such an extent that I felt it within myself in terms of music.”

It took Mascagni two months to compose. Then, when the time came for him to submit the score, his courage deserted him. Fearing failure, he put the music in a drawer, where it might have remained had it not been for his wife who sent it off.

Cavalleria Rusticana, with its stirring melodies, including the famous Easter Hymn, and tightly constructed plot was unanimously voted the competition winner. On May 17, 1890, it had its premiere in Rome where it received no less than 60 curtain calls; in less than a year it had been performed all over Europe. Within 40 years, it had been performed 13,000 times

Medals were struck in Mascagni’s honour; the King of Italy bestowed on him the Order of the Crown of Italy – an honour even Verdi wasn’t given until middle age. On the strength of one masterpiece, the struggling composer became wealthy and famous overnight.

“It is a pity I wrote Cavalleria first,” he said at the end of his life, “for I was crowned before I became king.”


Place: A 19th-century Sicilian village
Time: Easter morning

Before the action takes place, the young villager Turiddu had returned from military service to find that his fiancée Lola had married the carter Alfio while Turiddu was away. In revenge, Turiddu had seduced Santuzza, a young woman in the village. As the opera begins, Lola, overcome by her jealousy of Santuzza, has begun an adulterous affair with Turiddu.

The main square of the village.  Offstage, Turiddu is heard singing a siciliana, O Lola c’hai di latti la cammisa (“O Lola! like the snow, pure in thy whiteness!”). To one side is the church; to the other is Lucia’s wine shop and the house where she lives with her son, Turiddu. The villagers move about the square, singing of the beautiful spring day, Gli aranci olezzano sui verdi margini (“The air is sweet with orange blossoms”) and a hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some villagers enter the church, and others wander off still singing.

Santuzza, having slept with Turiddu and suspecting that he has betrayed her for Lola, is distraught and approaches Lucia as she comes out of her house. Santuzza asks for Turiddu, but Lucia replies that he has gone to another town to fetch some wine. Santuzza tells her that he was seen during the night in the village. Lucia asks her inside to talk, but just at that moment Alfio arrives on his wagon, accompanied by the villagers. He praises the joys of a teamster’s life and the beauty of Lola his bride. Alfio asks Lucia for some of her fine old wine. She tells him it has run out and Turiddu has gone away to buy more. Alfio replies that he had seen Turiddu early that morning near his cottage. Lucia starts to express surprise, but Santuzza stops her.

Alfio leaves. The choir inside the church is heard singing the Regina Coeli. Outside, the villagers sing an Easter Hymn, Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto (“We rejoice that our Saviour is living!”) joined by Santuzza. The villagers enter the church, while Santuzza and Lucia remain outside. Lucia asks Santuzza why she signalled her to remain silent when Alfio said that he had seen Turiddu that morning. Santuzza exclaims, Voi lo sapete (“You well know”) and tells Lucia the story of her seduction by Turiddu and his affair with Lola. Lucia pities Santuzza, who feels dishonored, having been seduced by Turiddu only to be abandoned by him for his old flame, Lola. Santuzza feels she cannot enter the church, but begs Lucia to go inside herself and pray for Santuzza who stays behind to try to plead with Turiddu to leave Lola and return to her.

Turiddu arrives. Santuzza upbraids him for pretending to have gone away, when he was actually seeing Lola. Lola enters the square singing. She mocks Santuzza and goes inside the church. Turiddu turns to follow Lola, but Santuzza begs him to stay. Turiddu pushes her away. She clings to him. He loosens her hands, throws her to the ground, and enters the church. Alfio arrives looking for Lola. Santuzza tells him that his wife has betrayed him with Turiddu. Alfio swears to take vendetta (revenge) which causes Santuzza to repent for having disclosed the affair and begs Alfio to stop to no avail.

Cavalleria rusticana

The square is empty as the orchestra plays the famous Intermezzo.

The villagers come out of the church. Turiddu is in high spirits because he is with Lola and Santuzza appears to have gone. He invites his friends to his mother’s wine shop where he sings a drinking song, Viva, il vino spumeggiante (“Hail to the bubbling wine!”). Alfio joins them. Turiddu offers him wine, but he refuses it. All understand that trouble is in the air. The women leave, taking Lola with them. In a brief exchange of words, Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. Following Sicilian custom, the two men embrace, and Turiddu, in a token of acceptance, bites Alfio’s ear, drawing blood which signifies a fight to the death. Alfio leaves and Turiddu calls Lucia back. He tells her that he is going outside to get some air and asks that she be a kindly mother to Santuzza if he should not return: Un bacio, mamma! Un altro bacio!—Addio! (“One kiss, mother! One more kiss! – Farewell!”).

