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10 Composers and their Most Monumental Works

FlameHorse . . . Comments

It is no secret that I love classical music – we have certainly featured a good number of music related lists in the past. So today’s list should come as no surprise. Here we look at ten of the great composers from various periods of classical music and their most monumental works. I have tried to pick the best video clips to demonstrate the selected works.


Requiem Mass

The verdict is still out concerning the finest Requiem Mass. Mozart, Verdi, and Berlioz typically land in the top three. There’s no denying, though, that Verdi’s is the most terrifying. In order to write a good Dies Irae section (for which this Mass is legendary), which translates to “Day of Anger,” namely God’s anger during Armageddon, the composer seems to need what Verdi’s wife called “a Mercurial temper.” Short-fused or long doesn’t matter, as long as it burns like Hellfire. Verdi, as is typical with Italians, could make people run out of a room when he got angry.

The whole piece is magnificent, and critics like to call it his finest opera. It is not written in one overriding key, but like an opera, changes keys many times. The Dies Irae is by far the most famous section, but his Libera Me, written originally for the death of Rossini, is also glorious, as are the Requiem and Kyrie sections. Not that the other sections are bad. But if Verdi had written only those sections named, and nothing else for his whole life, he would still be remembered as one of the most Catholic and Italian composers ever.


Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major

This may be the most titanic concerto for piano in the popular repertoire. Busoni wrote one on an even larger scale, but it is not played as often.

It is four movements long, instead of the usual three, and the first is an absolute masterpiece of craftsmanship. The main theme is worked into a passage about halfway through that sounds very similar to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. This is a freak coincidence. It ends with a particularly demanding passage of double trills, in which the fingers of both hands must oscillate in the same direction. Try doing this, and you’ll see that the natural tendency is for the hands to mirror each other. Then the trills become tremolos, all while the entire orchestra is blasting away. The pianist must be very strong to be heard over all the other instruments.

The second movement is even more bombastic, and Brahms called it “a little wisp of a scherzo.” The third is well known for a cello solo, and the last is a little more cheerful and jubilant than the first two.


Sonata in B Minor

It is the most difficult piano sonata by far, and one of the most difficult pieces ever written for any instrument. Liszt intended it to a magnum opus in terms of technical artistry. Many professional pianists either never perform it, or spend several years practicing it alone, after becoming professionals, before they dare attempt it in a recital.

It is one movement, more or less, and lasts about 30 minutes. There are several melodies throughout, and the first is worked through every kind of development possible. In one of the most difficult passages, scale and arpeggio runs in one hand are accompanied by traveling tremolos in the other, very quickly. By the end, there is nothing left to say.


Etudes Op. 10 and 25

It has been said that Bach and Chopin are the two most idiomatic piano composers in history. Performers of Chopin’s day got word around to him that his music was very difficult for them in some passages, even though they were well versed in all the major composers at that time.

Chopin responded by writing these studies for piano technique, not meant to be universal, but meant to train the performer to play Chopin’s style of work. Today, since his music has been so integral in rounding out the Romantic era of music history, his etudes are a bible for up-and-coming pianists. Once they are mastered, a pianist can play anything from the Romantic era.


Piano Quintet in E-flat Major

It may be the single finest piece of chamber music ever written. That competition is among this, Beethoven’s late quartets, and some by Mozart and Haydn.

It is four movements, and every movement is a masterpiece, as fresh to hear the 100th time as the first. It has a cyclic structre, the final theme of the last movement being paired with the first them of the first in a double fugue. It is very popular primarily because of its driving, unbridled melodic power, from beginning to end. Even the fairly slow second movement is a funeral march, and thus holds the listener at the edge of his or her seat.


Symphony No. 9 “The Great”

Schumann referred to it as “heavenly length.” Schubert had a bit of a problem ending a piece when he was having fun writing it. This symphony averages about 50 minutes, and encompasses every musical idea and technique for which Schubert was famous: outstanding lyrical melodies that are very well developed, a lighthearted mood, a dark, tragic mood, all in perfectly balanced orchestration.



It is the longest opera routinely performed throughout the world, at 6 hours including intermissions. Most operas are 3 to 3.5 hours. Wagner spent 26 years writing the libretti and scores to the four music dramas that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Gotterdammerung is the last of the four, and Wagner collects all the leit-motifs, of which technique he is the famous inventor, into a powerful storyline that must be reduced to its very basics in order to fit in this list.

Siegfried, the world’s greatest hero, is by now in love with Brunnhilde. Everyone in the entire world, man and god, wants the ring, and Greed is the uncontrollable element. Hagen, one of Siegfried’s companions, spears him in the back, and later attempts to take the ring from his dead hand. The hand appears to be alive, and so the ring is left on Siegfried’s body. He is burned on a pyre with the ring, and Brunnhilde rides a horse into the flames to die with him.

