Greatest Classical Music Works of All Time (in-progress)

  1. NOTE: In its current state, this list is far from a complete representation. There are MANY works currently missing from this list that I haven't listened to in years and need to revisit. There are also likely to be MANY works I haven't heard yet that will be added in the future.


  3. 9.6/10
  4. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral"- Ludwig van Beethoven (1824)
  5. Symphony No. 9 in D Major - Gustav Mahler (1910)

  6. 9.5/10
  7. Requiem - Giuseppe Verdi (1874)

  9. 9.4/10
  10. Symphony No. 15 in A Major - Dmitri Shostakovich (1971)
  12. Mass in B Minor - J.S. Bach (1749)

  13. 9.2/10
  14. Symphony No. 5 in C Minor - Ludwig van Beethoven (1808)
  15. Symphony No. 4 in E Minor - Johannes Brahms (1885)

  17. 9.1/10
  18. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor - Ludwig van Beethoven (1822)
  19. Glagolitic Mass - Leos Janacek (1926)

  20. 9.0/10
  21. Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor "Appassionata" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1807)
  23. Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World" - Antonin Dvorak (1893)
  25. Rite of Spring - Igor Stravinsky (1913)

  26. 8.9/10
  27. Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major "Eroica" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1804)

  28. 8.8/10
  29. Symphony No. 41 in C Major "Jupiter" - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1788)
  30. Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor - Gustav Mahler (1902)

  31. 8.7/10
  32. Symphony No. 8 in B Minor "Unfinished" - Franz Schubert (1822)
  33. Symphony No. 3 in F Major - Johannes Brahms (1883)

  34. 8.6/10
  35. Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major "Hammerklavier" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1818)
  36. Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor - J.S. Bach (1723)

  38. 8.5/10
  39. Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps - Olivier Messiaen (1940)
  40. Concerto for Orchestra - Bela Bartok (1943)

  41. 8.4/10
  42. Symphony No. 6 in B Minor "Pathetique" - Tchaikovsky (1893)

  43. 8.3/10
  44. Tabula Rasa - Arvo Part (1977)
  46. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta - Bela Bartok (1936)

  47. 8.2/10
  48. Symphony No. 7 in A Major - Ludwig van Beethoven (1812)

  49. 8.1/10
  50. Toccata & Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach (1707)
  52. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major "Emperor" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1811)

  53. 8.0/10
  54. Concerto for Piano and Strings - Alfred Schnittke (1979)
  55. Fratres - Arvo Part (1977)

  56. 7.9/10
  57. Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor "Pathetique" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1798)
  58. Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima - Krzysztof Penderecki (1960)
  59. Ostrobothnian Symphony - Osvaldas Balakauskas (1989)

  60. 7.5/10
  61. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Moonlight" - Ludwig van Beethoven (1801)

  62. NEED TO BE RE-EVALUATED: (Plus many more unlisted works)

  63. 9.1/10
  64. Missa Solemnis in D major-Beethoven (1823)
  65. Requièm Mass in D minor-Mozart (1791)
  66. Symphony No. 9 in C major "The Great"-Schubert (1826)

  67. 9.0/10
  68. String Quartet No. 15 in A minor-Beethoven (1825)
  69. Symphonie Fantastique - Berlioz (1830)

  70. 8.9/10
  71. Violin Concerto in D major-Brahms (1878)
  72. Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major-Mozart (1785)
  73. Symphony of Three Orchestras-Carter (1976)

  74. 8.7/10
  75. The Four Seasons-Vivaldi (1723)
  76. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major "Emperor"-Beethoven (1811)

  77. 8.6/10
  78. String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp Minor-Beethoven (1826)

  79. 8.5/10
  80. Violin Concerto-Berg (1935)
  81. Symphony No. 3-Lutoslawski (1983)
  82. Symphony No. 6 in F major "Pastoral" - Beethoven (1808)
  83. Symphony No. 1 in C Minor-Brahms (1876)
  84. Violin Concerto in D major-Beethoven (1806)
  85. Violin Concerto No. 2-Bartok (1938)

  86. 8.4/10
  87. Symphony No. 8 in F Major-Beethoven (1812)
  88. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major-Brahms (1886)
  89. Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor-Mozart (1785)
  90. Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor - Tchaikovsky (1888)

  91. 8.1/10
  92. Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major "Waldstein" - Beethoven (1804)

  93. 7.7/10
  94. Symphony No. 40 in G minor-Mozart (1788)

  95. 7.6/10
  96. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun - Debussy (1894)
  97. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major-J.S. Bach (1721)
  98. Symphony No. 7 in D minor - Dvorak (1885)
  99. Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major "Quasi una fantasia"-Beethoven (1801)
  100. Symphony No. 5 in E minor - Tchaikovsky (1888)
  101. Symphony in D Minor - Cesar Frank (1888)

  102. 7.5/10
  103. Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major-J.S. Bach (1721)
  104. Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major - Beethoven (1806)

  105. 7.4/10
  106. Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major)-Mozart (1787)
  107. Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major - Mozart (1788)
  108. Symphony No. 1 in C major - Beethoven (1801)

  109. 7.3/10
  110. Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major - Mozart (1784)
Author Comments: 

This list is far from complete. There are numerous classical works I still need to revisit, many of which I haven't listened to in 5+ years (and so have left off here until I re-listen to them). In addition to that, there are plenty more to discover that have a chance at making it onto this list. Stay tuned...

