Greatest Classical Music - Hall Of Fame

In a nutshell, this is a site dedicated to rating and reviewing classical music. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of works were written; however, like all musical genres and repoitoires, only a relatively small percentage turn out to be very good.

At the moment, I will rate predominantly music from the common practice period, which includes European music from around the years 1600-1900. There will be a few exceptions, and later I may expand the list to include more music from the 20th and 21st centuries as well as from other cultures.

But is there really an objective quality to music?

There's a good reason why the most famous classical works are well known, and that is because they are most likely good. Arbitrary cultural trends may play a part, sure, but since classical music has been around for such a long time, it has had the advantage of being able to stand trial to the test of time. Buy a typical "Top 100 classical hits", and on the whole you'll find most of them are indeed classics, and deserve to be held in higher esteem than 100 *randomly* selected works from equivalent time periods and composers.

"Amazing but true!"
Question: Why is Debussy's "Suite Bergamasque"'s 3rd movement ("Claire de Lune") or Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A-"'s 1st movement so much more famous than the barely heard 1st and 2nd movements respectively?

Answer: Because they also happen to be better overall, and better music is more likely to be performed, disseminated and heard by the populace in general.
Yes, there are many exceptions to the rule, and part of the aim of this web site is to shed light on the forgotten or under-rated pieces. As a composer myself, although I don't claim to have perfect taste in music, I'm sure you'll find that you'll agree with the majority of picks below. If you don't, either you or I could be very (or slightly) wrong, but see the "Is there such a thing as perfect taste in music?" article for further information on why music (including classical, pop, jazz etc.) can be universally theoretically be rated intrinsically as well as from a (possibly imperfect) human perspective.

In summary, can beauty be defined or even measured? Yes, probably. We just don't know how. See this page for some of the deeper questions which always tend to haunt music theory.

What criteria will you judge the music by?

The best music tends to have high ratings for various attributes on small and large scales. Is it difficult to label and define attributes without risking partial overlap, or without mistaking a subset of criteria
Instant stats - Current composers covered:
Strauss II
for a full superset, but here's one attempt:

  • Harmony (appropriate chords, chord sequences, modes, key changes)
  • Rhythm (appropriate syncopation, beats, stress, arguably dynamic contrast (volume))
  • Timbre (appropriate instruments, basic overtone signature, bass, treble, register contrast)

    Furthermore, one can include three more attributes based on each of the above attributes. They could theoretically rate highly even if the above rate low (and vice versa):

  • Harmony detail (texture thickness - descant, drones, thick chords, thick to thin chord contrast etc.
  • Rhythm detail (speed of notes in general: Using fill-ins, imitation, note echos, descant, fast to slow rhythm contrast etc.)
  • Timbre detail (instrument evolution, number of harmonics/overtones, phasing effects, vibrato etc.)

    From these (most fundamental?) attributes, we can derive higher level attributes such as the quality of the "melody", "counterpoint", "theme", "motif", "dramaticism", "variety", "pattern", "structural harmony / harmonic rhythm" etc. etc..

    "Amazing but true!"
    Question: Can music be so good that there are effectively infinite levels of quality, or do only a finite amount of levels exist? Also, can various musical attributes such as rhythm, harmony and melody be judged to have a negative value?

    Answer: I would imagine that given the confines of the human brain, infinite levels of quality may subjectively be impossible to attain, but that doesn't mean that a piece can't objectively be capable of reaching sky high numbers. In answer to the second question, could it be that the rhythm and timbre attributes can be rated from 'neutral' to 'amazing', but perhaps that the attribute Harmony can be so bad as to plumb the depths and go below zero? Weird stuff, and impossible to say for sure...
    What makes it even harder to isolate and rate these attributes is how they can each interact with each other in ways which are beyond imagination. In general though, a lot of Bach's greatest works (for example) will score highly in the Detail and Rhythm department, but relatively low in Harmony. On the other hand, the reverse may be true with composers such as Rachmaninov or Debussy. The best compositions have the best of both worlds.

    Enough, let's hear your favourites already?