Turiddu rushes out. Lucia, weeping, wanders aimlessly around outside her house. Santuzza approaches and throws her arms around her. The villagers start to crowd around. Voices are heard in the distance and a woman cries, “They have murdered Turiddu!” Santuzza faints and Lucia collapses in the arms of the women villagers.

Famous Musical Excerpts

The Intermezzo midway through the opera is a glorious melodic section orchestrated for strings. This beautiful music has figured in the sound track of several films, most notably in the opening of Raging Bull and in the finale of The Godfather Part III, which also featured a performance of the opera as a key part of the film’s climax.

Turridu’s Mamma, quell vino is arguably the most famous aria of the work. It takes place right at the end of the opera as Turridu bids farewell to his beloved mother while fully inebriated. As he realizes his fate, Turridu grows more and more passionate in his outcries, begging his mother for multiple kisses before meeting his fate.

Turridu’s drinking song Viva, il vino spumeggiante is quite the contrast to his final aria, the bright and catchy tune developing into a raucous ensemble.

The Easter hymn also features one of the opera’s most gorgeous melodies with Santuzza riding the ensemble with tremendous vocal requirements.

The duet between Santuzza and Turridu is arguably the opera’s most dramatic moment, the two trade blow for blow until Santuzza deliver’s the final attack at the end, wishing upon Turridu La mala pasqua.

* Sound recording for music: Intermezzo, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra with scenes of Tuscany, Italy:

Live performance for music: Intermezzo, Wiener Philharmoniker (Official Music Video):

Live performance for music: Intermezzo, Filarmonica della Scala conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, open air:

William Tell – Gioachino Rossini

Rossini, 1865
Gioachino Rossini

William Tell (French: Guillaume Tell) is a French-language opera in four acts by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) to a libretto by Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy and L. F. Bis, based on Friedrich Schiller’s play William Tell, which, in turn, drew on the William Tell legend. The opera was Rossini’s last, although he lived for nearly 40 more years. Fabio Luisi said that Rossini planned for William Tell to be his last opera even as he composed it. The often-performed overture in four sections features a depiction of a storm and a vivacious finale, the March of the Swiss Soldiers.

Paris Opéra archivist Charles Malherbe discovered the original orchestral score of the opera at a secondhand book seller’s shop, resulting in its being acquired by the Paris Conservatoire.

The opera’s length, roughly four hours of music, and casting requirements, such as the high range required for the tenor part, have contributed to the difficulty of producing the work. When performed, the opera is often cut. Performances have been given in both French and Italian. Political concerns have also contributed to the varying fortunes of the work. However, the opera has significant influence over the community culture.

March of the Swiss Soldiers

The famous overture to the opera is often heard independently of the complete work. Its high-energy finale, March of the Swiss Soldiers, is particularly familiar through its use in the American radio and television shows of The Lone Ranger. Several portions of the overture were used prominently in the films A Clockwork Orange and The Eagle Shooting Heroes; in addition, Dmitri Shostakovich quotes the main theme of the finale in the first movement of his 15th symphony.

The overture, which illustrates the Alpes in Switzerland, has four parts, each linked to the next:

  • The Prelude (Dawn) is written only for the cello section (including parts for five soloists), the double basses, and the timpani, in a slow tempo and in E major.
  • The Storm is a dynamic section played by the full orchestra, with backup from the trombones, in E minor.
  • The Ranz des Vaches, or call to the dairy cows, features the cor anglais (English horn) and the flute. It is in G major.
  • The Finale (March of the Swiss Soldiers) is an ultra-dynamic “cavalry charge” galop heralded by horns and trumpets, and is played by the full orchestra in E major.

Sound recording for music_March of the Swiss Soldiers, 3 minutes:

Live performance for music_March of the Swiss Soldiers, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Edo de Waart, 2 minutes:

Live performance for music_March of the Swiss Soldiers, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Myung-Whun Chung, 3 minutes and a half:

Live performance for music_Overture, Santa Monica High School Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Joni Swenson, 12 minutes:

The Prelude (Dawn), 0.01
The Storm, 2:47
The Ranz des Vaches, 5:50
The Finale, 8:26.

Live performance_Opera, Ambrosian Opera Chorus/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Lamberto Gardelli, 3 hours 14 minutes:

Nabucco –  Verdi

Nabucco, short for Nabucodonosor, is an Italian-language opera in four acts composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The opera was first performed in 1842.

Nabucco is the opera which is considered to have permanently established Verdi’s reputation as a composer. He commented that “this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star”.

It follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco (in English, Nebuchadnezzar II). The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot.

