A friend who is intelligent and artistically sensitive confessed that he has tried but he can’t “get” classical music. There are so many others with that feeling, which is difficult for us who love the music to understand.

I decided to put together a list of pieces that could help him—or anyone else, hopefully—overcome that obstacle.

The selection isn’t my idea of the best music in the world, although some of these would qualify. I was looking for pieces that would make the case for classical music, and that would be available as videos on the Internet.

I’m sure others will have suggestions.

Let me know what you listened to, what you liked, and whether this was helpful!

Most of these are movements or excerpts; some are complete short pieces. Some will have ads to skip or endure:

Liszt: Un Sospiro (“a sigh”—but the music isn’t at all wimpy)

Vivaldi: Gloria

Beethoven: Emperor Concerto

Schumann: Piano Quartet

Mozart: Se vuol ballare (an aria with surprisingly revolutionary content from The Marriage of Figaro)

Bruch: Violin Concerto

Copland: The Promise of Living (from his The Tender Land, in an arrangement for chorus, with appropriate images)

Vivaldi: Guitar Concerto

Debussy: La Mer

Korngold: Marietta’s Song (from his opera The Dead City)

Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante (violin and viola solos with orchestra)

Philip Glass: Sunday Afternoon

Bach: Cello Suite No. 1

Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (the famous 18th variation)

Vangelis: Santorini (singer: the great actress Irene Papas)

Brahms: Intermezzo in A

Bernstein: Make Our Garden Grow (finale of Candide)



  1. What a great idea & a great service! I love the inclusion of Make Our Garden Grow.

  2. Thank you, Lew–I’m helping Karl Berger write a book about listening to music, and these are great pieces for me to listen to.

  3. Stuart Margulies · · Reply

    i’ll try some


  4. Ernst Schoen-René · · Reply

    For Starters, I would add: Thus spoke Zarathustra, Dvorak’s 6th Symphony (the one with “Going Home” in it), The Moldau, the Carmen Suite, Beethoven’s 6th qnd 9th Symphonies (only the last movement of this), The Bartered Bride Overture, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (the Ingmar Bergman version) and Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann” (The Powell-Pressburger version with Moira Shearer), “The Hall of the Mountain King,” “The 1812 Overture (this is cooler than many people [including Tchaikovsky] think), Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody, and a number of opera overtures. For chamber music: Schubert’s Quintet in C–the best of them all–especially the first two movements, and the “Death and the Maiden” quartet-the Theme and variations. And also: Dvorak’s “American Quartet” (the source of so much music for Westerns–see Wagner for seafaring), Enesco’s “From my Life.” Many of these works tell stories, which make make them more engaging.

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