What's strange is that you, me and SupremeTaste are the only people on the planet that actually rate classical works.

BTW, do you plan on providing a list of preferred recordings? I already have the Grammophone Guide, the Penguin Guide and the Third Ear Guide and I also converse with many people on about recordings. But I'm still interested in which recordings you favor.

I do find that a bit strange. But oh well...

I might make a list of preferred recordings, or just say: "for recommended recordings, see the Penguin Guide and Scaruffi's site"... occasionally, I have a differing opinion in which I favor, but its not often

Where do you leave Wagner? I think Tristan und Isolde deserves to be up there. Der ring des Nibelungen is epic too, and is a whole majestic concept of art. I was going to complain about no Bartok and Stravisnky but then I saw you put his Concerto and The rite of spring. Nice Job.

Thanks, Tristan und Isolde is likely a 9.5 - just need to relisten to it. Der ring des Nibelungen... probably 9+ - again, need to relisten. Also depends on how I break it up into separate pieces (or not).

Sorry, I thought my first comment wasn't posted.

Which recording (or recordings) to you prefer for Bach's Mass in B Minor? I have been listening to various recordings, but I have not found one that was fully satisfying to me yet.

John Eliot Gardiner is the best I've heard, though that's from years ago so there may be a better one by now.

I recommend The John Eliot Gardiner, Phillp Herreweghe works too.

I agree :)

“3. Symphony #9 in C major "The Great"-Schubert (1826)”

You’ll get no argument from me on this one. Though I feel that it is not as personal as his 8th symphony, there is a definite advance over its predecessor that is impossible to not notice. For me, it seems more committed to achieving Beethovian greatness and it unmistakably succeeds in doing so while still being uniquely his own (when we listen to this symphony, it is Schubert’s voice we hear and not Beethoven.). Technically speaking, this symphony shows a greater degree of mastery of timbre and counterpoint than even Beethoven had accomplished (though I still feel that Beethoven’s 9th is a greater work). It is emotionally thrilling from start to finish and few works can match it in terms of its splendor. It undoubtedly claims rank with the greatest works of all times.

Despite all this, I still have greater affection towards his 8th symphony. Though it is not as technically advanced as his 9th symphony, for me it is a more personal and deeply felt statement. Something about it penetrates deep into the conscious, probing our deepest fears and our desperation to attain emotional satisfaction before we die. Often it mixes pain with pleasure. At times it is emotionally devastating. At other times, it displays the most serene and peaceful feeling imaginable - a glimpse of eternal bliss. I love Schubert’s 9th, but his 8th always wins me over.

I love his 8th too, possibly a 9/10. I'll revisit it soon.

I am glad to see Schubert’s 9th ranked so highly. I can’t wait until Lutosławski’s 3rd symphony joins the 9.5 ranks as well!

I wouldn't be too surprised if it did :)

You have to listen to the Adagio from Mahler's unfinished 10th if you haven't already. It, along with the 2nd movement of his 9th, are my favorite passages by him. Oh, and definitely give Wagner's Tristan und Isolde a relisten; I'm sure it will place at least a 9, if not a 9.5.

Yes, I'll get on that. Tristan und Isolde is likely a 9.5, just need to revisit :)

Beethoven's 9th and Mahler's 9th switched places

Awesome :) Thanks for posting. Really cool to see him finally put those in order. Having lists like those as templates really helps to organize where to go first with one's listening. Hopefully this means more classical sections are coming soon, such as "greatest concertos", etc.

What do you guys make of Beethoven's 8th cracking the top 10? It's inexplicable for me, but I suppose it wouldn't be Scaruffi if he didn't do something bizarre. It's a nice light, humorous piece but pales in comparison to something like the 3rd and 7th, in my opinion. I agree with him placing Brahms' two later symphonies much higher than his earlier ones, and am somewhat surprised that Pathetique is relatively low. But it's a good list overall, I think.

So far I disagree with him on the 8th but I actually have to re-familiarize myself with the work before I make any "final" judgement. Until yesterday, I hadn't listened to it in 5+ years and even that one was the first in another 3-5 years prior. So... yea... By his ranking, Scaruffi has influenced me to starting re-listening to it semi-industriously. I can see the potential (its very tight, energetic, lots of compacted ideas). Jury is still out from my end.

Agreed on the 2 Brahms Symphonies, though I think the 1st is right there also.

The 8th has been my second-favorite Beethoven symphony for quite a while (9th is first). Because a lot of my musical tastes overlap with Scaruffi's, I can't say I'm too surprised to see it so high.

Hope it comes around for me on the same level. The more 9/10+ the better :)

You might be pleased to see that he made an update to his film lists and now lists Werckmeister Harmonies as an 8.5/10 and top film of the 2000's. What's puzzling is that he also ranks it as #3 of "all times" now which would presumably mean it could really be a 9 or 9.5 because I doubt there are only 2 films he considers above 8.5. I sent him an email asking him which is accurate: 8.5 or #3 "all times"?

I'm guessing his "all times" list is still a hodgepodge and it was "thrown" on there, and that what's accurate are still the decades lists, but I'll let you know if I get an answer from him.

Either way, this really makes me want to watch WH again and see if it gets better with repeated viewings like it has for him. Do you know of a copy that is higher quality than the disappointing, low def Facets release? That alone could improve my rating of it -- both times I've seen it were on that low quality release.