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves

The best-known number from the opera is the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, a chorus which is regularly given an encore in many opera houses when performed today.

English translation

Go, thoughts, on golden wings;
Go, settle upon the slopes and hills,
where warm and soft and fragrant are
the breezes of our sweet native land!
Greet the banks of the Jordan,
the towers of Zion …

Oh my country so beautiful and lost!
Or so dear yet unhappy!
Or harp of the prophetic seers,
why do you hang silent from the willows?

Rekindle the memories within our hearts,
tell us about the time that have gone by
Or similar to the fate of Solomon,
give a sound of lament;
or let the Lord inspire a concert
That may give to endure our suffering.

Live performance of music: Overture, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marco Armiliato, 2006:

Live performance of music: Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, State Symphony Orchestra of Russia conducted by Constantine Orbelian, Red Square, 2013, with English sub-titles:

Live performance of music: Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Montpellier National Orchestra conducted by Luciano Acocella, Théâtre Antique d’Orange, 2017:

Live performance of complete Nabucco, Arena di Verona, 1981, with English sub-titles, 2 hours 10 minutes:


Click YouTube function SHOW MORE then click the color-highlighted section to jump to it:

17:21 – Prode guerrier… Lo t’amava! (Abigaille, Fenena, Ismaele – Proud warrior… I loved you!)
28:30 – Tremin gl’insani del mio furore! (Sextet – Let the madmen tremble at my anger!)
32:56 – Mio furor, non più costretto (Sextet – My anger, no longer restrained)
40:01 – Ben io t’invenni… Anch’io dischiuso un giorno (Abigaille – Good that I found… I too once had opened…)
48:27 – Salgo già del trono aurato (Abigaille – Ascend to the gilded throne’s blooded seat)
56:33 – Che si vuol? (Ismaele, chorus – What can be wanted?)
1:00:54 – S’appressan gl’istanti (Quartet – The moment of a deadly anger )
1:07:02 – Chi mi toglie il regio scettro?.. (Nabucco – Who is taking the sceptre ?)
1:23:45 – Oh di qual onta… Deh perdona (Nabucco, Abigaille – Oh what shame… Alas, pardon)
1:32:05 – Va, pensiero (Chorus – Go, thoughts)
1:36:51 – Oh chi piange? (Zaccaria, chorus – Oh who weeps?)
1:46:40 – Dio di Giuda!… (Nabucco – God of the Jews!)
1:52:52 – Cadran, cadranno i perfidi… (Nabucco, chorus – The traitors shall fall)
2:01:25 – Su me… morente… (Abigaille – On me…dying..).

Live performance of complete Nabucco, St. Margarethen, Áo, 2007, with English sub-titles, 2 hours:

41:10 Act II
1:46:22 Act IIII

Live performance of complete Nabucco, 3 hours 53 minutes:

Peer Gynt – Grieg

Peer Gynt is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) in 1875. It premiered along with the play in 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo).

Later, in 1888 and 1891, Grieg extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites: Suite No. 1 and Suite No. 2. Some of these movements have received coverage in popular culture.

Peer Gynt

Peer Gynt chronicles the journey of its titular character from the Norwegian mountains to the North African desert. According to Klaus Van Den Berg, “its origins are romantic, but the play also anticipates the fragmentations of emerging modernism” and the “cinematic script blends poetry with social satire and realistic scenes with surreal ones.” Peer Gynt has also been described as the story of a life based on procrastination and avoidance.

The two suites are:

Suite No. 1

1/ Morning Mood (Morgenstemning) in E major.
2/ The Death of Åse (Åses død) in B minor
3/ Anitra’s Dance (Anitras dans) in A minor
4/ In the Hall of the Mountain King (I Dovregubbens hall) in B minor

Suite No. 2

1/ The Abduction of the Bride. Ingrid’s Lament (Bruderovet. Ingrids klage) in G minor
2/ Arabian Dance (Arabisk dans) in C major.
3/ Peer Gynt’s Homecoming (Stormy Evening on the Sea) (Peer Gynts hjemfart (Stormfull aften på havet)) in F♯ minor.
4/ Solveig’s Song (Solveigs sang) in A minor.

Sound recording for music: Morning Mood, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, 6 minutes:

Sound recording for music: Anitra’s Dance:

Sound recording for music: Suite No. 1, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan, 14 minutes and a half:

Live performance for music: Morning Mood, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk, 5 minutes:

Live performance for music: Solveig’s song, International Festival Orchestra:

Live performance for music: Suite No. 1, Polish Youth Symphony Orchestra in Bytom, Poland, conducted by Maciej Tomasiewicz, 15 minutes and a half:

0:22 Morning Mood
4:19 The Death of Ase
8:30 Anitra’s Dance
11:59 In the Hall of the Mountain King

Live performance for music: Suite No. 1, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester:

The opera Aida (sometimes spelled Aïda) was written by Giuseppe Verdi  (1813-1901). This great opera was commissioned by and first performed at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House (which was built on the orders of the Khedive Ismail to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal) on 24 December 1871.