    Yessum boss! Below is a list of what we believe to contain the greatest works. As I only have a finite amount of time, obviously not every composer and composition will be covered, but more and more will be added periodically. The scoring system combines all the above attributes into one overall score (based on a logarithmic scale for you techies). A score of zero is still reasonable, and worth listening to. Each increase of 1, equates to a quantum leap in goodness, until 8 which is the (current known) pinnacle of classical music. Higher scores are definitely possible - send me your recommendations!

    Because each work can have multiple movements, I have split them all up and rated each of them separately. As one might imagine, different movements in the same work can have vastly contrasting levels of quality (and the same goes for in one single movement, but we have to draw the line somewhere). Also, I have not included any opera/choral/vocal classical music yet. These will come later.

    Although there are no MIDI or MP3 files to download on this page, you can try for MIDIs and something like Wikipedia for full MP3s and Amazon for clips of classical music.

    8 Symphony No.40 in G-; K.550 - 1.Molto allegro Mozart
    8 Ballade No.3 in Ab; Op.47 Chopin
    8 Suite Bergamasque - 3.Clair de lune Debussy
    7 Piano Sonata No.8 in C-; Op.13 'Pathetique' Beethoven
    7 Sonata No.14 in C#-; Op.27 No.2 'Moonlight' (1.Adagio sostenuto) Beethoven
    7 Sonata No.14 in C#-; Op.27 No.2 'Moonlight Sonata' (3.Presto agitato) Beethoven
    7 Symphony No.5 in C-; Op.67 (1.Allegro con brio) Beethoven
    7 Piano Concerto No.2 in C-; Op.18 - 3.Allegro scherzando Rachmaninov
    6 Warsaw Concerto Addinsell; Richard (composer) + Douglas; Roy Douglas (orchestration)
    6 Orchestral Suite No.3 in D; BWV1068 - 2.Air (on the G String) [4:22] Bach
    6 Piano Concerto No.5 in Eb; Op.73 'Emperor' (1.Allegro) Beethoven
    6 Piano Concerto No.5 in Eb; Op.73 'Emperor' (3.Rondo: Allegro) Beethoven
    6 Elizabethan Serenade Binge; Ronald
    6 Preludes Op.28 (No.15 in Db 'Raindrop') Chopin
    6 'Rhapsody in Blue' Gershwin
    6 Holberg Suite - 1.Praeludium: Allegro vivace (arr. Piano and strings) Grieg
    6 Piano Concerto in A-; Op.16 - 1.Allegro molto moderato Grieg
    6 The Planets; Op.32 (1914-16) - IV.Jupiter Holst
    6 Liebestraume No.3 Listz
    6 Fingal's Cave Mendelssohn
    6 Piano Concerto No.23 in A; K.488 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    6 Romeo and Juliet (Fantasy Overture) - 'Love Theme' Tchaikovsky
    6 'Winter' Concerto RV.297 from 'The Seasons' - 1.Allegro Vivaldi
    5 Birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels - 9.Aria: 'Schafe können sicher weiden' (Sheep May Safely Graze) Bach
    5 Carmen Suite No.1; Fantasia della Carmen - March of The Toreadors Bizet
    5 String Quintet No 5; Op.13 - 3.Minuet Boccherini
    5 Suite Bergamasque - 4.Passepied Debussy
    5 Orchestral Suite in G-Major Khoroshev; Igor
    5 Serenade No.13 in G 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' K.525 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    5 Scheherazade; Op.35 (symphonic suite) - 4.Festival at Baghdad Rimsky-Korsakov
    5 The Tale of Tsar Saltan - Flight of the Bumblebee Rimsky-Korsakov