Update: he responded in reference to WH being #3 on the "all times list"...

"That list is not reliable, as it says. It's just a teaser to send people to the lists by decade"

So it's #1 of the 2000's, but not #3 of all time. I'd guess that as an 8.5/10 it's approximately top 60.

As a note, he also asked me for any recommendations of what he might have forgot on his Best Symphonies and Best Sonatas lists. I responded with "Ostrobothnian Symphony", and "Moonlight Sonata" (but only if the Sonatas list is intended to include 8/10+ and not limited to 9/10+).


Scaruffi responded to me that he did forget Ostrobothnian Symphony, so we'll probably see that one added sooner or later to his "Best Symphonies" list.

But he did not forget Moonlight Sonata -- in other words, it's not supposed to be on his "Best Sonatas" list.

Sorry, can't help you there, Facets is what I saw. I guess it proves that, as important as things like quality are, they aren't enough to hold back artistry. I guess that's why basement recordings of Charlie Parker still hold up today. Nice to see Werckmeister is receiving its dues in any case. I went browsing through Scaruffi's literature pages (with Google Translator handy)--it had been ages--and remembered how strange they are, the way he gives plot summaries for various works. I could never figure out his intention.

On a side note, I went to Handel's Messiah yesterday--it was my first time hearing it in full--and have to confess I found it to be fairly dull. Is this blasphemy, have I missed something?

re: Artistry over quality ... that's a good point. Though it's already among my favorites, maybe if I just watch it a time or 2 again, I'll upgrade it. Still though, improved quality would help for sure. Amazing cinematography is almost always more communicative, meaningful and stunning in the proper definition/resolution that was intended by the artist. Due to just how expressive they are, countless Welles and other films would be partially ruined if their quality was too low to get what he wanted across. Fortunately, the WH Facets release isn't that bad -- it's just lower than it should be considering the year it was made and that they did such a great job on Satantango.

Handel's Messiah is one that I haven't heard in probably 10-15 years. I've always liked it quite a bit, though it's never been that close to the top of my absolute favorites -- but it's been too long to say for sure what I'd think of it now. I'll have to give it a spin.

And now Werckmeister Harmonies is listed as a 7.5 and everything else is changed back to how it was before. Go figure... :)

Scaruffi and his rankings are filled with loose ends, inconsistencies. Search through his entire website, and you'll find how often the man "shoots from the hip." Third best film of all time now ranked a 7.5 on the yearly list while still being ranked an 8.5 on his best of the 2000's list. Hmmm... I fear his rankings and homepage expositions parallel his mental processes...they're salty at best. But hey! I did just see that he ranked Angelopoulos' Weeping Meadow a 7.7. Up until very recently, he marked it a 7.3. Interesting.

Ultimately, I believe it unwise to put stock in his rankings (on an objective level) anymore. That being said, Scaruffi's website has introduced me (and AfterHours and the like) to albums and films I/we perhaps never would've discovered, at least in such a short period of time, otherwise.

I think it would be pretty unfair to expect his ratings to all be perfectly accurate right off the bat. Mine, yours, change with repeat viewings (listens) too! :)

His "all times" list is just a teaser to send people to the decades lists (which are much more accurate). And yes, now we're back to WH being "teased" as the #3 "all times" and "accurately placed" as #1 of 2000's and 8.5/10 (I emailed Scaruffi about this with the results above) ... Good catch on Weeping Meadow. Still need to see that one. Also, Cache got upgraded to an 8.0 above Memento. I've seen Cache 3 times and, while amazing in its own right, it seems less likely to achieve much of an upgrade on my own list than Werckmeister Harmonies would. Hard to imagine it jumping the likes of Eternal Sunshine, Memento, Hero, 21 Grams, and so forth, but who knows ... at one time I would have never imagined North by Northwest being one of the greatest films ever so...

Appears that he's going back through his best films of the 2000's which is cool to see. Hope this run will include the rest of the decades too.

Yea, I was thinking he'd run through the other decades lists as well. Would be cool to see some movement in there as well. But those lists are a bit inconsistent too when you compare to movies ranked individually by year. And you're spot on with Cache...own it....watched it a ton. It's not better than any of the films you listed. It is an extremely deep and terrifying film though...but most of Haneke's films are. Nothing new there.

Agreed :)

Even though I find his classical lists to be excellent, to me that same inconsistency that dogs his jazz and film lists also dogs these lists. They seem more geared towards presentability and less towards objectivity. I can't help but think that modernism is not rightly represented with these lists. Carter's 'Symphony for Three Orchestras' should have been in the top 5 and Lutoslawski's 3rd should have been in the top 10. Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms also should have been higher IMO. Balakauskas's Ostrobothnian Symphony didn't even make the list. I also feel that some works were overrated. I wouldn't go as far as to say that these lists display a popularity contest, but I can't help but feel that works such as Gorecki's 3rd would not have been ranked so highly were it not for their long-standing popularity. Altogether, I just don't think that Scaruffi's lists display that same degree of objectivity found in his ratings.