Aida_Triumph March

Today Aida holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world; at New York’s Metropolitan Opera alone, it has been sung more than 1,100 times since 1886.

Triumphal March

The famous Triumphal March is in the second act, where Radamès, Captain of the Guard, leads the Egyptian army on its return following their victory over the Ethiopians.

Gloria all’ Egitto is the choral for the above.

Live performance for music: Triumphal March & Gloria all’ Egitto, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Chung Myung-Whun in open air, 2011:

Live performance for music: Triumphal March & Gloria all’ Egitto, Philharmonic Youth Winds and and Children’s Choir, 2014:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Triumphal March & Gloria all’ Egittoo, The Metropolitan Opera, 2009, with English sub-titles:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Triumphal March & Gloria all’ Egitto, Chor der Wiener Staatsoper/Wiener Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan:

La traviata – Verdi

La traviata (in English: The Fallen Woman) is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La Dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

La Traviata_B

Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past, “c. 1700”. It was not until the 1880s that the composer and librettist’s original wishes were carried out and “realistic” productions were staged. La traviata has become immensely popular and is the most frequently performed of all operas.

Toast (Let’s Drink From The Joyful Chalices)

Let’s drink, drink from the joyful chalices
since the beautiness is blossoming.
And might the fleeting hour get inebriated at will
Let’s drink among (those) sweet quivers
that Love makes arise,
since that eye goes to (his) almighty heart.
Let’s drink, (my) love, (so that) love among the chalices
will get hotter kisses

[Chorus] Ah! Let’s drink, (so that) love, among the chalices, will get hotter kisses

With you, with you, I’ll be able to share
my cheerful time;
Everything is crazy, crazy in the world
what is not pleasure
Let’s enjoy (the pleasures), fleeting and fast
is the joy in love,
it’s a flower that blossoms and dies,
neither it can be enjoyed longer
Let’s enjoy, it’s calling us, it’s calling us an ardent
flattering accent.

Let’s enjoy, the cup and the canticle,
the lovely night and the smiles;
might the new day find them (still) in this paradise

[Violetta] Life is in (its) jubilation

[Alfredo] When (people) aren’t in love yet…

[Violetta] Don’t say it to those who don’t know it,

[Alfredo] So it’s my destiny

Let’s enjoy, the cup and the canticle,
the lovely night and the smiles;
might the new day find them (still) in this paradise.

Live performance for opera excerpt: Brindisi (The drinking song), London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, Mark Elder (conductor), 2014:

Live performance for opera excerpt: Brindisi (The drinking song), Met Chorus conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, 2018:

+ Live performance for music: Brindisi (The drinking song), three tenors José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti with Zubin Mehta conducting the L.A. Philharmonic, 1994:

+ Live performance for complete opera, film production so the resolution is poor, 1 hour 57 minutes, 1967:

+ Live performance for complete opera, Conductor: Renato Palumbo Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro real, Madrid, 2 hours 6 minutes:

Vietnamese classical music

Bèo dạt mây trôi

This folk song was composed for the orchestra, and has been played several times in Việt Nam.

Live performance in Toyota 2013 Concert, HCMC City:

Live performance, for piano:


A flashmob (or flash mob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.

The term, coined in 2003, is generally not applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of politics (such as protests), commercial advertisement, publicity stunts that involve public relation firms, or paid professionals.

Ode to Joy in Symphony No. 9

Live performance by the Hans-Sachs Choir and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Nuremberg, 2014:

Live performance, the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra and the Edina Choraler, at the IDS Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 2015:

Arlésienne in Carmen

Live performance by 60 musicians at Paris North station, Paris, 17-Nov-2011:

Habanera in Carmen

Live performance au Restaurant le 5, Grenoble, France, 20-Mar-2011:

Brindisi in La traviata

Live performance at Drakes Fulham Foodland, 26-Jul-2013:

Live performance by students of l’Institut Supérieur de Musique et de Pédagogie, Namur, 16-May-2013:

Live performance by Orquesta de Cámara del Centro del Conocimiento, at Posadas Plaza Shopping, ngày 18-Apr-2015:

Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves in Nabucco

Live performance, El Coro Nacional y la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, Peru, 12-May-2015:

