Monday Question – Your Top Five Part II: Music

Last week we talked about your Top Five list of favorite books. This week Part II takes us to the world of music.

What are your Top Five pieces of music of all time?

question-markMy Answer:

When I think about an all-time favorite list, I always end up with classical pieces only. My taste for contemporary music is much more variable and changeable. But these pieces have stood the test of time, and obviously not only for me. The following have accompanied me since my violin-playing days of youth. I tend to favour music I have played myself, because only then do I have the feeling I know the piece from “inside”. There is no better feeling…

1. Antonin Dvorák: String Quartet N°12 in F major “American” – A thoroughly modern piece, this quartet has fantastic rhythms and unforgettable melodies. I played this with my string quartet at a competition when we were sixteen. We didn’t win because others were better technically, but musically we totally blew them all out of the water with our interpretation of the second movement. In hindsight, a wonder for four kids that young. It must have been sheer enthusiasm and love for the music that propelled us. Still my absolute favorite piece of chamber music.



2. Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony N°6 in F major “Pastorale” – the best and maybe most famous example of programme music, the Pastorale is uplifting and joyful, even when the thunderstorm comes.



Also, the third movement has the best oboe solo. I adore the oboe. The second clip is just the third movement, called “Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Merry gathering of country folk)” for its fantastic oboe solo:



3. Antonio VivaldiNulla in mundo pax sincera (RV 630) – church music is fabulous. To be honest (and trusting that my dear mother does not read this blog), it is the reason I made it to church every Sunday when I was a child. There was a very active choir and orchestra in our church so I had the pleasure of at first sitting through, later participating in the many great works Bach, Vivaldi, Händel, Mozart, Schubert and Haydn wrote for the church. I wish I could sing like that.



4. Camille Saint-Saëns: La Carnavale des Animaux – Sheer fun! Saint-Saëns was a pianist and this was his way to make fun of pianists and at the same time challenge them to give their best. This is hard on the two pianists and total fun for the orchestra. I remember enjoying myself tremendously as a “squirrel”. There is a German text to accompany the music by Loriot, which is very funny and witty. In English something similar has been written by the poet Ogden Nash. But there are also serious pieces in the carnival. The Swan, a devastatingly beautiful cello and piano piece, was performed in church at my wedding. Everybody cried. 🙂



5. Giacomo Puccini: Nessun Dorma, Aria from Turandot – A good, swashbuckling tenor aria is hard to beat. I included the Three Tenors, because this is truly one of the great musical moments of our lifetime. Although we all know Pavarotti was in a league of his own… 😉



I had the hardest time picking the fifth piece. What to include, what to leave out? I must say I had a fabulous evening though, trying to decide and narrow it down. I picked Nessun Dorma because it always, always makes my soul soar with joy. Vincero, indeed.

Honorable mentions: Maurice Ravel Bolero, Robert Schumann Symphony N°3 e-flat major “Rheinische”, Antonio Vivaldi The Four Seasons, Johannes Brahms Hungarian Dance N°5, W. A. Mozart: KrönungsmesseCoronation Mass (Mass No. 15 in C major, KV 317);

To go out in a blaze of glory, here is Brahm’s Hungarian Dance N°5, my son Paul’s favorite music.



I can’t wait to hear (literally this time!) your favorites. You can imbed a youtube video in the comments (just paste the link). That might make the spam detectors of wordpress a bit nervous, so if your comment doesn’t appear right away, it may have been temporarily spammed, I will then have to approve it and it’ll appear.

So, please, let’s hear it for your Top Five of music!


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63 Responses to Monday Question – Your Top Five Part II: Music

  1. haefennasiel says:

    Oh dear, this is a very hard question to answer! I tend to like certain types of music or certain singers, musicians or bands. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for 80s music, so I never get tired of listening to Queen, the Eurythmics (Annie Lennox is my favorite female singer of that decade, not Madonna) and Duran Duran. I’m also very partial to Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson’s earlier songs.

  2. Alice says:

    Very difficult question, as I love many kinds of music, but here are some all-time favourites:
    Benjamin Britten – Billy Budd
    Michael Nyman – soundtrack to Prospero’s Books
    Eleni Karaindrou – soundtrack to The Beekeeper
    Tom Waits – Asylum Years (especially Grapefuit Moon)
    Capercaillie – Derilium (especially Rann Na Móna) – love all their albums

    Rann Na Móna:

  3. ladywinther says:

    Woha, this one’s even worse than the books! Beeing trained as a classical soprano, I could easily list most of that repertoire, but thet would be unfair, so here I go…I think…

    1: Mozart was my very first experience with classical music. My dad was a huge fan, and the first pieces I can remenber listening to, was “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” (I know that one by heart) and “Die Zauberflöte” I wanted to be the Queen of the Night…There is SO much to choose from,but one of my top favourites is the 2. movement from the Clarinet concerto. It used to be my ” put on some music and cry”-piece when I was a teenager and it still works. Here pleyed by the magnificent swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst.

