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MoJo's Top 10 Iconic Pieces of Classical Music

VirileVagabond

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VirileVagabond @ 2019-02-25 09:00:50 UTC

Watched this vid and wondered what others thought, accepting MoJo's restrictions. To me, "iconic" is a combination of the quality of the work and it's recognition by the general public (i.e. embedded in pop culture). As a non-musician and only an amateur (at best) critic but generally well educated, if I feel that if I am not overly familiar with the work it doesn't belong on this list:


10: William Tell Overture (Finale)

09: The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

08: Eine kleine Nachtmusik

07: Also sprach Zarathustra

06: The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini

05: Für Elise

04: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagnerhttps://secondhandsongs.com/case/88915

03: Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven

02: The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldihttps://secondhandsongs.com/case/79755

01: Sinfonie in c-Moll, erster Satz (Symphony No. 5)


Honorable Mentions:

I Dovregubbens hall (Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: In The Hall Of The Mountain King)

Полёт шмеля {Polot shmelya} (Flight Of The Bumblebee)

Sabre Dance

Toccata d-Moll BWV 565 (Toccata And Fugue)

Canon & Gigue in D


Oddly, I would strike #2 & #3 as I don't think any portions of those entire works have reached the same iconic/recognizable status of the others on the official list. Of the honorable mentions, all are arguable but I don't think "Peer Gynt" nor "Canon" are as iconic as the others in that group, while those others could be on the official list. After removing the two noted earlier, I'd likely move "Bumblebee" and "Toccata" up to the official list.


Some notable omissions in my view (though perhaps outside the restrictions):

1812 Overture (well-known portions) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Boléro

Carmen Suite No. 2: Habanera by George Bizet

An der schönen blauen Donau Op. 314 (Blue Danube)


baggish

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baggish @ 2019-02-25 09:36:20 UTC

The internet means that this kind of list appears to be universal when actually they can be quite regional.

For example, if a list of most iconic pop groups were to be compiled in the UK, Abba would be near the top. But Abba were much less successful in the US, so they might not be included at all (especially if the list was compiled before the two Mamma Mia movies were made). And of course lists made in Asia or Africa would be completely different. For the UK, Peer Gynt probably does deserve it's "honorable mention" status.

There is also a generational aspect. For example, in the UK, Dvorak's New World Symphony could also deserve "honorable mention" status because of its use in a TV advert for bread in the 1970s (and subsequent parodies). Someone who grew up 30 years later might not know the piece at all.

Check out the film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", which features characters in their late teens at the end of the 2000s. David Bowie's Heroes is used in the finale. The producers were looking for a song that had anthemic qualities but that was unknown to the characters. Heroes would be an iconic song to someone who was a teenager in the 1970s, to whom it's almost inconceivable that the song could be unknown. In fact it is a minor plot point that one of the characters heard Heroes, didn't know what it was and had a eureka moment when they heard it again.

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VirileVagabond

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VirileVagabond @ 2019-02-25 15:49:56 UTC

To me "iconic" is multi-generational, regional and cultural though not necessarily universal (an impossible requirement). Also in my view, a lot of classical works are iconic as a result of their repeatedly being used to establish a specific mood in film.


I'd also say that something can gain iconic status relatively long after it's initial popularity. Looking at some of Bag's references, I would say that ABBA became iconic (in the U.S.) during the 70s retro period that occurred in the 90s (e.g. "Muriel's Wedding") resulting in the "Mamma Mia" musical and films, not the reverse. (Retro always seems ~20 years before.) Either way, these events made the group's appeal multi-generational.


An interesting mention of Bowie's "Heroes". I once had a Bowie GH compilation that was heavy on his earlier peak (e.g. "Changes") and later "Let's Dance" period along with some middle years, relatively less popular material added (as I surmised) to represent those albums (including "Heroes"). Subsequent use of "Heroes" has arguably elevated that work to Bowie iconic. Similarly I would argue that "Bohemian Rhapsody" only reached iconic status after its use in "Wayne's World" (1992).