Habanera, O sole mío & Brindisi

Live performance, Natalia Bocco (soprano), María Josefina Bertossi (mezzo), Eduardo Mecozzi and Pablo Parente (tenor), Alto Rosario Shopping, 26/6/2014:

Rondo Alla Turca – Mozart

Live performance by Fazil Say, a jazz variation:

Synthesis: A little entertainment

Have you wondered how classical music composers like Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Bach and Mozart should have adapted the melody of Happy Birthday into their compositions? Nicole Pesco has an answer for you:

Concluding remark

You should spend time to listen to the songs and musical compositions introduced here. Start with short songs or excerpts. I believe that this article captures the quintessence of classical music that has charmed many generations. I am convinced that after you try what is introduced here, you will love classical music as I do, or once you have some kind of love you will love it more.

Then, it is up to you to explore further. You may begin by listening to entire concertos and symphonies introduced here. Such a treasure of mankind is waiting for you to enjoy.

Basic background

The main periods of classical music

According to Wikipedia, the main time divisions of Western art music are generally as follows:

The Medieval: (500-1450): Many of the instruments used to perform medieval music still exist, but in different forms. Medieval instruments included the flute, the recorder and plucked string instruments like the lute. As well, early versions of the organ and fiddle (or vielle) existed. Medieval instruments in Europe had most commonly been used singly, often self-accompanied with a drone note, or occasionally in parts.

The Renaissance (1450-1600): Many instruments originated during the Renaissance; others were variations of, or improvements upon, instruments that had existed previously. Some have survived to the present day; others have disappeared, only to be re-created in order to perform music on period instruments. As in the modern day, instruments may be classified as brass, strings, percussion, and woodwind. Vocal music in the Renaissance is noted for the flourishing of an increasingly elaborate polyphonic style. The first opera appeared during this period.

The Baroque (1600-1750): instruments included some instruments from the earlier periods (e.g., the hurdy-gurdy and recorder) and a number of new instruments (e.g, the oboe, bassoon, cello, contrabass and fortepiano. The key Baroque instruments for strings included the violin, viola, cello, contrabass, mandolin, Baroque guitar, harp… Brass instruments (like natural horn, trumpet, trombone) and keyboard instruments (like harpsichord, pipe organ, and, later in the period, fortepiano which an early version of the piano) were also used. Well-known composers in this period included Pachelbel (born 1653), Vivaldi (1678), Johann Sebastian Bach (1685), and Handel (1685).

One major difference between Baroque music and the classical era that followed it is that the types of instruments used in Baroque ensembles were much less standardized. Whereas a classical era string quartet consists almost exclusively of two violins, a viola and a cello, a Baroque or Classical-era group accompanying a soloist or opera could include one of several different types of keyboard instruments, additional stringed chordal instruments (e.g., a lute) and an unspecified number of bass instruments performing the basso continuo, including bowed strings, woodwinds and brass instruments (e.g., a cello, contrabass).

Vocal developments in the Baroque era included the development of serious and comique opera types, and related vocal forms such as oratorios and cantatas.

The true Classical (1730-1820): This is the period of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. Classical era musicians continued to use many of instruments from the Baroque era, such as the cello, contrabass, trombone, timpani, fortepiano (the precursor to the modern piano) and organ. While some Baroque instruments fell into disuse, many Baroque instruments were changed into the versions that are still in use today, such as the Baroque violin (which became the violin), the Baroque oboe (which became the oboe) and the Baroque trumpet, which transitioned to the regular valved trumpet. During the true Classical era, the stringed instruments used in orchestra and chamber music, particularly string quartets, were standardized as the four instruments which form the string section of the orchestra: the violin, viola, cello and double bass. Keyboard instruments included the clavichord and the fortepiano.

Well-known composers in this period included Gluck (born 1714), Haydn (1732), Boccherini (1743), Mozart (1756), and Rossini (1792). Particularly Beethoven (1770) and Schubert (1797) had works spanning to the following Romantic period).

The Romantic (1815-1910: music became more explicitly expressive and programmatic, dealing with the literary, artistic, and philosophical themes of the time. Beethoven (born 1770) and Schubert (1797) had works spanning both this period and the preceding Classical period). Other well-known composers in this period included Berlioz (1803), Mendelssohn (1809), Robert Schumann (1810), Chopin (1810 ), Liszt (1811), Verdi (1813), Wagner (1813), Johann Strauss II (1825), Brahms (1833), Tchaikovsky (1840), Dvořák (1841), Grieg (1843),  and Mendelssohn (1847). After that, Puccini (1858), Mahler (1860), Richard Strauss (1864), Sibelius (1865), and Rachmaninoff (1873) were at the end of this period.

This article will introduce to you the musical works in and before 1920.