The very final leit-motif in the whole story is Wagner’s melody for “love.” Everything else, man and god, is destroyed. Valhalla burns in the distance. After a performance of this piece, you will wonder if there is any music left to write about anything. It has Siegfried’s famous funeral march and Brunnhilde’s immolation scene at the end.


The Missa Solemnis

When Beethoven set his mind to it, he actually made good on his intent to write the best example he could in a particular musical genre. Viewers may have expected his 9th Symphony, and it may be the finest symphony of all time. But in this lister’s opinion, his Solemn Mass is his finest large-scale work.

It is not as Christian as it is mystically Deist. Beethoven’s religious beliefs are still debated, but there is no doubt that he believed in God. In the margin of the first sheet of his Gloria section, he wrote, “God above all things!” Every section is a titanic testimony to what he believed in terms of God, Christianity to some extent, Heaven, etc.

The work defies linguistic description. It has garnered just about every positive adjective in a language over the years. The most accurate, perhaps, is “ethereal.” The Gloria, for its part, is unbelievably soaring, even moreso than his 9th Symphony. It ends on a 5 chord, the dominant, instead of a 1 chord, the tonic, and this serves to make it sound like something otherworldly, or as if the music never ends, and Heaven’s orchestra takes up where it leaves off.


Don Giovanni

Wagner called it “the most perfect opera there is.” Impressive coming from him. Wagner was Mozart’s greatest admirer. Don Giovanni is a very simple story of a lecherous fool who enjoys having affairs with any woman who takes his fancy. Some have claimed it to be a self-indictment of the composer, who was something of a womanizer.

At the end, Don Giovanni is interrupted during supper by the ghost of a man he killed in order to escape, after having sex with that man’s daughter. The ghost demands him to repent, and Giovanni refuses several times. Demons appear and drag him to Hell.

Then the rest of the characters appear in the last scene and perform an ensemble soliloquy making fun of him as a sinner.

This opera is the essence of balance, among orchestra, chorus, soloists, even between music and drama. The music typically overshadows the drama, but not in this one, and it’s as mesmerizing and enchanting the thousandth time as the first.


The B Minor Mass

Many musicologists consider it the finest achievement in all of music. Bach never intended it to be performed, but wanted to suit his own curiosity as to whether he had mastered every aspect of music composition at his time.

As a result, this Mass has everything Baroque in it: 4, 5, and 6 part choruses, solos, fugues, general contrapuntal mastery par excellence. It is one of the few missa toti in existence, that is, the entire Latin Mass set to music. Most masses, including those by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, etc., are abbreviated versions of the whole litany. The Mass in b minor, consequently, is one of the longest ever written, requiring about 2 hours to perform.

It even incorporates numerology, one of Bach’s hobbies, into its music. The Crucifixus chorus is based on a melody that, when transcribed to a Cartesian plane, forms a cross.

The Mass is comprised in large part of cantatas and other sacred works which Bach wrote earlier in his life, and revised for inclusion as a chorus here, a solo there. He wrote several sections expressly for the Mass, and they are among his last works, most of them in the Credo section. If you are not particularly enthusiastic about such complex music, you’ll probably find his glorious Sanctus the easiest to enjoy.

  • Ammaroc

    great list, although a bit suspected, might wanted to see some variation in classsical music, but its good.

    (you might never see me, but trust me, watched every top 10 list and i looove this site :P)

  • evad1089

    I love classical music, especially as ring tones. Thank you.

  • Nathan

    I think Bach’s B Minor Mass was most definitely a shoe-in for the number one position. The choice of Chopin’s pieces is interesting, yet very pertinent and I applaud you for selecting these, as the influence of the studies composed by the Classical and Romantic composers is often highly underestimated.

    When speaking of Requiems though, it’s difficult to avoid Faure’s brilliant work. I wouldn’t term it monumental, in some ways, but just an unbelievable work that everyone needs to hear at least once.

    Great list.

  • Julius

    If you talk about monumental in terms of sheer epicness then I would have definetely put Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in the list. If you have over an hour free time you can watch the whole piece on youtube. Nice list as usual FlameHorse

  • Lala

    need to stream and listen to all these when I get back home. Knowing that this is a FlameHorse list, it has to be good. :)

  • this is a good list……
    if thats all i had to say, i wouldnt waste the space

    the coolest thing about it is that flamehorse has enough knowledge, interest, drive, and cleverness to be flippant about the list structure….

    so many people get their panties in knots about the fucking numbers as if everything has to be in their own pre-approved emperical order, which is crap

    this approach is as refreshing as it is awesome
    look at the introduction

    -i like classical music
    -i picked random composers i like from various periods
    -i picked the best of each of their works
    -i tried to find videos that did the pieces justice
    -and a underlying feeling of *if you dont agree, too bad*

    i love it

    people who know less about classical music, may want a little more clarafication as to which composers correspond with which periods in classical music, but they can always play with google for a little while


  • jediknight

    The only classical music I listen to is Pachabel but I’m gonna check these out

  • lords8n

    I wonder if Paganini’s 24 Caprices for solo violin should have been in this list?

