Your favorite not-super-famous pieces of classical music...


Some months ago I discovered that Spotify is a wonderful resource for the classical music fan. I’m always looking for new pieces to enjoy, and figured the Dope has a good number of classical buffs.

I’m specifically looking for pieces that aren’t in the “top tier” of fame – stuff that you’d typically find on those ubiquitous Top 100 Classical Pieces of All Time lists that float around the Internet. (I like Beethoven’s 5th and 9th symphonies as much as anyone, but I don’t need recommendations pointing them out to me. :)) Obviously, fame is subjective here, so feel free to include something that might be on the borderline.

I suppose I should list some of my own not-super-famous favorites, to start things out:

  • Irish Rhapsody No. 5 by Charles Villiers Stanford. This is my favorite piece of classical music, and the piece that, when I heard it on the radio a couple of years ago, re-ignited my love for the genre.

  • Vasily Kalinnikov’s Symphony No. 1. My favorite symphony of all time. Kalinnikov is one of those great composers who died too soon to compile a large body of works. The second movement of his first symphony is the most beautiful few minutes of music that I’ve ever heard.

  • Josef Suk’s Fantastic Scherzo. Marvelous piece, reminiscent (to my ears) of Dvorak, which is unsurprising given that Suk was Dvorak’s son-in-law!

  • Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It seems like his Lark Ascending is usually named as his best work, or sometimes Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, but Dives and Lazarus is my favorite work by my favorite composer.

  • Symphony in C Major by Paul Dukas. (More famous for his Sorcerer’s Apprentice.)

  • Carl Nielsen’s Aladdin Suite

  • Dance of the Tumblers by Rimsky-Korsakov

  • L’isle joyeuse by Debussy.

  • Holst’s Mars. I know the Planets are plenty famous, but it’s Jupiter than usually gets all the limelight. Mars is a piece where, if I hear it while driving, causes me to speed up by about 20 mph!

So, what pieces do you love that casual classical listeners might not have heard? Help enrich my Spotify experience! :slight_smile:

I LOVE Suk’s Fantastic Scherzo!! I’ve loved it for years.

I love Gerald Finzi’s music. All of it.

Bach’s Suite in B minor (for small baroque orchestra). The last piece, “Badinerie”, is famous, but the whole thing is fantastic.

And, Borodin’s delightful Piano Quintet in C minor.

Charpentier’s Te Deum. All of it; there’s a lot more to it than the Prelude.

Campra’s Te Deum

Lully’s Marche Royale.

Lully’s Fanfare pour le Carrousel Royale.

Peter Schickele’s “Monochrome III” for 9 clarinets.

(No, it’s not a PDQ Bach piece.)

I played it in university. I didn’t like it at first, but the more I got to know it, the more I got to like it.

Dvorak - New World Symphony. That’s the most famous bit, Part One: 4th Movement. Rivals anything more famous.

First record I ever bought. Saved my pennies.

Mahler’s Symphony #1 (The Titan). I doubt this qualifies as “super famous.”

I’d say all of Mahler’s symphonies are famous in the classical music community.

This piece is one of my favorites- Gabriel FAURE’: Pavane, Op. 50

Khrennikov’s Symphony #2

Perhaps some of the works of Malcolm Arnold

And while it’s hardly obscure, Prokofiev in general, and the 3rd Piano Concerto in particular, deserve to be better known than they are. (Here’s a link to one performance, chosen more or less at random.)

That’s not obscure at all, but is a very lovely piece of music. )

I’d have to go with the works of John Taverner (with an “r”), 16th-century composer and owner of a massive organ. His radical reworking of Them’s “Gloria” is particularly lovely. Nowadays it sounds like the kind of music they play in films when the bomb’s about to go off, and we have a montage of people who are going to die unless Batman (for example) can save the day. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I find that his music is just edgy enough to avoid the inevitable Monty Python and the Holy Grail comparisons. The obvious problem is that to my modern ears it all sounds like a wash.

And of course there’s John Tavener (without an “r”) who was big in the 1960s but has been dogged with ill-health, although that hasn’t stopped him for writing some awesome music, including this piece which is reminiscent of John Taverner in parts.

I’ve always been fond of:

[li]The Russian Easter Overture by Rimsky Korsakov[/li][li]The Four Seasons by Vivaldi (the whole thing)[/li][li]Emperor Waltz by Strauss (much less well known than Blue Danube or Vienna Woods)[/li][/ul]

I’d also say that Valse Triste by Jean Sibelius is one of the most beautiful pieces ever, if it weren’t for *Allegro Non Troppo *making it impossible for me to listen to without blubbering like a child… :frowning:

Dvorak’s Piano Quintet #2. Been a fan ever since I heard a performance at the Perlman Music Program (with Itzak Perlman taking part).

Benjamin Britten’s “The Trees They Grow So High,” primarily because it was dedicated to my father.

Ginastera’s Variacones Concertantes
Mussorgsky’s Turkish March

Pour le Piano
Introduction and Allegro For Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet
Nocturnes for orchestra
Danses Sacrée et Profane
Suite Bergamesque (Clair de Lune is its 3rd movement)

Daphnis and Chloe
Miroirs No. 5, “La Vallée des Cloches”

Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, group 3
Hymn of Jesus

Vaughan Williams
Five Mystical Songs for baritone, chorus and orchestra (the last one, Antiphon, is fairly well-known)
The Wasps incidental music.

Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, in four movements, for orchestra, chorus and soloists, based on the poem by Poe. This is just the beginning of the first movement.

Chopin’s Etude, opus 25, #11, “Winter Wind.” It’s amazing that all those notes can be played with only 10 fingers.

Lehar’s Dein is mein ganzes herz, from “The Land of Smiles.” One of the most gorgeous melodies I’ve ever heard.

Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto #3. 1st movement heard here.

Kabalevsky’s The Comedians.

Charles Ives, Putnam’s Camp, from Three Places in New England

Jon Leifs organ concerto, and pastoral variations.

Eldon Rathburn’s Ottawa Suite, a local favorite!

Franz Lehar’s non-waltz piano music. Two beautiful sonatas and a fantasia.

The complete works of Cecile Chaminade, though I’m at a loss to give a specific opus for this one!

I love Chaminade’s Flute Concertino ( and “Autumn” for piano ( (orchestra version: )