Musical tempos

From slowest to fastest, basic tempo markings include:

  • Largo– broadly (40–60 bpm)
  • Larghetto – rather broadly (60–66 bpm)
  • Adagio – slowly with great expression (66–76 bpm)
  • Andante – at a walking pace (76–108 bpm)
  • Moderato – at a moderate speed (108–120 bpm)
  • Allegro moderato – close to, but not quite allegro (116–120 bpm)
  • Allegro – fast, quickly, and bright (120–156 bpm)
  • Vivace – lively and fast (156–176 bpm)
  • Presto – very fast (168–200 bpm)

When listening to the musical compositions whose names bear these names, you can recognize the tempos.

Musical forms


Simply put, an aria is a song. An aria (Italian: air; plural: arie, or arias in common usage, diminutive form arietta, plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrumental or orchestral accompaniment, normally part of a larger work.

The typical context for arias is opera, but vocal arias also feature in oratorios and cantatas, sharing features of the operatic arias of their periods. The term was originally used to refer to any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer.


Ballet is a type of performance dance that originated during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. It has since become a widespread, highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary based on French terminology. It has been globally influential and has defined the foundational techniques used in many other dance genres and cultures. Ballet has been taught in various schools around the world, which have historically incorporated their own cultures and as a result, the art has evolved in a number of distinct ways.

A ballet, a work, consists of the choreography and music for a ballet production. Ballets are choreographed and performed by trained ballet dancers. Traditional classical ballets are usually performed with classical music accompaniment and use elaborate costumes and staging.

Chamber music

Chamber music is a form of classical music that is composed for a small group of instruments – traditionally a group that could fit in a palace chamber or a large room. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers, with one performer to a part (in contrast to orchestral music, in which each string part is played by a number of performers). However, by convention, it usually does not include solo instrument performances.

A musical work for an orchestra may also be played by a small group of musicians. Therefore, “chamber” does not necessarily indicate the type of music; rather, it indicates the type of performance.

Because of its intimate nature, chamber music has been described as “the music of friends”. For more than 100 years, chamber music was played primarily by amateur musicians in their homes, and even today, when chamber music performance has migrated from the home to the concert hall, many musicians, amateur and professional, still play chamber music for their own pleasure. Playing chamber music requires special skills, both musical and social, that differ from the skills required for playing solo or symphonic works.


A coda (Italian for “tail”, plural code) is a passage that brings a piece (or a movement) to an end.


A concerto (plural concertos, or concerti from the Italian plural) is a musical composition generally composed of three movements, in which, usually, one solo instrument (for instance, a piano, violin, cello or flute) is accompanied by an orchestra or concert band. It is accepted that its characteristics and definition have changed over time. In the 17th century, sacred works for voices and orchestra were typically called concertos, as reflected by J. S. Bach’s usage of the title “concerto” for many of the works that we know as cantatas.

Early-Baroque concerto concerto was initially used to denote works that involved voices and instruments in which the instruments had independent parts—as opposed to the Renaissance common practice in which instruments that accompanied voices only doubled the voice parts.

The concerto began to take its modern shape in the late-Baroque period, in which the concertino usually reduces to a single solo instrument playing with (or against) an orchestra.

In the Classical period, the first movements of concertos from onwards follow the structure of sonata form.

In the 19th century the concerto as a vehicle for virtuosic display flourished as never before. It was an age in which the artist was seen as hero, to be worshipped with rapture. Early Romantic traits can be found in the violin concertos of Viotti, but it is Spohr’s twelve violin concertos, written between 1802 and 1827, that truly embrace the Romantic spirit with their melodic as well as their dramatic qualities.


Divertimento, from the Italian divertire “to amuse”) is a musical genre, with most of its examples from the 18th century. The mood of the divertimento is most often lighthearted (as a result of being played at social functions) and it is generally composed for a small ensemble. The term is used to describe a wide variety of secular (non-religious) instrumental works for soloist or chamber ensemble. It is usually a kind of music entertainment, although it could also be applied to a more serious genre. After 1780, the term generally designated works that were informal or light.

Incidental music

Incidental music is music in a play or some other presentation form that is not primarily musical. In movies, it is referred to as the “film score” or “soundtrack”.

Incidental music is often “background music”, and is intended to add atmosphere to the action. It may take the form of something as simple as a low, ominous tone suggesting an impending startling event or to enhance the depiction of a story-advancing sequence. It may also include pieces such as overtures, music played during scene changes, or at the end of an act, immediately preceding an interlude, as was customary with several nineteenth-century plays. It may also be required in plays that have musicians performing on-stage.