    There has to be something said for the passion and emotion delivered through one instrument to this degree. Every emotion is visited throughout these 24 works of art. Though a single work, it’s certainly not a singular piece. Which may be why it shouldn’t hold a place here.

    As a young heavy metal singer some 28 years ago I decided to broaden my horizons by introducing myself to classical music. I went to the local record store in a nearby mall and stole (yes I am ashamed) three classical works. Beethoven’s 9th, Haydn’s 44, 45, and 49 Symphonies and Paganini’s 24 Caprices (performed by itzhak perlman I might add). I had absolutely no idea what I was getting.

    While others were blasting heavy metal and rap through their car audio systems, I would drive around blasting Paganini’s 24, with the shrill of that beautiful violin piercing through the loudest bass thumping music of other car’s systems. On more than one occasion I had sophisticated OLD people approach me at convenience stores voicing their approval in my choice in music selection.

    Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin is a monumental work. It may really no belong in this list, but I just thought I would mention it here for anyone interested in something truly amazing. Get the version played by itzhak perlman if you choose to pick up this work. You won’t be disappointed.

  • oouchan

    I like the list. About 3 pieces I haven’t heard before and enjoyed them.
    For me, I’m not a big Bach fan. I find the Fugue much more interesting then all his other works. Especially if played on a pipe organ. I have that version on my ipod and it’s amazing to listen to.
    Mozart seems to be the one I fall back on the most, including his requiem.

  • astraya

    My interest in this list far exceeds the time I’ve got to comment on it.
    It’s a bit diffuse, comparing different genres from different periods.
    Other suggestions, to stand alongside, rather than to replace, and not intended as a criticism of Flamehorse’s choices –
    Brahms: the first concerto is almost as long and in three movements, which means each movement is longer.
    Liszt: the etudes (if taken as a single “work” (Chopin’s is/are, so why not Lizst’s?)) might also qualify.
    Chopin: if the Ballades count as a single work, they might also qualify.
    Schubert: I would say either the string quintet or the piano duo fantasie. There were monuments symphonies before and after, but the quintet and the fantasie are still the supreme in their genres.
    Wagner: Gotterdammerung relies so much on what has gone before. As a single, coherent, stand-alone opera, I would suggest the Mastersingers.
    Mozart: possibly the Requiem, but that is spoiled by being partially not by Mozart or the Marriage of Figaro, which still stands as the greatest comic opera ever.
    Bach: the St John Passion.

    @oochan: which fugue? He wrote many of them.

  • undaunted warrior 1

    Enjoyed the list, Im not really a big fan of classical music, but it is always nice to read a list by a author that is passionate about the topic he is editing.

    Thanks Flame.

  • nicoleredz3

    I love Chopin, Mozart and Sebastien Bach! Cool list, FlameHorse.

  • oouchan

    @astraya [10]: Sorry, should have clarified. It’s the toccata and fugue in d minor.

  • Scratch

    Good list, Flamehorse, your passion for this subject comes through.

    My knowledge of Classical music is poor, so it’s nice to be educated by someone who is more knowledgeable. I now have some background listening for later.

  • bluesman87

    im the dumbass who decides to change his sound card today and leaves the driver at home. score 1 point for team dumbass

  • This one’s pretty much a cop out list, seemed like a filler list. Get with it ListVerse, the last good one I liked was the Bizarre Medical Tales good stuff

  • damien_karras

    @ls1vette74 [16]:

    Insider tip on tommorow’s list: Bizarre Hermaphrodite Surgical Procedures Complemented by the Musings of Chopin, in Drag.

    Cop out list, indeed.

  • Nathan

    @oouchan [9]:

    Listen to BWV 542, the Great Fugue in G Minor.

  • Casualreader

    “My interest in this list far exceeds the time I’ve got to comment on it.”

    A straight copy of Astraya to save mor time!

    I love Schumann, he’s one of my favourite composers, but no way would I put the quntet as his most monumental work, far, far less as one of the greatest chamber works written. His chamber works have always be recognised as gorgeous emotionally but flawed technically. The clarinet quintets of Brahms and Mozart, Schubert’s quintet and G minor quartets, Bartok’s output, and obviously the late Beethovens as mentioned by Flamehorse, are far superior.

    In fact its difficult to think of a +monumental+ work for Schumann, as he was such a master of introspective, intinate piano pieces such as +Scenes from Childhood+. Do seek them out if you don’t know them. The Cello Concerto might come under consideration, or the amazing piece for four horns and orchestra. But I appreciate it was also necessary to do the hard work of finding backing filmed pieces.

    What is here is appreciated, even though it would have been nice to have some later examples:

    Bruckner (8th), Mahler (1000), Stravinsky, Sibelius and Shostakovich, for example.

    A follow-up list, Flamehorse.

    Have to go, I’ll post unread and correct any wild howlers shortly.

