I don't listen to classical music that often (even though I grew up listening to tons of it, involuntarily), but when I do it has to be the best stuff, the top of the crop, the tip of the iceberg, the pointiest bit on the pyramid, the areola and the nipple rather than the breast itself. This is pretty much my attitude toward all types of music. Who's got the bloody time to listen to average crap? Well, I know, 90% of the population do just that, bless their uneducated, underdeveloped ears. So I guess this list must be for the other 10%.
As with any type of music, most classical composers "borrowed" from others, and usually wrote very stereotypical tunes that still get played by great and less-than-great orchestras throughout the world - just because they were written by so-and-so. I fart on the cult of personality; I only look at the finished product - not who composed it, or why, or when, or how exalted his name may be in general culture. Only a small percentage of all classical music is truly great; the rest is a mixture of the good, the mediocre, and the dull - like all those vaguely pleasant but ultimately pointless Haydn symphonies that might as well have been composed on a conveyor belt.
Classical music IS of course generally overrated by its fans, and utterly underrated by hicks. Very few people have a healthy, realistic approach toward it - as I do.
Many of its deluded fans are narrow-minded snobs who actually believe that only music written by people who are long dead can be good music - as if the past held some secret ingredient, some unknown chemical element that enabled humans to write great melodies, while the modern times are somehow "corrupted" or "polluted" by some strange gases that permeate the air, not allowing any music genius to ever exit its mother's vagina. The fact that the population is much larger today - and that many more people can afford musical instruments and a music education - mathematically increases, if anything, the chances of more great music being written. That is probably why the 20th century saw an explosion of excellent music in large quantities, not to mention a plethora of new and exciting styles. Admittedly though, the current world-wide cultural dumbing-down phenomenon is a large counter-productive factor. Vast numbers of kids are growing up listening to garbage, so the odds of anyone composing great music greatly diminish.
On the other side of the coin we've got the tone-deaf idiots who utterly ignore, even mock classical music. (Cretins often mock that which they cannot understand.) These are the types that cannot comprehend anything more complex than "Jingle Bells" or the latest musical turd shat by Britney Spears's overactive anus. Their lemur ears can only process simplistic, child-like, predictable, formulaic tunes that can be hummed even by bizons. Like nervous little pubescent girlies who hysterically laugh in order to mask their insecurity and uncomfortableness, these peasants nervously snicker at anything they realize goes way above their heads - or past their ears, if you will. Classical music isn't rocket science, but it does presuppose early ear-training. If you've been brought up on a steady diet of Bon Jovi, Ice-T, and DJ Moby, you can pretty much forget it: for such retards great melodies will always remain a confusing mystery.
Keep in mind: this list isn't about ALL the famous classical melodies, just the very best - and who better to be the judge of what's best than I! There are many very nice melodies that I have not included, simply because they do not measure up to the ones already on the list.
A Metal Fan's List Of The Best Pieces Of Classical Music
Rule no. 1: No entire symphonies, no entire missas or whatever, only separate bits/parts.
Rule no. 2: No good tracks, only great tracks. Many famous pieces are missing because they do not match up to the greatness of those that made it on the list, or simply because they are dull.
Rule no. 3: The 20th century does count, but only up to a point. I can't draw a line, i.e. identify a date, when classical music stops. We can argue about what "classical" means until James Cameron is as blue in the face as his dumb aliens, but ultimately: if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck. One thing's for sure; you won't be finding any Jay-Z here. And by "classical" obviously I refer to modernist and romantic eras as much as what is literally classical music.
Rule no. 4: Sometimes a piece of music has a high placement because there is one absolutely outstanding part within it. Considering that some of these pieces go over 10 minutes, it is obvious that some of these longer compositions aren't great in their entirety but contain highlights which are the focus.
Rule no. 5: Keep in mind that the greatness of many of these tracks depends to some extent on how good they are being played, i.e. which version you've heard.
Rule no. 6: I have tried to arrange these tracks in the ascending order of greatness, which was tough. However, you will notice an increase in quality as you go down (i.e. up) the list.
BACH/GOUNOD - Ave Maria
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Alexander Nevsky: The Crusaders In Pskov
Gabriel FAURE - Pavane
Alexander Borodin - Prince Igor
Ludwig VAN BEETHOVEN - Symphony #9, 2nd movement
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Lieutenant Kijé
Claude DEBUSSY - The Snow Is Dancing
Antonin DVORAK - New World Symphony: 4th Movement
Giuseppe VERDI - Nabucco: Hebrew Slaves Chorus
Léo DELIBES - The Flower Duet
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - Promenade
Johann Sebastian BACH - Orchestral Suite #3 D-dur
Claude DEBUSSY - Passepied
Richard STRAUSS - Also sprach Zarathustra
Pietro MASCAGNI - Cavaleria Rusticana (Intermezzo)
Sergei RACHMANINOFF - Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini, 18th variation
Claude DEBUSSY - Estampes: Gardens in the Rain
Tomaso ALBINONI - Adagio in G minor
Igor STRAVINSKY - Firebird Suite: Infernal Dance of King Kastchei
Carl ORFF - Carmina Burana: 11. Estuans Interius
Richard WAGNER - Götterdämmerung: Siegfried's Death and Funeral March
Jean SIBELIUS - Valse Triste
Maurice RAVEL - Pavane For Dead Princess
Frédéric CHOPIN - Etude no. 3 in E major, Op. 10 no. 3, "Tristesse"
Johann Sebastian BACH - 3 Part Invention, #2 in c-Moll BWV 788
Claude DEBUSSY - Des pas sur la neige
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - Baba Yaga
Antonin DVORAK - New World Symphony: 2nd Movement
Maurice RAVEL - Bolero
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY - Symphony #6 "Pathetique": 1st Movement, Adagio
Carl ORFF - Carmina Burana: O Fortuna
Claude DEBUSSY - Arabesque #1
Edvard GRIEG - Solveig's Song
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - The Old Castle
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Suite Scythe: Adoration de Veles et Ala
Igor STRAVINSKY - Firebird Suite: Introduction
Claude DEBUSSY - Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - Bydlo
Ludwig VAN BEETHOVEN - 7th Symphony: 2nd Movement
Franz SCHUBERT - Piano Trio #2 in E flat major
Igor STRAVINSKY - Firebird Suite: Berceuse & Finale
Claude DEBUSSY - Reverie
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - The Great Gate of Kiev
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Violin Concerto #1: Moderato; Allegro Moderato
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Violin Concerto #1: Andantino
Claude DEBUSSY - Girl With The Flaxen Hair
Johann Sebastian BACH - Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Claude DEBUSSY - The Sunken Cathedral
Franz SCHUBERT - Ave Maria
Joaquín RODRIGO - Aranjuez Concerto
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Symphony #5 In B Flat Major: Allegro Marcato
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Symphony #6 in Eb Minor, Op. 111: I Allegro moderato
Modeste MUSSORGSKY - A Night On Bald Mountain
Igor STRAVINSKY - Firebird Suite: Round Dance of the Princesses
Richard WAGNER - The Ride of the Valkyries
Claude DEBUSSY - Claire De Lune
Ludwig VAN BEETHOVEN - Ode To Joy
Richard WAGNER - Tannhauser Overture
If you think I have omitted something crucial, leave a link or name the tune and its composer, and I shall check it out.
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