An intermezzo is a composition which fits between other musical or dramatic entities, such as acts of a play or movements of a larger musical work. In music history, the term has had several different usages, which fit into two general categories: the opera intermezzo and the instrumental intermezzo.

The Renaissance intermezzo, also called the intermedio, was a masque-like dramatic piece with music, which was performed between the acts of a play at Italian court festivities on special occasions, especially weddings.

The intermezzo, in the 18th century, was a comic operatic interlude inserted between acts or scenes of an opera seria.


A libretto (lit. “booklet”) is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera or an operetta. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the story line of a ballet.

Minuet / Menuet / Minuetto

A minuet is a social dance of French origin for two people, usually in 3/4 time (like valse). The word was adapted possibly from the French menu meaning slender, small, referring to the very small steps, or from the early 17th-century popular group dances called branle à mener or amener.

The term also describes the musical form that accompanies the dance, which subsequently developed more fully, often with a longer musical form called the minuet and trio, and was much used as a movement in the early classical symphony.

Minuet and Trio

The minuet and trio is a common form used in classical music composition. It turns up often as the third movement of symphonies and string quartets, and has also been used extensively in the piano works of Mozart and Beethoven, among others.

Why would any composer write a minuet and trio? It gives them a framework within which to work. Like sonata form, there are certain rules that need to be adhered to. And when writing a piece with four different sections – such as a piano sonata or symphony – it’s important to make sure there’s variety. The nature and placement of the minuet and trio means that it’s easily recognizable, too, which helps listeners make sense of the music more readily.


Nocturne (from the French which meant nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus) is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, nocturne is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.


Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a “work” (the literal translation of “opera”) is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Opera is a key part of the Western classical music tradition. Originally understood as an entirely sung piece, in contrast to a play with songs, opera has come to include numerous genres, including some that include spoken dialogue such as musical theater, Singspiel and Opéra comique. In traditional number opera, singers employ two styles of singing: recitative, a speech-inflected style and self-contained arias. The 19th century saw the rise of the continuous music drama.

Opera originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century, and soon spread through the rest of Europe: Heinrich Schütz in Germany, Jean-Baptiste Lully in France, and Henry Purcell in England all helped to establish their national traditions in the 17th century. In the 18th century, Italian opera continued to dominate most of Europe (except France), attracting foreign composers such as George Frideric Handel. Opera seria was the most prestigious form of Italian opera, until Christoph Willibald Gluck reacted against its artificiality with his “reform” operas in the 1760s. The most renowned figure of late 18th-century opera is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who began with opera seria but is most famous for his Italian comic operas, especially Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte, as well as Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), and Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), landmarks in the German tradition.

The mid-to-late 19th century was a golden age of opera, led and dominated by Giuseppe Verdi in Italy and Richard Wagner in Germany. The popularity of opera continued through the post-Romantic era in Italy and contemporary French opera through to Giacomo Puccini and Richard Strauss in the early 20th century.

Operetta is a genre of light opera, light in terms both of music and subject matter.

Then, operas and operetta are replaced the modern musical, such as The Phantom of the Opera and Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Opus number

The opus number – abbreviated as “Op.” – is the “work number” that is assigned to a composition, or to a set of compositions, to indicate the chronological order of the composer’s production. In order to make this article simple, opus numbers are shown only when absolutely necessary.


An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which mixes instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments, each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

A full-size orchestra may sometimes be called a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra. The actual number of musicians employed in a given performance may vary from seventy to over one hundred musicians, depending on the work being played and the size of the venue. The term chamber orchestra (and sometimes concert orchestra) usually refers to smaller-sized ensembles of about fifty musicians or fewer.


The recapitulation is one of the sections of a movement written in sonata form. The recapitulation occurs after the movement’s development section, and typically presents once more the musical themes from the movement’s exposition. This material is most often recapitulated in the tonic key of the movement, in such a way that it reaffirms that key as the movement’s home key.


A rhapsody is a one-movement work that is episodic yet integrated, free-flowing in structure, featuring a range of highly contrasted moods, color, and tonality. An air of spontaneous inspiration and a sense of improvisation make it freer in form than a set of variations.


In rondo form, a principal theme (sometimes called the “refrain”) alternates with one or more contrasting themes, generally called “episodes”, but also occasionally referred to as “digressions” or “couplets”. Possible patterns in the Classical period include: A-B-A, A-B-A-C-A, or A-B-A-C-A-B-A. These are sometimes designated “first rondo”, “second rondo”, and “third rondo”, respectively. The first rondo is distinguished from the three-part song form principally by the fact that at least one of the themes is a song form in itself, but the difference in melodic and rhythmic content of the themes in the rondo form is usually greater than in the song form, and the accompanimental figuration in the parts of the rondo (unlike the song form) is usually contrasted.