  • Casualreader


    Another suggestion for your next list, which would certainly garner more than the 19 comments here by now:

    +The 10/15/20 Greatest Monumental Dickhead Comments to Listverse Ever+

    OK. Obviously a terrible task to research and refine down so many, and you’d almost certainly go bananas in the process, but you might make a start here. Or you could refine it to +A Random Selection of, etc. …+

  • Pererau

    @evad1089 [2]: the ultimate insult to classical music: ringtones.

  • Pererau

    Understanding that you had to limit yourself to 10 composers, I’m still a little bit baffled at the absence of Rachmaninoff (piano concerto 3 or the brilliant rhapsody on a theme of paganini), Dvorak (symphony 7 or 9), and Tchaikovsky (anything he ever penned).

  • oouchan

    @Nathan [18]: I did. Thank you for that. I found it okay compared to the toccata, but it still was good.

  • Tom E

    What? No Sousa? J. P. Sousa is the United States’ greatest composer! Harumph!

  • DTGenty

    For any vocalist or orchestral member who has ever played Missa knows what should really be #1. One of the most challenging, straining, and rarely heard pieces in music rep. I played it once… never again!

  • Pan Pipe Dreams

    What about the Greek God Pan, and his ‘Pan Pipe Concerto in A Minor’? Oh wait, that only exists in my dreams, in my Pan Pipe Dreams.

    It’s the most beautiful music ever and you’ll never hear it.

  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    Nice list. Finally something good after the garbage yesterday.

  • Chris Wright

    If you’ve seen AMADEUS you are familiar with DON GIOVANNI. The filmmakers shot most of AMADEUS in Prague since Vienna (where most of the film takes place) looked too modern. The stage where you see DON GIOVANNI taking place in the film is the SAME stage where it premiered back in 1787.

    Also, I assumed it is ROBERT Schumann’s work above (let’s keep in mind that his wife, Clara, was also an accomplished composer, so it’s always helpful to write R. Schumann or C. Schumann.)

  • Chris Wright

    @Pan Pipe Dreams [26]:

    Listen to “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by Debussy. It is about a young satyr (half-man, half-goat like Pan) playing his pipe and then having an erotic daydream.

    A great Impressionistic work!

  • Chris Wright

    @Pererau [22]:

    Yes, Tchaikovsky is probably my favorite composer. Although he may not be the most influential or brilliant, I have yet to hear anything of his that did not captivate me. It’s hard to listen to the Trepak from THE NUTCRACKER knowing that Tchaikovsky was such a troubled man (devoutly religious yet a homosexual, never thought he was a good composer, etc.)

  • Chris Wright

    This piece would never make this list, but if you haven’t heard it before, do so right now:

  • FlameHorse

    @Casualreader [20]: I’ll get on it. :)

  • Kelsey

    @Chris Wright [31]:
    I had that song as my ringtone for quite some time. It mesmerizes me everytime I hear it. Right now my ringtone is Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf theme. :D

  • massive611

    Oh god… it is FlameHorse and his “bias” lists gain.. NEXT

  • makoho

    This is a great list of introductions! Loved Ashkenazy playing Chopin, loved the Schumann quintet.

    Of the 1,002 other possible entries to this list, might I suggest Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony, in particular the canon with which this symphony starts?

  • Bucketheadrocks

    I love classical music! But I have a small problem with this list. Past lists have suggested that Bach will win every classical music list and this may become a repetitive theme. Though I don’t worry that this will be a problem. Perhaps Bach is too awesome?!

  • pbrain

    Great list – glad to see Missa Solemnis on it. As much as I love Schubert’s 9th, I’m not certain if I would classify it as monumental (side note: if I could save any composer from dying, it would be Schubert – we can only imagine what he could have accomplished if he hasd lived longer). To the list, I would add on Mahler’s 2nd (with its rousing choral finale), Ive’s Concord Sonata, and Shotakovich’s 4th (the ending is the apotheosis of bitterness) or 7th.

  • For Beethoven it would have to be his Symphony No. 9, Op. 125.

    You should have put Mahler on there, and his gargantuan Symphony NO. 8 “Of a thousand”. Other than that, this list gives me a lot more music to listen to.

  • David

    This list is far too Euro-centric.

  • Julius

    @evad1089 [2]: @Kelsey [33]: Why ruin a beautiful piece of music by cutting it to a 30 second ringtone with terrible quality? I have trouble taking anyone using music as a ringtone (May it be Lady Gaga or may it be Haydn) seriously. A ringtone should just be typical phone sounds.

    @massive611 [34]: Everyone of these composers is fully deserving of a spot on a top 10 composers list. The chosen pieces are subjective, yes, to me that just proves that FlameHorse has a individual taste and that s/he spent some time researching instead of just using the most famous piece of the composer. Also, it is impossible to not write a list without any bias in them, seeing that we are all unique and have different experiences.

    @David [39]: Get your head out of your ass, this is a list about classical music of course that is going to be euro-centric. Please feel free to name composers of classical music that are not european , I challenge you. Outside of europe I can think of only two names Tomas Svoboda and maybe George Gershwin but both of them don’t deserve to be on this list.