Well, his "best of all times" film and jazz list are very inconsistent right now, as he notes. It's the decades lists for each that are much more accurate, and that I find make a lot more sense. Though I agree with him somewhat less on classical and film than I do rock and jazz, I doubt he's overriding his own opinions for presentation. No Ostrobothnian Symphony is a head-scratcher. Wonder if he forgot it or maybe it dropped that far? I haven't listened to it much in the last several years so I'll have to give it a spin and see if it holds up.

Re: him not including Ostrobothnian Symphony ... see my post to Marquee just above yours. I'll let you know what he says about that.

Now he's added Ostrobothnian Symphony at #56

Also I agree with yours and Scaruffi's ranking of Brahms' 4th. For me, it is one of the peaks of symphonic writing. I have seen very few symphonies that display thematic development as masterfully as in this work. And yet the symphony is as intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally tragic. The second movement for me was the most remarkable of the four. One can't help but melt away in it's heart-warming sublimity and at the same time be held completely spellbound by the profound musical logic used. In the words of David Dubal "The more one listens to it, the more enthralled one becomes with the depths of Brahms's mind."

"With his Symphony No. 4 Brahms reached the culmination of his symphonic style – the outer movements are virtually symphonies in themselves, containing ideas that are almost too grand to be fully worked out, even in the context of the vast, gauntly imposing canvas of this overwhelming creation. The defiant opening movement is packed with truly epic and gripping melodic ideas, while the equally momentous finale, a passacaglia with thirty individual variations on its ground-bass theme, has the same air of finality as the conclusion of Beethoven's ninth. Yet this is no paean of universal brotherhood, but rather the spiritual struggle of the solitary thinker striving to confront finality and extinction." - The Rough Guide to Classical Music

I had it rated at 9.5/10 then dropped it to 9.4/10. Probably bump it back it up next week when I update my list. We'll see.

An insightful analysis of the first movement by Leonard Bernstein:

Yes, it's amazing. I love how "architectural" it is and how it builds it's soaring emotion and "intelligence" from that compositional organization and complexity. The 4th movement to me is the best, and one of the most incredible movements in classical history, but I love the 2nd too -- I love all of them. I've had it as a 9.5 several times over the last 5 years but before it was a "9.3". Now, I have it as a "9.4". If I were to fit it into my rock/jazz list, it would probably be between Trout Mask Replica and Black Saint & the Sinner Lady -- maybe 1 spot below TMR.

Wow, Brahms' 4th is astonishing! Now I have to listen to the rest of his music.
By the way, have you listened to Mozart's 40th? I think it is almost as good as "Jupiter".

Though I think it's great, I used to think they were close, but recently not so much (I last rated his 40th as a 7.5/10, 1-2 years ago). But that doesn't mean that's my "final answer". I try to remain open and willing to see new things in works of art :)

Awesome to see how much you love Brahms 4th :)

just sent scaruffi this gargantuan email:

"For your 'Greatest Symphonies' list I recommend Berlioz's 'Roméo et Juliette'[that is if you consider it a symphony]. For your 'Greatest Piano Sonatas' list I recommend Ives's Piano Sonata No. 2.

I greatly admire your 2 new classical lists and I hope to see more from you. I have some ideas for future classical lists:

The Greatest Requiems [Berlioz's 'Grande Messe des Morts'; Brahms's 'Ein Deutsches Requiem'; Britten's 'War Requiem'; Ligeti's Requiem; Mozart's Requiem; Verdi's Requiem]

The Greatest Operas [Beethoven's 'Fidelio'; Berg's 'Lulu' & his 'Wozzeck'; Berlioz's 'Les Troyens'; Britten's 'Peter Grimes'; Busoni's 'Doktor Faust'; Debussy's 'Pelléas et Mélisande'; Hindemith's 'Mathis der Maler'; Janáček's 'The Cunning Little Vixen' & his 'From the House of the Dead'; Mozart's 'Don Giovanni', Mussorgsky's 'Boris Godunov' & his 'Khovanshchina', Nono's 'Prometeo'; Schoenberg's 'Moses und Aron'; Strauss's 'Elektra' & his 'Salome'; Stravinsky's 'The Rake's Progress'; Verdi's 'Aida', 'Don Carlos', 'Falstaff' & his 'Otello'; Wagner's 'Parsifal', 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' & his 'Tristan und Isolde']

The Greatest Choral Works [Andriessen's 'De Tijd'; Bach's Mass in B Minor; Bach's 'St. Mathew's Passion'; Beethoven's 'Missa Solemnis' Debussy's 'Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien'; Feldman's Rothko Chapel, Handel's 'Messiah', Janáček's 'Glagolitic Mass'; Nono's 'Il Canto Sospeso'; Penderecki's 'Utrenia'; Stravinsky's 'Symphony of Psalms' & his 'Canticum Sacrum'; Tippett's 'The Mask of Time']

The Greatest Vocal Works [Boulez's 'Le Marteau Sans Maitre' & his 'Pli Selon Pli'; Mahler's 'Das Lied von der Erde'; Monk's 'Dolmen Music' & her 'Education of the Girlchild'; Schoenberg's 'Pierrot Lunaire']

The Greatest Song Cycles [Mussorgsky's 'The Nursery', 'Sunless' & his 'Songs and Dances of Death'; Schubert's 'Winterreise' & his 'Die Schöne Müllerin'; Schumann's 'Dichterliebe'; Strauss's 'Four Last Songs']

The Greatest Musical Theatre Works [Davies's 'Eight Songs for a Mad King' & his 'Vesalii Icones'; Stravinsky's 'Histoire du Soldat']