A scherzo (plural scherzos or scherzi) is a short composition – sometimes a movement from a larger work such as a symphony or a sonata. The precise definition has varied over the years, but scherzo often refers to a movement that replaces the minuet as the third movement in a four-movement work, such as a symphony, sonata, or string quartet. The term can also refer to a fast-moving humorous composition that may or may not be part of a larger work.


Serenade (also sometimes called serenata, from the Italian) is a musical composition and/or performance delivered in honor of someone or something. Serenades are typically calm, light pieces of music. The term comes from the Italian word serenata, which itself derives from the Latin serenus.

In the Baroque era, a serenata—which the form was called since it occurred most frequently in Italy and Vienna—was a typically celebratory or eulogistic dramatic cantata for two or more singers and orchestra, performed outdoors in the evening by artificial light.

The most important and prevalent type of serenade in music history is a work for large instrumental ensemble in multiple movements, related to the divertimento, and mainly being composed in the Classical and Romantic periods, though a few examples exist from the 20th century. Usually the character of the work is lighter than other multiple-movement works for large ensemble (for example the symphony), with tunefulness being more important than thematic development or dramatic intensity. Most of these works are from Italy, Germany, Austria and Bohemia.


Sonata form (also sonata-allegro form or first movement form) is a musical structure consisting of three main sections: an exposition, a development, and a recapitulation. It has been used widely since the middle of the 18th century (the early Classical period).

While it is typically used in the first movement of multi-movement pieces, it is sometimes used in subsequent movements as well – particularly the final movement.

After its establishment, the sonata form became the most common form in the first movement of works entitled “sonata”, as well as other long works of classical music, including the symphony, concerto, string quartet, and so on.


A suite is an ordered set of instrumental or orchestral/concert band pieces. It originated in the late 14th century as a pairing of dance tunes and grew in scope to comprise up to five dances, sometimes with a prelude, by the early 17th century. The separate movements were often thematically and tonally linked.

In the Baroque era the suite was an important musical form, also known as Suite de danses, Ordre (the term favored by François Couperin), Partita or Ouverture (after the theatrical “overture” which often included a series of dances).

During the 18th century the suite fell out of favor as a cyclical form, giving way to the symphony, sonata and concerto. It was revived in the later 19th century, but in a different form, often presenting extracts from a ballet (Nutcracker Suite), the incidental music to a play (L’Arlésienne Suites)…


A symphony is an extended musical composition, most often written for orchestra. Although the term has had many meanings from its origins in the ancient Greek era, by the late 18th century the word had taken on the meaning common today: a work usually consisting of multiple distinct sections or movements, often four, with the first movement in sonata form. Symphonies are scored for strings (violin, viola, cello, and double bass), brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments which altogether number about 30-100 musicians. Symphonies are notated in a musical score, which contains all the instrument parts. Orchestral musicians play from parts which contain just the notated music for their own instrument. A small number of symphonies also contain vocal parts (e.g., Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony).

The BBC Music Magazine asked 151 conductors to list three symphonies they like most. Those in the top 10 are:

1/  Beethoven Symphony No 3 (1803)
2/  Beethoven Symphony No 9 (1824)
3/  Mozart Symphony No 41 (1788)
4/  Mahler Symphony No 9 (1909)
5/  Mahler Symphony No 2 (1894 rev 1903)
6/  Brahms Symphony No 4 (1885)
7/  Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (1830)
8/  Brahms Symphony No 1 (1876)
9/  Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6 (1893)
10/ Mahler Symphony No 3 (1896)

Another voting

A list of best symphonies of all time, ranked by music lovers and the Ranker community, provides the top twenty as follows:

1/  Beethoven’s 9th (Choral) Symphony
2/  Beethoven’s 5th (Fate) Symphony
3/  Beethoven’s 3rd (Eroica) Symphony
4/ Dvorak’s 9th (New World) Symphony
5/  Beethoven’s 7th Symphony
6/  Mozart’s Symphony No.41
7/  Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony
8/  Mozart’s 40th (Great) Symphony
9/  Mahler’s 2nd Symphony
10/ Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony
11/ Beethoven’s 6th (Pastoral) Symphony
12/ Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony
13/ Schubert’s 9th Symphony
14/ Mahler’s 5th Symphony
15/ Brahms’ Symphony No. 4
16/ Brahms’ Symphony
17/ Schubert’s 8th Unfinished Symphony
18/ Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony
19/ Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique
20/ Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony

If you want to explore symphonies further, refer to the above list.

Compiled by: Diệp Minh Tâm – Updated: Nov-2019

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