  • Casualreader

    @ Chris Wright 28

    “Also, I assumed it is ROBERT Schumann’s work above (let’s keep in mind that his wife, Clara, was also an accomplished composer, so it’s always helpful to write R. Schumann or C. Schumann.)”

    True, but surely hair-splitting and quite unnecessary here and in most contexts. She’s even less monumental, and certainly not a major, well-known composer like her husband. Equally one might then be obliged to put Fe. Medelssohn and Fa. Mendelssohn all the time, or never say Bach without prefacing it +J.S.+ Fair enough if you’re considering rough equals such as the Stamitz bros with no family member towering above them, as J.S. towers over sons C.P.E., J.C. et al. Otherwise I think the sensible procedure unless there is any danger of confusion in context is simply to name the lesser light when mentioned. E.g. Mendelssohn (= Felix) and Fanny Mendelssohn.

  • Casualreader

    For anyone who enjoyed the Schumann quintet, I’d recommend his three string quartets, particularly 1 & 3 for me.

    Pity +chamber music+ is such an off-putting, lugubrious word. It locks people out of some of life’s most wonderful and imaginative sound worlds (as well as some of the most arcanely difficult and demanding!). Not for nothing have so many composers considered the perfectly integrated sound and amazing possibilities of the string quartet the ultimate challenge in music, and poured into it some of their finest (or even sometimes most relaxed) inspirations. Try Verdi’s. It should hook you in its own way as much as the Requiem or the operas, if you don’t just go for +big bands+ and the human voice. Or Tchaikovsky’s 1st, with its magical, haunting second movement: once heard, never forgotten. The German National anthem is a movement of Haydn’s +Emperor+ quartet, and Samuel Barber’s most popular alternative vocal or strings work (you work out which!) is derived from his string quartet.

  • Karl

    Nice list! I love classical music..

  • Jobrag

    “Handel was the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head, and kneel before his tomb.” Beethoven
    Why is Messiah not on the list?

  • Brian

    I really enjoyed this list. However, as a slight clarification, I want to point out that although you say Schubert’s melodies are well developed, in actuality, his capabilities of developing melodies were quite limited compared to the Viennese classical artists such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Since Schubert’s melodies are long and lyrical, they are difficult to fragment for development, so his idea of “development” is simply repeating the melody in a different key. It sure sounds nice, but it certainly is not the most sophisticated method out there.

  • CanyonRick

    “Bach never intended it to be performed…”
    I’m not sure you should be so dogmatic about this aspect of the Mass in B-minor.
    Often referred to as a “summation” work, Christov Wolfe in his recent biography did claim something on the order of that there is no reason or occasion for Bach to have written the Mass (though that doesn’t necessarily mean he never intended it to be performed). Indeed, the the first two sections of the Mass – Kyrie and Gloria ( a Missa Brevis ) – were presented to Augustus III in Dresden in 1733 upon his succession to the throne of Poland/Elector of Saxony. And I think Bach fully expected this to be performed. Still, it does not appear that it was. It is further suggested that a version of the Credo may have been performed at the re-opening of the St. Thomas School (Leipzig) in 1734. The Sanctus, from early in Bach’s tenure as the St. Thomas cantor, seems to be the only part which can be said with any certainty to have been performed.

    The current cantor of St. Thomas, Christoff Biller, however, believes that Bach put together the complete mass for a specific purpose and performance: consecration of the Hofkirche in Dresden. The church, however, was not completed until after Bach’s death, so the Mass in B-minor remained unperformed in its entirety for decades.

    It appears that Mozart never heard the work (Mozart does not seem to have appreciated Bach’s prowess as a choral composer until the last years of his life); and, Beethoven attempted to obtain a copy on more than one occasion.

    The numerology part is most interesting. But, try this one: Otto Bettmann, in his anecdotal biography of Bach, makes the claim that there are 2,345 bars of music in the Mass in B-minor. 2+3+4+5=14. BACH – B=2nd letter of the alphabet, A=1, C=3 H=8. 2+1+3+8=14.

    A most interesting DVD performance of the Mass in B-minor dates from 2000. Performed on the 250th anniversary (to the minute) of Bach’s death, it features Bach’s boychoir, the Thomanerchor Leipzig (now vastly larger than he could ever have imagined) in St. Thomas Church. The camerawork during the final Dona nobis pacem comes to rest on Bach’s grave (in the church’s floor) on the last bars of the work. Very evocative.

  • a

    “The Crucifixus chorus is based on a melody that, when transcribed to a Cartesian plane, forms a cross.”

    I know some music theory, but I have no clue about how you could transcribe a melody to a cartesian plane. Could you provide some source?

  • EVCunningham

    This should have been number 1.

