After tallying up thousands and thousands (and thousands) of your votes, it’s almost time to find out the results of this year’s KDFC Classical All-Stars Top-100 Countdown! Did you vote? Is your favorite piece on the list? Will the classical music world’s version of the Golden State Warriors (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) take the crown again? Tune in 8am-5pm Tuesday January 22nd through Tuesday January 29th to find out!
But before we get to that… we have to talk… you might want to take a seat. Unfortunately, with hundreds of years worth of music to choose from, not all your favorite pieces made it on the countdown, so we’re here to break the news on which pieces barely missed making the list. Brace yourself because there are some major upsets here!
101. Aaron Copland: Fanfare For the Common Man
Dropping an unprecedented 55 spots from #46 to #101 is one of the great openers in classical music – scratch that, all of music: Aaron Copland’s Fanfare For the Common Man. Copland wrote the piece at the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II, drawing inspiration from a speech Vice-President Henry A. Wallace made attempting to rally Americans. Wallace proclaimed: “Some have spoken of the ‘“American Century.’ I say that the century on which we are entering—the century which will come out of this war—can be and must be the century of the common man.”
Watch Copland conduct his own masterpiece below:
102. Richard Wagner: Die Valkure: Ride of the Valkyries
Richard Wagner’s electrifying Ride of the Valkyries from his opera Die Walküre – ¼ of the epic Ring Cycle – fell from #88 last year. The piece is widely credited for introducing a whole generation to classical music by watching Elmer Fudd chase Bugs Bunny in the popular cartoon short, What’s Opera, Doc? When the piece comes on, you may still catch yourself singing “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit…”
103. Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”
This year, Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished’ finished just outside of the Top 100 list. Although never completed, the symphony remains one of his most popular works, remembered by the sweet melodies throughout. Musicologists are still unsure as to why the piece was never finished, but we’re just glad Schubert was able to complete those two gorgeous movements… and the first two pages of a scherzo movement.
104. Giacomo Puccini: Turandot: “Nessun Dorma”
The famous aria from another unfinished work drops out of the Top 100 and into our Just Missed List. Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot tells the story of Prince Calaf who falls in love with Turandot, a princess who requires all potential suitors to solve three riddles or die. Puccini completed the first two acts of the opera and most of the third but passed away before he could finish it. Composer Franco Alfano completed the opera by reconstructing sketches left behind by Puccini.
Already one of the most well-known tenor arias in the opera world, “Nessun Dorma” became even more popular after Luciano Pavarotti’s performance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. These days, it’s impossible to think of Nessun Dorma and not think of Pavarotti.
105. J.S. Bach: Air on the G String
Johannes Sebastian Bach’s repertoire is the classical music equivalent of Napa fine wine and, in our opinion, has a fighting chance for any number of spots on the Top 100 Countdown. Unfortunately, the Air on the G String, the 2nd movement from Bach’s Orchestral Suite in D, slid down from #74 to #105.
Some of the magic in Bach’s music is the ease of transcription into different instruments. Check out how incredible the ensemble piece sounds for marimba solo.
106. Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Truly one of the more bizarre pieces in the classical music world, Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is an epic masterpiece, with an equally epic slide from #57 to #106. This five-part symphony takes us on a wild, drug fueled, murderous ride through the obsessive life of an artist who falls in love with a woman. Each movement is accompanied by text from the composer that sets the scene.
The video below is a clip from the 5th movement, Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath. The text reads:
“He sees himself at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath … Roar of delight at her arrival … She joins the diabolical orgy … The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae.”
107. Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto
One of the great violin concertos by one of the great German composers drops off the countdown to #107. As violinist Joseph Joachim put it, “The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, the most uncompromising, is Beethoven’s. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart’s jewel, is Mendelssohn’s.” Joachim not only advised Johannes Brahms on the violin part in the concerto but was also the soloist at the premiere in 1879.
You may recognize the third movement below from Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-winning film, There Will Be Blood.
108. Peter Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
It’s possible that holiday saturation led to Tchaikovsky’s iconic The Nutcracker falling 45 spots from #63 to #108. It’s also possible that we all need to be reminded how mesmerizing this music is when paired with a stunning ballet performance. Watch Lauren Cuthbertson perform the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ with the Royal Ballet.
109. Stravinsky: The Firebird
One of the most successful collaborations in art history began with Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, his first partnership with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The iconic ballet was Stravinsky’s first major hit and was shortly followed by Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.
Watch Leonard Bernstein introduce Igor Stravinsky to conduct the last three scenes:
110. Williams: Theme from Star Wars
Labeling John Williams one of the greatest composers of our time can be highly controversial in the classical music world. In the other world, it’s hard to argue against Williams’ resume, filled with over 60 years of orchestral works and some of the most memorable melodies of the late 20th and 21st centuries. As was the case with some of the iconic Disney films and Looney Tunes cartoons of the mid-1900s, John Williams has created – and continues to create – generations of film and classical music lovers. Nevertheless, the monumental theme from Star Wars got booted far, far away into #110.
Watch John Williams greet two young musicians who played the theme outside of his home:
What made the 2019 KDFC Classical All-Stars Top 100 Countdown? Check out the list as we play them here!.