The Greatest Ballets [Debussy's 'Jeux'; Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet'; Ravel's 'Daphnis et Chloé'; Stravinsky's 'The Firebird', 'Oedipus Rex', 'Pétrouchka', 'Le Sacre du Printemps', & his 'Agon'; Tchaikovsky's 'The Sleeping Beauty', 'The Nutcracker' & his 'Swan Lake']

The Greatest Orchestral Works [Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta & his 'Divertimento'; Berio's 'Epifanie'; Boulez's 'Répons'; Carter's 'Symphonia'; Debussy's 'La Mer', 'Nocturnes' & his 'Prélude à L'Après-midi d'un Faune'; Gerhard's 'Epithalamion'; Ives's 'Three Places In New England'; Janáček's 'Sinfonietta'; Ligeti's 'Lontano' ans his 'Melodien'; Messiaen's 'Chronochromie', 'Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum' & his 'Des canyons aux étoiles...'; Mussorgsky's 'St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain'; Orff's 'Carmina Burana', Pärt's 'Tabula Rasa'; Penderecki's 'Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima'; Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra & his Five Pieces for Orchestra; Sibelius's 'Tapiola'; Stockhausen's 'Gruppen'; Strauss's 'Don Juan' & his 'Also Sprach Zarathustra'; Webern's Variations for Orchestra; Xenakis's 'Metastasis']

The Greatest Quartets [Bartók's String Quartets, Beethoven's 'Große Fuge' & his String Quartets No. 14 & 15; Carter's String Quartets; Debussy's String Quartet; Feldman's String Quartet No. 2; Haydn's String Quartets; Janáček's String Quartets; Ligeti's String Quartet No. 2; Messiaen's 'Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps'; Schoenberg's String Quartets; Schubert's String Quartet's No. 14 & 15; Shostakovich's String Quartets; Webern's String Quartet]

The Greatest Quintets [Brahms's Clarinet Quintet & his Piano Quintet; Dvořák's Piano Quintet No. 2; Mozart's String Quintet No. 4 & his Clarinet Quintet; Schubert's String Quintet; Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major]

The Greatest Concertos [Bach's 'Brandenburg Concertos'; Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra & his Violin Concerto No. 2; Beethoven's Piano Concertos No. 4 & 5, & his Violin Concerto; Brahms's Violin Concerto; Carter's Concerto for Orchestra, Double Concerto & his Piano Concerto; Dvořák's Cello Concerto; Gerhard's Concerto for Orchestra; Ligeti's Chamber Concerto, Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto & his Double Concerto; Lutosławski's Cello Concerto & his Concerto for Orchestra; Ljubica Marić's 'Byzantine Concerto'; Mozart's Clarinet Concerto & his Piano Concerto No. 21; Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3; Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand & his Piano Concerto in G; Schnittke's Concerto Grosso No. 5, Schoenberg's Violin Concerto & his Piano Concerto; Schumann's Piano Concerto; Shostakovich's Cello Concertos 1 & 2]

The Greatest Keyboard Works [Bach's 'Goldberg Variations' & his 'Well-Tempered Clavier'; Beethoven's 'Diabelli Variations'; Chopin's Nocturnes, Ballades, Études, Impromptus, Scherzos & his Preludes; Debussy's 'En Blanc et Noir', Images for Piano, Préludes & his Études; Ligeti's Etudes; Liszt's 'Transcendental Études'; Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition'; Schubert's Fantasia in F Minor & his 'Wanderer Fantasy'; Schumann's 'Carnaval' & his 'Kreisleriana']

The Greatest Film Scores [I don't know any film scores]

The Greatest Electronic Works [Babbitt's 'Philomel'; Riley's 'A Rainbow in Curved Air'; Stockhausen's 'Gesang der Jünglinge', 'Hymnen' & his 'Kontakte'; Xenakis's 'Orient-Occident']

The Greatest Organ Works [Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582 & his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565]

Miscellaneous Instrumental Works [Bach's 'The Art of Fugue' (possibly a keyboard work), 'The Musical Offering' & his Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor; Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion; Ligeti's Trio for Violin, Horn & Piano; Mendelssohn's Octet; Pärt's Fratres for Violin & Piano; Schoenberg's 'Verklärte Nacht'; Shostakovich's Piano Trio No.2; Stockhausen's 'Kontra-Punkte']"

and he replied "Ah Ives' Concord sonata - how could i forget it. Thanks.
I am working on the other lists that you mention. Right now i'm on
the concertos. When you see it, you'll be pleased (or you will accuse
me of plagiarizing you!)
Best, piero"

Looks like we're in for some new lists!

Awesome :) Great email. Very cool to hear that he is working on these lists. Something I've noticed over the years is that if he knows you're someone who's listened to a lot of music/watched a lot of different films/absorbed a lot of art, he'll appreciate and take your recommendations seriously.