  • yun648

    The one quibble I have with this list (apart from the fact that I greatly prefer Mozart’s Dies Irae to Verdi’s) is that your standard for most of the list seems to be based more on technical difficulty rather than how entertaining or memorable it is. This is especially true since your inclusion of Verdi’s Requiem and Don Giovanni show that you do understand the importance of these qualities. Missa Solemnis may be very challenging, and I’m certainly not saying it’s bad, but does that really make it better than fifth or ninth symphonies: the two works for which Beethoven is (rightly) best remembered?

  • Pan Pipe Dreams

    @EVCunningham [48]:


    • Pelle

      Lessee at 3 or 4 arias a day you could use up more than a week of blog entries with no erfoft at all.Yes, the music is glorious. More than.I read somewhere that he dedicated his religious manuscripts, To the Greater Glory of God. He took the job seriously

  • carpenoctem1

    Liszt’s piano sonata remains the only piano piece that I have given up on…

    I might try to scrounge up the old sheet music and give it another crack

  • dtf

    Though I appreciate the intent, I am troubled by the fact that there are no even slightly contemporary composers on this list… indeed the latest composers are Verdi and Brahms, hardly considered modern. Even considering that composers in the 20th century haven’t had as much time as perhaps Bach to have their works be established as monumental, there are still definitely a few who seem obvious: Rachmaninoff (Piano Concertos!), Schoenberg (Verklarte Nacht?), Stravinsky (Rite of Spring, which seems like a very obvious choice to me) among many others. I would put these composers above probably Schumann and Verdi, but that just be my bias.

    I think a follow-up is needed.

  • dtf

    Also the inclusion of Liszt is a bit confusing to me… his works for piano are great but I wouldn’t consider that alone to be a qualifier for inclusion… especially considering those who are not on the list (liszt…oh god)

  • DonM

    Lovely list. I had forgotten about Brahms’ Piano Concerto. Music is very personal. Saying much about it is like chattering to everyone’s annoyance about what you like and don’t like while visiting a museum. But your piece was not like that.

    May I suggest Marais, St. Colombe, Couperin (francois). Astounding to reach across 300 years and directly touch another person’s contemplative soul.

  • thelord2000

    I agree with Bach as no.1 .
    Would have been nice to see a British composer there. May William Walton – 1st Symphony.

  • Casualreader

    @ dtf, 52,

    It’s true that several posts above, including mine, have also added other generally more modern (although not all) +giant+ composers absent from the list: Shostakovich, Mahler, Bruckner, Sibelius, etc.

    However, to be scrupulous to Flamehorse’s intentions, he has not used the word +top+ or +greatest+ for the actual composers, or indeed for the genres concerned. So absolutely nothing to inhibit him from one or more follow-up lists.

    My problems come from defining +monumental+, and even more, +most monumental+.

    I appreciate Flamehorse’s having thought to vary the genres and include a chamber work. But chamber works are hardly +monumental+ by definition, above all in the context of the full output of most composers. IMO, apart from the works I mentioned earlier, both the +Spring+ and the +Rhenish+, as well as some of the piano sets are more monumental for Schumann. Both Brahms’s and Franck’s piano quintets are also undoubtedly also more powerful and dramatic, and so closer to +monumental+. The main difficulty is no composer having specialised almost excusively in chamber works, as many have for the piano. So whenever you think of the greatest examples (if that’s what you want to represent +monumental+), the composer concerned always has a +more monumental+ work or more in other genres: Beethoven (late quartets), Brahms (clarinet quintet), Mozart (G minor string quintet), Shostakovich (one or other of the finest quartets), and so on. It would be hard to deny the piano quintet as Schhumann’s greatest chamber contribution either, even though I personally +love+ two of the quartets more. One best possibility is Schubert’s string quintet. But is that more monumental than, say, +Winterreise+ or the two big symphonies? Perhaps the clearest front-runner is Bartok for his six emblematic quartets. The problem there is: Which one? They are always considered as a set, as are Beethoven’s lates. Wolf’s lone quartet is his most +monumental+ work, but who knows or would care anyway? And videos of it?

    Clearly video clips are probably the most limiting factor.

  • Casualreader

    BTW, do classical music buffs burst in on other completely different LV musical topics and proclaim something by Beethoven or whoever as being a better #1, followed by a right-on post or two? I’d hope to find people who share my taste more mature than that, in public at least.

    Whether intended or not, the message that sends out is: Sucks boo, my music’s better than yours any day. No t’ isn’t. Yes t’is. No t’isn’t, Yes t’is.

    Got it? Something we expect to grow out of roughly between the ages of five and seven if we don’t want to be labelled retards.

    Oh, sorry. I forget. There probably are five and seven-year-olds posting on LV.

    Oh, for any who consider this labels me as a typical stiff-arsed/assed, humourless classical music lover, here’s a short, sweet reply.

    Up yours. A long way up yours!

  • Cyn

    @Casualreader [57]:
    just how far up is that ;)
    & i hope like hell no children are reading/posting here. at least 13 or older. preferably young adults & up.
    mostly its those old enough to know better that post BS or maybe just venting. :)
    chill out dudes & dudettes. ;)
    its just a list. on teh internetz. :)

  • astraya

    I played Schumann’s Carnaval at university and it almost killed me!