I am often surprised how a musical work seems very popular in specific regions based on the number of covers in that language or by artists from a region entered on site. That doesn't make those works big but rather "big in Japan".

Oldiesmann

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Oldiesmann @ 2019-02-25 21:01:41 UTC

I would argue that "Four Seasons" is somewhat iconic - especially among connoisseurs of classical music. Parts of that work have been used for all sorts of things, including advertising cars (Peugeot commissioned Bond to cover all four parts for that specific purpose according to Wikipedia) among other things. Certainly not as well-known as most of the other pieces on that list of course, but still pretty famous.

Quentin

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Quentin @ 2019-03-22 16:19:35 UTC

"Spring" from "The Four Seasons", definitely iconic.

They probably omitted "patriotic" stuff deliberately, but is there anything more iconic than Pomp and Circumstance?

They also neglected operas: Va pensiero, Ombra mai fu, Un bel dì vedremo, Casta diva... Callas' recording of Casta diva can be heard on every other push commercial and arthouse movie.

I would also add Holst's Planets ( Jupiter), Carmina Burana and (Fake Albinoni's) Adagio to the list, as "modern classical" maybe?

btw, I don't know how old you are, Jon, but the official history aka the internet says that the Berlin Trilogy wasn't very successful at first, and kind of grew in status, thanks in particular to the middle-european "heroin scene" (Christiane F etc). I suppose a teenager in the 1970's would dance to disco music or listen to some punk rock, rather than listening to an aging (relatively speaking) star living in semi-retirement. Twenty- and thirty-somethings were his audience, I guess.

And I also agree with VV when he says that ABBA went gold in America with Muriel's Wedding and Priscilla. It kind of went like this: MoR in Sweden and Europe, Eurotrash in Britain, gay icons in Australia and finally classic pop in the USA. Wink

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baggish

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baggish @ 2019-03-22 18:01:45 UTC

I'm not sure if I should answer, but anyway... The point I was making is:

The internet means that this kind of list appears to be universal when actually they can be quite regional.

I should have said "regional and generational". OK, I left out some cultural landmarks but I don't think that changes the overall point. In fact I would say most of the subsequent comments have reinforced it. And perhaps the final confirmation of the generational part is:

btw, I don't know how old you are, Jon

... Wink

It's not correct to say that Abba were seen as Eurotrash in Britian. And Christiane F was a teenager in the 1970s listening to Bowie, no? "Ashes to Ashes" and "Let's Dance" were both No.1 hits in the UK.

Completely OT, I was at the UK premiere of Muriel's Wedding during the London Film Festival in whatever year it was. Perhaps it was even the world premiere outside Australia, don't know. There is a scene where Muriel's mother makes a cup of tea by putting a tea bag and the water in the cup and then putting the cup in the microwave. The entire cinema gasped in horror! Happy

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Quentin

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Quentin @ Yesterday at 09:33:13 UTC

I agree with you Jon, it's just that I don't think Heroes is the best example of a song that was "a hit" when it first came out and then fell into oblivion. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite, a bit like Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

I didn't read the book and I watched the movie once some 20 years ago, but Christiane F was "a junkie" living in Berlin, a niche of a niche... Bowie probably represented the "local hero" (albeit imported) rather than a world-famous superstar.

And even if Heroes was a hit in the 1970's, I find it hard to believe that a teenager doesn't know the song: you go to a sports event, you listen to Heroes, We Are the Champions, or both.

TL;TR: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" guys, I don't buy it. Smile

When I was an indie pop guy and read Melody Maker and NME, I was amazed to see that ABBA Gold entered the British top ten every year around Christmas. I know that Benny Andersson isn't very at ease with the "gay icon" label, and I think Björn Ulvaeus was quoted to say something like "people asked us to reform; I watched a video of us in the 1970's, saw the way we dressed, and said no." That was, of course, before they reformed... So the part about ABBA was aimed at their own perception of who they are, or what they think they represented for their fans. It wasn't about the money and it wasn't about Agnetha, it was about finally being accepted as great artists, IMO.

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