Though I have to say, one time I recommended he re-listen to Chinese Democracy and see if he would upgrade the rating and he replied that "he doesn't have time for Guns N' Roses" !!! :-)

at least he's honest

Which is what I prefer. I thought it was hilarious :)

Afterhours, I invite you, and whoever else is viewing this page, to listen to Debussy's Prélude à L'Après-midi d'un Faune. It's one of the most beautiful and nostalgic works I've ever experienced. Nowhere will you find a work of art that captures the dream state of the mind as compellingly as this. At first listening, it will strike one as a formless, languorous rhapsody relying merely on sensation. But after several listenings, Debussy's genius begins shine through and one can't help but be taken in by the vibrant color and harmonic richness and how each note sort of slides into another with a compositional mastery that marks Debussy's best music. And with this work, Debussy's perfection of form is beyond measure. It was composed in 1894, relatively early in his career and it was based on the poem L'après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. This tone poem by Debussy is only about 11 minutes long, but it is 11 minutes of otherworldly beauty, exuberant sensation and spiritual transcendence.

My favorite recording is the 1943 broadcast recording by Leopold Stokowski with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The overall sound quality is quit exceptional considering the time and circumstances of this recording (though the first several seconds is a bit rough). Stokowski manages to bring out the color and harmonic richness like no other and his phrasing seems more compelling than with other recordings I've heard.

playable here:

downloadable here:

If you are fussy about sound quality and must have a modern recording I would recommend the one by Charles Dutoit with the Montréal Symphony Orchestra. Found here:

Thank you, great description. Don't think I've ever heard this one. I'll give a listen (or 2, or 3, etc)

Your description is spot on. I totally agree with you. I've only listened to it once so far, gave it a 7.5/10 (for now?) :)

Give it time. It may grow on you. Or maybe it won't - makes no difference to me.

It already has :) but I don't doubt that it could rise in rating

What did you think of Scaruffi's new lists?

I'm really glad he put them up. Great to see his concertos. I'm very curious to see vocal works and operas. I'm guessing Mass in B Minor, Verdi's Requiem and Tristan & Isolde will be at the top of those.

"I'm very curious to see vocal works and operas."
While you're curious to see them, I'm DYING to see them!

My prediction of possible works that might be in his top 10 operas (though I've never been good at predicting Scaruffi!):

Berg: Lulu
Berg: Wozzeck
Britten: Peter Grimes
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande
Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen
Mozart: Don Giovanni
Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
Strauss: Salome
Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress
Verdi: Otello
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

There is an issue with Der Ring des Nibelungen. If Scaruffi counts it as one work, I imagine it will make his top 10. If he doesn't count it as one work, it will be scattered across the list.

Well, I got at least 4 of them right! But another 4 of them did get in the top 20, so I guess I didn't do too bad. As always with Scaruffi, there are some real odd-ball choices here. Philip Glass's "Einstein on the Beach" got ranked at 9th of all times - even above Wagner's Ring! I mean I haven't listened to it so it's not fair for me to judge, but jeez, Philip Glass at number 9?!!

Another anomaly: Schoenberg's 'Erwartung' at number 10 instead of his 'Moses und Aron'. But I haven't listened his 'Erwartung' either so I can't comment.

If you are put off by my dismissiveness towards Glass, please keep in mind that it was Scaruffi's own words on Glass that have caused me to be somewhat disdainful of Glass's stature as a composer:

"Einstein on the Beach (the logical evolution of the program inaugurated with Music In Twelve Parts) and Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians are the works that mark a new era for the movement that used to be called "minimalism". Glass, in particular, is an ambiguous composer, not always as revolutionary as his peers but always much more capable of taking advantage of the zeitgeist and of connecting with the masses."

I do not want to give you the impression that I'm biased. It's just that his high ranking 'Einstein on the Beach' came as a surprise to me. That's all. I do intend on giving it a fair listening just as I do with any other work.

To rank Einstein on the Beach (the champion of minimalism) over the Ring, a work that change the music, let you undestand how pathetic are some lists.

The same issue could be extended to literature, like Tolkie's LOTR. I consider them as a separate musical works since I regard Die Walkure far above Das Rheingold, for instance.

I find it interesting that he counts all 6 of the Brandenburg Concertos as one singular work. I am still undecided as to whether or not I should do the same.

Me too. I'm not sure which way to go. I've been counting them separately because they were each at different times -- but maybe he intended it all as one piece? Maybe some research is in order...

he counts them as a singular work because he knows nothing of Bach, and probably he never listened to these masterpieces more than once.

Man Arvo Part is unreal, I have no idea why it took me so long to get to him. "Te Deum", "Tabula Rasa" -- wow!

Yea, isn't he incredible? I love how spiritual his works can be. Tabula Rasa is really moving & miraculous :) Haven't heard "Te Deum" yet though...

You guys should check out his Fratres, for Violin & Piano. It's a breathtaking work. Extremely nostalgic with a sense of stillness and timelessness. It gives off a sort of feeling like trying to retrace a childhood memory and trying to preserve it in some sort of metaphysical prism. I really suck at describing it, but it's one of those very unique works that leaves you with a feeling that seems impossible to describe. Check out the recording by Kremer & Jarrett.

Your description is spot on. I've heard that recording you mention, it's amazing. I'm going to revisit it soon :)

Große Fuge is one of those works I feel iffy about how to listen to. Should an individual listen to it by itself or as part of his 13th quartet? From what I've read, the Große Fuge was published by itself because of it's incomprehensibility. But should we listen to it as Beethoven originally intended - as being the conclusion of his 13th?

I listen to it as it's own, and find it remarkable, (perhaps a little more emotional/amazing than, say, Interstellar Overdrive -- though my opinion of Grosse Fuge's greatness vary wildly from time to time [as high as 8.8+ at one point]). Basically, it's the friggin' birth of free jazz!