  • astraya

    @Casualreader [57]: BTW, do classical music buffs burst in on other completely different LV musical topics and proclaim something by Beethoven or whoever as being a better #1, followed by a right-on post or two? I’d hope to find people who share my taste more mature than that, in public at least.

    Hey, let’s try that the next time Jamie posts a rock-music list!

  • dtf


    personally I’d say Bartok 4

  • Casualreader

    @ Cyn, 58,

    Lovely to see your smiling face(s), my dear.

    “just how far up is that”

    I don’t know. I’ve never tried. I could say +as far as you like+, but that might be misinterpreted and shock the sensitive, especially those hordes of under 13s here!

  • Casualreader

    @ dtf 61


    “personally I’d say Bartok 4”

    I’ll settle for that … It’s even got the first example of his Little Night Music (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), which should please everybody, even the Ringtoners. Apropos has anyone put the whole of the Ring cycle as a ringtone yet? Splendid idea. I like it!

    @ astraya 60,

    “@Casualreader [57]: BTW, do classical music buffs burst in on other completely different LV musical topics and proclaim something by Beethoven or whoever as being a better #1, followed by a right-on post or two? I’d hope to find people who share my taste more mature than that, in public at least.

    Hey, let’s try that the next time Jamie posts a rock-music list!”

    Excellent wheeze. O.K. gang, let’s do it. Bartok’s 4th?

  • bluesman87

    @deathgleaner [38]: agree the glorious ninth ..

  • Khris

    Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand would indeed be a good addition to the list.
    Also Richard Strauss should find a place in the list, his symphonic poems are among the finest music ever written, especially his monumental Alpine Symphony with its furious Thunderstorm:

  • Casualreader

    Anyway, it’s nice to see Flamehorse (thanks) and various others above still oozing enthusiasm and knowledge about the most varied type of compositions, including by far the most profound, I suspect the world, or at least our civilization, will ever experience.

    In more pessimistic moments I tend to suspect it’s diminishing and drowning beneath a new Dark Age of homgeneous (thesaurus word!), relentless, intrusive, unvarying, mind-numbing, thudding +industrial+ music and the endless mantra of rap.

  • Casualreader

    Hey guys,

    Taking up where we left off at 63 above, why don’t we form a new group called +The Ringtones+ (now go tell me one already exists!)? We could start a new classi-rock-byte-beat style based on little clips from Mozzi, Beatover, Jayess, Shosta-baby, Schumi (not the F1 driver of that ilk), Joe Green, Waggers, It’sh you, Bert, et al.

    Who knows, we mind even end up on LV as +Top 10 Classi-Beat Bytes Which Last 10 Seconds Or Less+.

    That reminds me (by contrast) I once visited a country where they’ve played the Andante of K467 (remember the accompanying film of the same name?) as background to the TV weather forecast. That was nightly for over 25 years. Of course it was/is played at a terribly discreet low volume so as not to distract (unduly) from the vital weather announcements, faded out here and there when appropriate and cut dead at the moment the forecast ends. That is after the forecaster has informed us about the rest of the evening’s fare, including the immediately following film. Our friends always watched the other main channel, where the background was meaningless muzak.

  • astraya

    Coming soon: a film based around the creation of Don Giovanni –

  • ComposerNate

    I think I agree with some of these picks, but I question the reasoning behind some as well.

    Mozart’s “Requiem”, in my opinion, definitely trumps “Don Giovanni”. And, in the case of his operas, “The Marriage of Figaro” beats out “Giovanni”; I’d check out the Act II Finale of “Figaro” as an example.

    As far as Beethoven goes, why not say Symphony No. 9?!?! You mention it for a second, but it’s his crowning achievement! His 9th is much more epic, dramatic, and effective than “Missa Solemnis”. And while I don’t normally say that popularity should be used as evidence for a piece’s redeeming qualities, one can simply look at the performance frequencies for both pieces and easily see the notoriety of one of the other. Plus I think “Missa Solemnis” kind of drags on…

    Schubert is perhaps the most misunderstood on this list… I like how you used mainly large symphonic works, but it’s no secret that his major output was for solo voice. The “Winterreise” is an awesome example, and would’ve been my pick.

    Verdi’s “Requiem” is crazy intense, and very dramatic, but perhaps not as tastefully constructed as Brahms’ or Mozart’s.

    I don’t mean to pick apart your list (I’m sure I seem like a total douche… sorry), but thanks for posting!

  • Kid from Vault 101

    @Bucketheadrocks [36]:
    U know what im getting tired of your crap!
    Bach sux!
    Buckethead sux!
    ha! jk!

    I Love classical music!
    Bach,Beethoven, And Wangner are the best.
    ummm i was driving in the car and a song came up. It has been in my head since and is my favorite song. Its called Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. im not sure if its very popular or not but i highly recommend it to anyone with an for classical.