    2: Puccini- no doubt my favourite opera composer. La Boheme is my favourite opera, but my favourite ARIA is “Visi d’Arte” from “Tosca”, here sung by the fantastic Renee Fleming:

    3: Church music. Have done so many of the classical oratorios and masses over the years, and LOVE Mozart¨s Requiem, Brahms’ Requiem and Beethovens mass in B minor, but without a doubt Bach is the emperor of church music, the st.John Passion one of his major choral works, and the voice of Damien Guillon in “Erbarme Dich” makes me shaky and wishing I was a religious person:

    4: Bach again…the suites for cello solo. I coose the 1st movement from the suite, played by Yo-Yo Ma:

    5: The solo piano….and Chopin. The Fantasie-impromptu no 66 by Vladimir Horowitz:

    Honorable mentions: Mozart clarinet quintet, Schubert, almost all his works for solo piano, Schubert’s song cycles, his Octet….Richard Strauss “Vier Letzte Lieder”, Elgar’s cello concerto…..and The Beatles!

  4. Sandra says:

    This is a difficult question and I will answer mainly classical because it is timeless and is aging together with me. There are so many pieces which I love, but I reach for these most often.
    1. Brahms Violinkonzert D-dur op 77
    2. Verdi – Il Trovatore
    3. Handel Messiah
    4. Vivaldi Concerti per fagotto
    5. Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A
    Outside of the classical genre I reach for a whole variety of music such as Abba, Queen, latin music and several country singers.

  5. Jane EP says:

    Another great list Birgit :).

    Bruce Springsteen, The River –
    Van Morrison, Madame George –
    The Chieftans, Raglan Road (the words are so beautiful) –
    The Storys, Town Beyond the Trees –
    Damien Rice, I Remember –

    I have to sneak in Steve Balsamo’s Gethsemane as well ..
    … and Thomas Dybdahl’s American Trilogy –

    All of these mean such a lot to me, mark some key events of my life, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them at many live gigs too.

  6. Lady Jane Grey says:

    If it’s about music then I’m an old soul :
    Pink Floyd (quite everything, but if it’s about the LP for the uninhabited island then let’s take Wish you Were Here)
    David Bowie – Space Oddity
    Peter Gabriel w. Kate Bush – Don’t Give Up (so I have 2 of my favorits together)
    Keith Jarret – The Köln Concert (because it took me to Jazz when I was 18)
    Jan Garbarek – All Those Born with Wings

    Honorable :
    J.S.Bach – Brandenburg Concerts (and pretty much everything by Johann Sebastian)
    Arvo Pärt – Adam’s Lament
    Talvin Singh – OK
    Visage – Fade to Grey (I loved the 80s!)
    Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

    • Tara says:

      I love that you’ve choosen Fade to Grey! The 80s wasn’t all bad 🙂

      • Lady Jane Grey says:

        Oh no, not at all ! I’m very much a fan of the 80s (I remember wearing the shoulder pads in my shirt, plus in the jacket – can you imagine ?! 🙂 I loved them all : Ultravox, Duran Duran, Soft Cell, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Adam Ant – oh, I was so young and beautyful! )

    • Olfactoria says:

      Such a diverse list! Love it! Thank you.

  7. Asali says:

    Wonderful pieces you’ve chosen Birgit. I just can’t choose five, not even just five composers. I also tried within genres, but no, just impossible… So I’m sorry, but no list from me 🙂 I enjoy reading the comments though.

  8. shellyw says:

    1. I love Peter Gabriel’s work, most of the So album (currently being played in the back to front tour). He recently re-did the original tour in the states and is now doing it in Europe. In Your Eyes being one of many to get lost in…

    2. I am also partial to Mozart and Faure requiems from choir days.

    3. NIckel Creek, new blue grass

    4. mostly these days I am an NPR junkie so not much in the way of new tunes

    my attempt to link below.

  9. Lovely idea Birgit,
    I’m going to give you 5 pieces that make me smile every time I hear them.
    Can You Feel It – Jackson 5
    The Four Seasons – Vivaldi
    Que Sera Sera – Doris Day
    Moulin Rouge Soundtrack
    Enough is Enough – Donna Summer + Barbra Streisand
    I know, hardly highbrow.
    Portia xx

  10. cookie queen says:

    Five tracks that helped to shape me.

    House of Dreadlocks – Big Youth
    White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
    Clampdown – The Clash
    Dirty Old Town – The Pogues
    Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
    Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

    Whoops. Was that 6?

  11. Tomate Farcie says:

    love this!

    1. John Coltrane, My Favorite Things
    2. Elmer Bernstein To Kill a Mockingbird film score
    3. Monteverdi, Vespers
    4. Ella Fitzgerald, Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)
    5. Miles Davis, My Funny Valentine

    and my honorable mentions, Frank Sinatra, You Make Me Feel So Young and Fairuz, Li Beirut

  12. Johanob says:

    1.Mike Oldfield-Man in the Rain
    2.Maggie Reilly-Angel Tears(lovelove)
    3.Kate Bush-Oh!To be in Love(the strangest song ever,but so gorgeous)
    4.The whole PORTRAIT OF A LADY soundtrack.
    5.Ravel-Bolero,in its full glory!
    I have to add n 6th,Kate Bush-Wild Man(the story of some mountaineers finding n Yeti’s tracks in the snow…quirky,LOVE!!)