    5 William Tell Overture - 4:Finale Rossini
    5 Impromptus; Op.90 D.899 - No.3 in Gb Schubert
    5 'Ma Vlast' - Vltava Smetana
    4 Adagio in G minor Albinoni
    4 Orchestral Suite No.2 in B-; BWV1067 (7.Badinerie) Bach
    4 Toccata and Fugue in D-; BWV565 (Toccata [9:15]) Bach
    4 Adagio for Strings Op.11 Barber
    4 Bagatelle No.25 in A- 'Fur Elise;' WoO.59 Beethoven
    4 Etudes Op.10 - No.3 in E Chopin
    4 Fantaisie-impromptu in C#-; Op.66 Chopin
    4 Nocturne No.2 in Eb; Op.9 Chopin
    4 Peer Gynt Suite No.1; Op.46 - 3.Anitra's Dance Grieg
    4 Solomon - Arrival of the Queen of Sheba Handel
    4 Octet for Strings; Op.20 - 1st mov Mendelssohn
    4 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Mendelssohn
    4 Serenade No.13 in G 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik' K.525 - 4.Rondo-Allegro Mozart
    4 St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain Mussorgsky
    4 Orpheus in the Underworld - The Can-Can Offenbach
    4 Peter and the Wolf Prokofiev
    4 A Night on the Bare Mountain Rimsky-Korsakov+ Mussorgsky
    4 Carnival of the Animals - The Swan Saint-Saëns
    4 Carnival of the Animals - Aquarium Saint-Saëns
    4 Radetzky March Strauss
    4 The Blue Danube Waltz Strauss II
    4 Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka op. 214 Strauss II
    4 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 7.Dance of the Reed Pipes Tchaikovsky
    4 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 8.Waltz of the Flowers Tchaikovsky
    4 Swan Lake; Op.20 - 10.Scène Tchaikovsky
    3 Songs of Spain ("Chants d’Espagne"); Op.232 - 4.Córdoba Albeniz
    3 Double Concerto in D- for Two Violins; BWV1043 - 1.Vivace Bach
    3 Suite No.2 in B minor; BMV 1067 - 7.Badinerie Bach
    3 Hungarian Dance No.2 in D- Brahms
    3 Symphony No.3 in F; Op.90 (1.Allegro con brio) Brahms
    3 Hungarian Dance No. 5 Brahms
    3 Etude No.3; Op.10 Chopin
    3 Arabesque No.1 in E Debussy
    3 Petite suite (orch. arr.) - 4:Ballet Debussy
    3 Ritual Fire Dance from Love the Magician ballet Falla
    3 Peer Gynt Suite No.1; Op.46 - 4.In the Hall of the Mountain King Grieg
    3 Piano Concerto in A-; Op.16 - 3.Allegro moderato molto e marcato Grieg
    3 Danse Macabre; Op.40 Saint-Saëns
    3 Piano Concerto in A-; Op.54 - 1.Allegro affettuoso Schumann
    3 My Country; The Moldau Smetana
    3 The Stars and Stripes Forever Sousa
    3 The Dying Swan Tchaikovsky
    3 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 3.Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy Tchaikovsky
    3 Serenade for strings - Waltz Tchaikovsky
    3 Aida: Triumphal March Verdi
    3 Die Walküre - Ride of the Valkyries Wagner
    2 Piano Sonata No.21 in C; Op.53 'Waldstein'.mid Beethoven
    2 Hungarian Dance No.1 in G- Brahms
    2 Intermezzo 118 No.2 Brahms
    2 Ballade No.1 in G-; Op.23 Chopin
    2 Ballade No.4 in F-; Op.52 Chopin
    2 Etude Op.10 No.12 in C- 'Revolutionary' Chopin
    2 Etude Op.25 No.11 - 'Winter Wind' Chopin
    2 Etudes Op.10 - No.4 in C#- Chopin
    2 Les Sylphides Ballet (Nocturne in Ab; Op.32; No.2) Chopin
    2 Piano Concerto No.2 in F-; Op.21 - 3.Allegro vivace Chopin
    2 Prelude No.20 in C- ('Funeral March') Chopin
    2 Waltz in C#; Op.64 No.1; 'Minute Waltz' Chopin
    2 Waltz No.2 Chopin