Looking through your "Greatest Songs/Tracks/Movements" list, I honestly wouldn't put anything there above it. This is definitely the biggest surprise I've seen on any of your lists.

Hey, it's his list. He could put Dubi Dam Dam at the very top if he wanted to.

Oh crap, thanks for the reminder! :)

Of course it could change (it's friggin Beethoven!), and I'll be more than happy to upgrade it if it does (Beethoven is my favorite artist of all time) but right now 7.9 seems accurate and I wouldn't rate it higher than 8.0 or 8.1 ... After going through so many rock/jazz tracks and so many albums/films/classical works, I don't (currently) see it higher than that. Do you think it's more amazing than, say, the 1st movement of Beethoven's or Mahler's 9th, or than either half of Black Saint & The Sinner Lady? Or, Coleman's entire Free Jazz album? <--Per 15 minutes, I'd say they're pretty close to equal... but Coleman goes for another 20+ and keeps building up quite a bit more emotion by then (not that you need 35 min ... Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor...) Anyway, the rating shouldn't be seen as a knock. There haven't been a lot of 15 min or less works rated 7.8+ and even an entire album with that rating is one of the best of all time. Grosse Fuge is incredible, but if one compares it to the overpowering/astonishing level of emotion something like Sister Ray achieves in a very similar running time, I feel there's a wide gap between it and the very top of my list (though I hold the right to change my mind!).

Just my opinion, but I definitely rank it higher than any single movement from anything, and that includes those from any of Beethoven's or Mahler's symphonies. But then again my ratings change wildly every five minutes or so :)

Totally understood :) These days, mine are usually pretty stable (been a long journey though), but if any work deserves continual reassessment, it's that one, along with several of Beethoven's other late works (15th String Quartet anyone?).

I'll be listening to it again soon, and I won't be surprised at all if I upgrade it. It's been 8.5+ several times for me.

By all accounts, Beethoven was very reluctant to publish the Große Fuge separately. It was only after much urging (along with some extra cash) that he did so. For an excellent read on the topic, check out this book:

Awesome find, thanks for the link :)

Hi, other classical fans!

I have made a mega update to my 1000 favorite works list, if someone want to take a look:
I didn't rate them, because I CAN'T. :P

My biggest last discovery is Unxerunt Salomonem by Jean-François Le Sueur, the music that was played on the coronation of Napoleon:

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! That is a LOT of music! I hope that in 30 years I will have caught up to you. There's no ratings, but your top 20 will definitely suffice.

I checked it out and... WOW. Put 'em all in order now!!!! (just kidding) :)

There is no way I could put it in order!

Just like my 1000 best reading, I always change my mind and move the order, I think more and more to make it in date order, just like my movie list, so I will not have to worry about it.

New #1 at the top of the list now. Stunning... just stunning... ;)

May Fools?


[Scaruffi - the only one here not laughing]

:-) Hahaha, okay... time to take it down now before someone actually takes me seriously!

On second thought: think I might try Grosse Fugue as the final movement to Beethoven's 13th String Quartet. Just did a little research and hadn't known before how accepted this was. I've listened to it this way but it's been over 10 years since...

I've now almost revisited everything that was already listed here as of a couple weeks ago. Just have the following left:

Symphony of Three Orchestras-Carter
Ostrobothnian Symphony-Balakauskas
Glagolitic Mass-Janacek

It's already been an incredible experience returning to classical (so many amazing works!) -- it's been the icing on the cake after the last several years have mostly been spent with rock, jazz and film -- almost like those were all building up to returning to classical and getting more out of it than ever. I still have so many left to revisit, and tons to newly discover.

Done :) Now, onto lots of stuff I haven't heard in a while + new discoveries + continuing to listen to what's already on here. Hundreds of entries to come (lucky me!)

Note: it is looking increasingly possible that Beethoven has something on the order of 20+ 8.8/10 - 9.2/10 music works and possibly even 5+ 9.3/10+ works. Listed already are the 9th & 5th Symphonies, and from memory Missa Solemnis is probably one, possibly Fidelio, possibly his Piano Sonata #32, and maybe even one of his late String Quartets.

This is mind-boggling...

Listening to the top 4 9.6's, all within the last 2 weeks, has changed my scale slightly. The 9.5's I dropped to 9.4 did not suddenly get worse for me -- there's just a little too much of a gap for it to only be 0.1 between them and those 9.6's ... most likely exception is Shostakovich's 15th which very well may be 9.5 but (for now?) I'm going with 9.4...

If you ever find time (I realize you have a lot on your plate right now!), give Furtwängler's 1951 recording of Schubert's 9th a spin. It may increase your already huge appreciation for that work.

Great thanks, I will, soon. I keep thinking that there's gotta be a better version of Schubert's 9th that I haven't heard yet, somewhere. I'll check it out.

Yep, it was amazing. Thank you. Maybe the best version I've heard yet!

Glad you liked it :)

You must, must, MUST listen to Ives Symphony No. 4.

Michael Tilson Thomas conducted the definitive recording:

Some essays about the monumental work:

A great overview of other recordings:

Thanks, I definitely will! Been wanting to hear that one for awhile! Should be getting back to classical very soon. My speakers finally gave out, that's all...