  13. Johanob says:

    ► 4:10► 4:10…
    Oct 11, 2011 KATE BUSH WILD MAN!Enjoy!(She’s an acquired taste…lol!)

  14. Vanessa says:

    Too hard, way too much of The Monochrome Set in my selection! Seriously though, I like a wide range of music from William Byrd through to Poulenc and Steve Reich, and everything from Genesis to ECM jazz and folk. I don’t care for country, rap and reggae particularly, or garage or thrash death goth metal or acid house or brass bands. That might be an easier way to put it. But five selections of music across all genres? That would take me a long time to figure out, and still probably be wrong…;)

  15. jdennard75 says:

    I loved your picks of Dvorak, Vivaldi, and Mozart, Birgit. Those are definitely among my favourites. I love orchestral music. Another great love of mine is acoustic music- whether it’s pop, rock, bluegrass. A few examples.

    Gregory Alan Isakov- “The Stable Song” This is probably my favourite song. The fiddle and violin solo at about the 3:30 mark is so beautiful to me.

    The Beatles- “Blackbird”- a spare and pretty song by the Fab Four.

    Alison Krauss- “When You Say Nothing At All”- Her cover of this song originally written by Keith Whitley. A simple, sweet, love song.

  16. Jordan River says:

    This video shows an interpretation of ‘Bach mind’. Usually a piano concerto, this had been reconfigured as a violin piece. I will be poppin’ over to Vienna to hear Olfactoria play this piece, oneday, someday.

    Great post concept. I will be back nightly to listen to the selections of the other commentators.

  17. Undina says:

    I’m not a huge music fan in general but I like many classical pieces – all the “usual suspects” so I won’t even attempt to list them. Instead I’ll share with you several contemporary songs that I really like.
    Et si tu n’existais pas – Joe Dassin (I loved it even before I knew what he was singing about – it’s a very romantic song even without the words ; -) )
    Enjoy Yourself – Louis Prima and Keely Smith (it was used as a soundtrack in the season finale episode of House M.D.)
    Russian Dance – Tom Waits (great stylization!)
    Ghost of Stephen Foster – Squirrel Nut Zippers (I like both the song and the cartoon they made for it – unlike the links above, this is the original video that came with the song)
    Cell Block Tango from Chicago (I like most songs from this musical – the movie version – but this one is probably my favorite)

  18. OK this is way too difficult a question for a music lover and the only way I can do this is to break it down into categories so .. I had to check Spotify to see what I played frequently as a bit of a cheat.

    Top 5 Cooking Dinner tunes:

    Sometimes Always – The Jesus and Mary Chain with Hope Sandoval aka Mazzy Star
    Try A Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
    Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
    You’ve Got The Dirtee Love – Florence And The Machine and Dizzee Rascal
    Inspector Norse – Todd Terje

    PS I also played the violin for 10 years but gave it up as soon as I started university (which I regret slightly now).

  19. sugandaraja says:

    1. Messiaen: a tie between L’Ascension ( original orchestral version, not the organ suite ) and Éclairs sur l’au-delà… The first is a youthful work full of enthusiasm and bold vision, the latter an achingly drawn own meditation on similar musical ideas more than fifty years later. The two slow movements for strings ( Demeurer dans l’Amour and Prière du Christ montant vers son Père ) are almost one linked movement across time.

    3. Stravinsky: Rite of Spring. Revolutionary in all senses.

    4. Strauss: Capriccio. My favorite opera, and the perfect summation of operas in general, as well.

    5. Ligeti: Piano Etudes. The ultimate work of rhythm and meter… the fast movements are bogglingly alien and complex yet still make me want to dance out of my skin.

  20. Pingback: Monday Question – Your Top Five Part III: Movies | Olfactoria's Travels

  21. arline says:

    I am late to this list, and I must say, that I have eclectic taste in music. I am not a pop music fan though.

    I love almost anything by Zoe Keating (she is an experimental cellist, and does beautiful things with layering)

    I like a lot of electronic music (not techno so much, but there is a lot of good stuff out there)

    Love 80’s post punk and new wave. I don’t want to choose a fav here, but “The The” would be a contender

    I love the Elgar Concerto. with Jacqueline du pre (I guess I am an intense person)

    I love Vavaldi too though, so Im not completely intense. 🙂

    (again, I wonder what perfumes would go with all of these sounds)

  22. Pingback: Monday Question – Your Top Five Part IV: Favorite Things | Olfactoria's Travels

  23. Pingback: Monday Question – Your Top Five Part V: Perfumes | Olfactoria's Travels

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