    2 Waltz No.6 in D flat: Minute Chopin
    2 Waltz Op.18 (Grand Valse Brilliante) Chopin
    2 Children's Corner (6.Golliwogg's Cakewalk) Debussy
    2 Symphony No 9 'From the New World' - ?Largo Dvorak
    2 American in Paris Gershwin
    2 Peer Gynt Suite No.1; Op.46 - 1.Morning Mood Grieg
    2 'Water Music' - Alla Hornpipe Handel
    2 Symphony No.45 in F#- 'Farewell' Haydn
    2 Czardas Monti; Vittorio
    2 Piano Concerto No.21 in C ('Elvira Madigan'); K.467 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    2 Piano Sonata in A; K.331 - 3.Rondo alla Turca Mozart
    2 Piano Sonata in C; K.545 - 3.Rondo Mozart
    2 Symphony No.25 in G-; K.183 - 1.Allegro con brio Mozart
    2 La Gioconda: Dance of the Hours Ponchielli
    2 'Romeo and Juliet' - The Knights' Dance Prokofiev
    2 Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor - 1.Allegro Moderato Rachmaninov
    2 Prelude in C# minor Rachmaninov
    2 Ave Maria Schubert
    2 The Bartered Bride - 2.1.2.Furiant Smetana
    2 The Liberty Bell Sousa
    2 Die Fledermaus - Overture Strauss II
    2 Swan Lake; Op.20 - 2.Valse Tchaikovsky
    2 Swan Lake; Op.20 - Act I: Introduction; 1.Scène Tchaikovsky
    2 Swan Lake; Op.20 - 27.Dance des cygnes: Allegro moderato Tchaikovsky
    2 Symphony No.3 in D; Op.29 - 4.Scherzo: Allegro vivo Tchaikovsky
    2 Symphony No.5 in E-; Op.64 - 2.Andante cantabile; con alcuna licenza. Moderato con anima Tchaikovsky
    2 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 2.March Tchaikovsky
    2 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 4.Russian Dance (Trépak) Tchaikovsky
    2 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 4.Russian Dance (Trépak) Tchaikovsky
    2 The Sleeping Beauty; Op.66 - 6.Valse Tchaikovsky
    2 The Sleeping Beauty - Waltz Tchaikovsky
    1 Brandenburg Concerto No. 2: Allegro Bach
    1 Well-tempered Clavier; Book 1/48 - Prelude No. 3 Bach
    1 Two-part Invention No. 13 Bach
    1 Minuet in G Beethoven
    1 La Damnation de Faust: Marche hongroise Berlioz
    1 Piano Concerto No.2 in F-; Op.21 - 1.Maestoso Chopin
    1 Preludes Op.28 (No.4 in E- 'Suffocation') Chopin
    1 Sonata in B-; Op.58 No.3 - 4.Finale; Presto non tanto Chopin
    1 Krakowiak; for piano and orchestra; Op.14 Chopin
    1 Golliwog's Cake-Walk from Children's Corner Suite Debussy
    1 Pomp and Circumstance; March No 1 in D - Land of Hope and Glory Elgar
    1 Morning song Elgar
    1 Sicilenne Faure
    1 Concerto Grosso in B-; Op.6; No.12; HWV.330 - 2.Allegro Handel
    1 Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C#- Listz
    1 String Quartet in Eb; Op.12 - 2.Canzonetta: Allegretto Mendelssohn
    1 Divertimento No.1 in D; K.136 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    1 Piano Sonata in C; K.545 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    1 Sonata in A; K.331 - 1.Allegro Mozart
    1 The Marriage of Figaro; K.492 - Overture Mozart
    1 Concierto de Aranjuez for Guitar and Orchestra; Adagio Rodrigo
    1 Verklärte Nacht; Op. 4 (Transfigured Night) Schoenberg
    1 Marche Militaire in D; Op.51 No.1 D.733 Schubert
    1 Piano Concerto in A-; Op.54 - 3.Allegro vivace Schumann
    1 Toccata in C; Op.7 Schumann
    1 The Bartered Bride - Polka Smetana
    1 'Also sprach Zarathustra' - Introduction Strauss