Cool. I can all but guarantee that it will be in the 9.2-9.5 range for you :)

Thanks -- though, even if it's a 7.8 or so, I wouldn't be at all disappointed :)

Have you heard Schubert's String Quintet? It may be the greatest piece of chamber music I have ever experienced.

Yes, thanks, though it's been at least 5 years. Definitely need to re-listen to it!

Two things: you're not going to let Mozart languish at 7.7 are you? :) It's an exceedingly lovely, delicate, expressive and, dare I say, exciting piece of music... surprisingly comic (minor key be damned!) yet full of passionate intensity... that Mozart could compose his final three symphonies in two months is unfathomable; his was an oceanic talent (I virtually don't listen to anything but Mozart these days).

Also, I'm surprised by the absence of Beethoven's 30th sonata.

Haha re: "languished" at 7.7 :-) Such a rating would often be the best of an artists career. I suppose the relatively few works that I've so far included in that range makes it seem like the dumps!!! But, in all honesty, my assessment of Mozart's works sometimes varies a little too much. He was a tricky fellow that could unleash genius without a hint of effort or seriousness about what he was doing. I might've underrated Eine Kleine... as well.

Re: Absences ... Including Beethovens 30th, there are countless other works from various artists that should be on here that I just need to set aside the time to revisit. Probably the most mega-omission is Tristan and Isolde...

I'm looking for classical music recommendations. Which works would you recommend for a beginner?

Also, if possible, mention album/film equivalents as well, which would give me a better idea of the emotional content expressed in the classical works which you'll recommend.

These should hold you over for a day or two :-)

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor "Choral"-Beethoven (1824)
Symphony No. 4 in E Minor-Brahms (1885)
Symphony No. 5 in C Minor-Beethoven (1808)
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor "Appassionata"-Beethoven (1807)
Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From The New World"-Dvorak (1893)
Requièm Mass in D minor-Mozart (1791)
Symphony No. 9 in C major "The Great"-Schubert (1826)
Rite of Spring-Stravinsky (1913)
Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor-J.S. Bach (1723)
Violin Concerto in D major-Brahms (1878)
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major-Mozart (1785)
Symphony No. 3 in F Major-Brahms (1883)
Tabula Rasa - Part (1977)
Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major "Eroica"-Beethoven (1804)
Symphony No. 41 in C Major "Jupiter"-Mozart (1788)
Toccata & Fugue in D Minor-J.S. Bach (1707)
The Four Seasons-Vivaldi (1723)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished"-Schubert (1822)
Symphony No. 6 in B minor "Pathétique"-Tchaikovsky (1893)
Symphony No. 7 in A Major-Beethoven (1812)
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major "Emperor"-Beethoven (1811)
Symphony No. 6 in F major "Pastoral" - Beethoven (1808)
Symphony No. 1 in C Minor-Brahms (1876)
Violin Concerto in D major-Beethoven (1806)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor-Mozart (1785)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor "Pathetique"-Beethoven (1798)
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major "Waldstein" - Beethoven (1804)
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Moonlight"-Beethoven (1801)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major-J.S. Bach (1721)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major-J.S. Bach (1721)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major)-Mozart (1787)

That's a pretty good list of several of the most famous (and widely acclaimed) classical works of all time too.

Off the top of my head, I don't recall any of those standing out as corresponding closely to any film ... though Shostakovich's 15th symphony seems to parallel Citizen Kane very closely ... and Zulawski's Possession and Rosemary's Baby each seem to closely correspond in their own ways to Meredith Monk's Dolmen Music (which is probably technically a "classical music" work if we're being pretty general about labeling it) ... but I'm not sure I'd recommend either classical work to a beginner. You might be fine with them given your other tastes. They're both emotionally "modern" too, which also points to you probably doing all right with them. Dolmen Music is quite experimental, but Shostakovich's 15th isn't too far astray ... Also, I've never thought of a particularly satisfactory "equivalent" to Von Trier's The Kingdom (maybe Twin Infinitives???); or Majidi's Color of Paradise (maybe Astral Weeks???) ... so either of those might correspond better to a classical work that I either haven't heard, or haven't heard in a long time and am not thinking of. Of course, they also might not correspond to any work of music or other art at all...

As far as rock/jazz albums, none of them parallel too closely off the top of my head, but Irrlicht and Desertshore correspond in ways to Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor (which is a clear precedent to them) ... Captain Beefheart, Pop Group's Y and several Free/Avant-Garde Jazz works (including the dizzying "danse macabre" aspects of Black Saint & the Sinner Lady) tend to share characteristics with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (which is a historical precedent for all of them) ... Escalator Over The Hill tends to share some characteristics with the instrumental color and vocal/operatic breadth of works such as Glagolitic Mass ... Works such as Laughing Stock and Spirit of Eden aren't too far from works like Quatuor Pour La Fin Du Temps by Messiaen, or Beethoven's late string quartets ... Lady of the Mirrors by Anthony Davis is practically a classical work as much as jazz, and could be compared to Beethoven's piano sonatas, particularly the more complex ones such as Hammerklavier or #32 ... that's what I have off the top of my noggin'...

What would you rate Große Fuge?

On its own? I'd have to revisit it... but probably 8/10 or so (I haven't listened to it in a few years though)... Its often paired with Beethovens 13th String Quartet which would probably be 8.8+ put together, but again, I'd need to revisit...