  • Casualreader

    @ ComposerNate, 69,

    Interesting points. I think, though, it all boils down to what you mean by +monumental+, or how you define it, as I noted above. For example it’s hardly possible, or certainly extremely difficult, to compare monumental across genres. Bach’s solo cello suites are monumental cello works, but not exactly +monumental+ by comparison with the B minor or St Mathew.

    That criterion applies even more to Beethoven. He wrote monumental examples of most genres that seriously occupied him. Op. 131 is monumental among his and any string quartets. The 9th is monumental among his symphonies, but not as monumental as the most powerful of Bruckner’s and Mahler’s. The Emperor stands monumental among the greatest piano concertos in the repertoire. Above all, I would cite the astonishing 32 Diabelli variations though. The range of moods alone is mind-blowing. The work may not be as monumental +physically+ as the works with more forces just mentioned, but it’s the greatest set of vars ever written, alongside Bach’s Goldbergs. In fact the Goldbergs are just as wonderful, but more intimate than monumental. Not so Beethoven’s masterpiece. He was handed a jaunty little tune and asked by Diabelli (who wrote it) to contribute one variation on it to join a compendium by other composers of the day. The theme’s triteness so enraged him he almost screwed it up and binned it. Instead he wrote what IMO and that of many others, is the greatest and most powerful set of variations composed by anybody for any instrument, group of instruments, of full-blown orchestra. And we’re talking competition with the likes of Brahms, Reger, Schmidt, Dvorak, Rachmininov, Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Now that’s what I call monumental!

  • Casualreader

    In case anyone is reading and interested, and doesn’t know, I forgot to indicate the Diabelli’s are for solo piano.

  • Ralphie

    @EVCunningham [48]:
    fucking idiot

  • dtf

    @Casualreader [72]:

    I agree. The Diabelli Variations have got to be my favorite piano work, and I’m glad somebody else out there recognizes its genius.

  • Casualreader

    @ Ralphie, 73,

    “@ EVCunningham [48]:
    fucking idiot”

    I should guess more as much in need of pity as contempt, and probably a brain-graft too. Sorry that last remark wrongly implies a brain was there in the first place. I ought to have typed +a brain insert+.

    “@ dtf 74 @Casualreader [72]:

    I agree. The Diabelli Variations have got to be my favorite piano work, and I’m glad somebody else out there recognizes its genius.”

    I own more versions of those and also the Goldbergs than any other works, and I’m a chamber music addict at heart!
    But I’m particularly sold on variations and the winning textures of harmoniemusik and its allies as well (Mozart, Krommer, Haydn, Reicha, etc.). The Diabellis just keep on rewarding and yielding (I try not to ‘overplay’ them lest familiarity should breed over-familiarity!) I once attended a series of music lectures by guy who was a well-known authority on Russian music and used to broadcast. He explained the essence of good variation techique. Basing them on a very clear, simple little undeveloped tune offers most possibilities, as Beethoven discovered. Other particular favourites are Dvorak’s Symphonic Vars., Brahms’s on a theme of Handel, and Reger’s on a Mozart theme (could anyone surpass Maxie baby at that culminating fugue?)

  • Sarah

    Great list, I might have included:

    Handel's Messiah or Royal Fireworks
    Haydn's Creation
    Mozart's Requiem

  • noah

    Thanks for the great list…the only thing I think clearly missing, because I think it is THE greatest classical work of all time, is the Brahms Requiem.

  • Chere Avello


  • Kitty Duclo


  • Tracy Shirai


  • Toi Ferrie

    internet tv online

  • Luke Neuwirth


  • Brahms Violin Concerto, op.61 with Jascha Heifetz (violinist) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with the conductor Fritz Reiner.

  • No.3, Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis”, I would undoubtedly have picked his 9th Symphony. Leonard Bernstein quoted the 9th as “The greatest work in the realm of Art, regardless of the Art Form. No.9, in my opinion is a tough one for Brahms and the 2nd Piano Concerto is definitely incredible, however, I would have gone with his Violin Concerto, Op.61. If you should listen to it, try to listen to it with the great Violinist Jascha Heifitz performing it. Overall, I do believe this to be a very good list.

  • r

    Just the mention of Schubert’s Great make me grin :D. I’m an atheist, but listening to Schubert is like a religious experience.

  • Deepak

    I love it, Bob, because when I first psetod this entry I had mistakenly pasted the same video in twice! (Corrected later, of course.) So this was sort of appropriate! :-)And yes, it COULD make for a good week or more of entries I think I did that with another work last year at some point!

  • this made my night~~~~!!!!! – gabriel roybal

  • Reblogged this on Gabriel Roybal and commented:
    this made my night! – gabriel roybal

  • PTbminor

    It really really bugs me Tchaikovsky is not on this list, maybe just because I’m a huge fan… But really – his Symphony No.6 in B minor can bring a grown man to tears by the end, I’ve seen it happen many times – trust me! haha