    1 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 1.Miniature Overture Tchaikovsky
    1 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 6.Chinese Dance Tchaikovsky
    1 'Summer' Concerto RV 315 from 'The Seasons' - 3.Presto Vivaldi
    0 Brandenburg Concerti No.2 in F; BWV1047 (1.Allegro) Bach
    0 Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in G; BWV1049 - 3.Presto Bach
    0 Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in G; BWV1049 (1.Allegro) Bach
    0 Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D; BWV1050 - 1.Allegro [11:10] Bach
    0 Cantata 140. 1. Chorus Bach
    0 Concerto for Cembalo in D-; BWV1052 (1.Allegro) Bach
    0 Double Concerto in D- for Two Violins; BWV1043 - 3 Bach
    0 Herz Und Mund Und Tat Und Leben; BWV147 - 1.Jesu; Joy of Man's Desiring [3:30] Bach
    0 Well-tempered Clavier; Book 1/48 - Prelude No. 1 Bach
    0 Well-tempered Clavier; Book 1/48 - Prelude No. 2 Bach
    0 String Quartet No.15 in A-; Op.132 - 5.Allegro appassionato Beethoven
    0 Symphony No.3 in Eb 'Eroica'; Op.55 (4.Finale) Beethoven
    0 Symphony No.7 in A; Op.92 (1.Poco sostenuto - Vivace) Beethoven
    0 Symphony No.9 in D- 'Choral'; Op.125 (4.Presto - Ode to Joy) Beethoven
    0 Symphony 7 - Movement 2 Beethoven
    0 Symphony No.4 in E-; Op.98 (2.Andante moderato) Brahms
    0 Ballade No.2 in F; Op.38 Chopin
    0 Etude in F; Op.10; No.8 Chopin
    0 Polonaise in Ab 'Heroic'; Op.53 Chopin
    0 Prelude No.7 Chopin
    0 Notebook 2; Minuet No. 4 Christian Pezold
    0 Nocturnes - 2.Fêtes Debussy
    0 Overture; Ruslan and Ludmila Glinka
    0 Water Music Suite No.1 in F; HWV.348 - 9.Bourée Handel
    0 Adagio from Spartacus Khachaturian
    0 Gayanch; Sabre Dance Khachaturian
    0 Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor - Adagietto Mahler
    0 A Midsummer Night's Dream; Op.21+61 - 9.Wedding March Mendelssohn
    0 Violin Concerto; Op. 64 - Allegro molto appassionato Mendelssohn
    0 Symphony No.4 in A; Italien; Allegro Vivace Mendelssohn
    0 Piano concerto No.23 in A; K.488 - 3.Allegro assai Mozart
    0 Piano Sonata in C; K.545 - 2.Andante Mozart
    0 Symphony No.36 in C; K.425 - 4.Finale: Presto Mozart
    0 Symphony No.40 in G-; K.550 - 4.Finale: Allegro assai Mozart
    0 Horn Concerto No. 4 - Rondo Mozart
    0 Piano Concerto No 23 - Adagio Mozart
    0 Piano concerto No.21 - Andante Mozart
    0 Gopak from Sorotchinksky Fair Mussorgsky
    0 Pavan for a Dead Princess Ravel
    0 Capriccio Espagnol; Finale Rimsky-Korsakov
    0 Gymnopedie No.1 Satie
    0 Die Junge Nonne; D.828 Schubert
    0 Impromptus; Op.142 D.935 - No.1 in F- Schubert
    0 Piano Sonata No.21 in Bb; D.960 - 1.Molto moderato Schubert
    0 Fantasy; Op. 12 - Ende vom Lied - 2.Aufschwung Schumann
    0 Alla Marcia Sibelius
    0 The Light Cavalry Suppe
    0 '1812' Overture Op.49 Tchaikovsky
    0 The Nutcracker (Suite from the Ballet); Op.71a - 5.Arabian Dance Tchaikovsky
    0 Violin Concerto in D; Op. 35; 1. Allegro Moderato Tchaikovsky
    0 Piano Concerto No.1 - Allegro non troppo Tchaikovsky
    0 Piano Concert no.1 Tchaikovsky
    0 Notebook 2; Minuet No. 7 Unknown
    0 'Spring' Concerto RV.269 from 'The Seasons' - 1.Allegro Vivaldi

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