The Well-Tempered Ear

Yes, classical music critics cry too: What pieces make you cry? Try these. | April 22, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

There we were, in the lobby of the concert hall, waiting to go hear Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

If you listen carefully, I joked, you’ll probably hear me sobbing at the end of the 18th Variation, a wonderfully lyrical several minutes that mark the end of the slow movement and has such a beautiful theme that French pianist Philippe Bianconi played so perfectly.

You mean even you, a music critic, cries?” asked one of the friends we were with.

Yes, I said, yes I do cry. Often.

In fact, the ability to make me cry is one of the things that draws me to classical music – though not by any means the only thing — and to certain pieces again and again. It feels good to cry at beauty – cathartic and at once communal and intimate.

The incident got me to thinking and I started making a list of the classical music that almost always makes me cry – though that is hardly the only criterion for choosing favorite pieces.

Why do I cry? Is it genetic or nervous system hard wiring? Is it social conditioning? It is a formative childhood experience? I honestly don’t know, though I suspect all play a role.

And it’s not just classical music. Certain pop and rock songs do it too. And hearing people sing “We Shall Overcome” always does it.

But here is a listing of some of the classical pieces that make this critic cry—almost every time:

The Andante movement from J.S Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Minor and cantata aria “Ich habe genug”; Samuel Barber’s “Adagio” for Strings; Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto (the slow movement); Brahms’ “Selig sind die Toten” from his “German” Requiem and the slow movement from his Violin Sonata No. 3; the slow movement from Chopin’s Sonata No. 3; Sir Edward Elgar’s “Nimrod” Variation from the “Enigma” Variations; Mozart’s Requiem and the first two movements of his last Piano Concerto, No. 27; Puccini’s “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca” and “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot” and the opening duet from “La Boheme”; the 18th Variation from Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” and the finale of his Piano Concerto No. 3; the second movement of Schumann’s “Kreisleriana”; and the “Love Death” from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.”

There are lots more, I’m sure. Maybe as they come to me, I will write about them.

In the mean time, here are some audio samples of the beautiful music that makes me cry:

First, here is Arthur Rubinstein playing that same 18th Variation with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner. It is, as one commenter says on YouTube, both passionate and delicate. Try it and see.

Then here is a purely instrumental piece: the “Nimrod” Variation from Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its last music director Daniel Barenboim in a Carnegie Hall:

It was also used by Ken Burns in his documentary about World War II. But I loved it before then. I heard the CSO play it as a tribute to their longtime cellist who had recently died. That’s was a perfect piece for the occasion and made me ask the Lawrence University Orchestra to perform it for my 40th reunion in honor of those classmates who are no longer with us. They did and it was perfect. It worked again.

And finally, here is superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti singing Puccini’s “Nessun dorma” from “Turandot” with the Met’s James Levine conducting in Paris. It was Pavarotti’s signature and no one before or since has done it like him. It works every time, from the first time I heard it – played as background against bombers dropping bombs in the film “The Killing Fields” — to the last Olympics Pavarotti sang in before he died.

Does classical music ever make you cry?

What pieces of classical music make you cry?

Let me know. I am anxious to expand my experience.

And The Ear wants to hear – as well as cry.


Posted in Classical music

136 Comments »

  1. The St Matthew Passion. Gets me every time, even at work. What a truly powerful piece of music. It absolutely floors me.

    Comment by Peter — October 23, 2018 @ 2:38 pm

  2. The Offertory from Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass has me in tears every time. It really showed when I played it as a duet for organ, four hands, with my church’s organist; truly a remarkable tune.

    Comment by colesglasshutch — September 8, 2017 @ 10:09 pm

  3. Just put the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor) on and I’m done. That beautiful melody leaves me in tears. I don’t know why.

    Comment by Lou Joszai — May 4, 2017 @ 2:09 pm

  4. I must say I cried in a Puccini concert, while listening to “coro a boca chiusa”. Cecilia Bartoli’s interpretation of “Gelido in Ogni Vena” maskes me shiver…

    Comment by Margarida Pereira — May 3, 2017 @ 10:53 am

  5. While there are many beautiful classical pieces that bring out my emotions, none can compete with Richard Strauss’ Tod und Verklarung (“Death and Transfiguration”). At the end, listening as the old man’s soul is rising up to heaven is just too much for me. And, according to legend, Strauss – on his own deathbed – told his daughter-in-law that what he was experiencing was “just like his music”! THAT is INCREDIBLE!

    Comment by Bill Hebenstreit — March 31, 2017 @ 8:40 pm

  6. The second movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
    Always fall to pieces.
    I suppose it’s archetypal Beethoven: the light moving seamlessly into power. As if I’m being played with.
    And the timpani. Shakes your core.
    I adore this music.

    Comment by Lindsay Skyrme — October 8, 2016 @ 8:31 am

  7. Why oh why can’t I find a soul to attend this glorious music with me? I live in a rural area a half-hours drive from Lansing Mich. and surely wish I had someone to attend this music that carries me beyond my mind. I taught school for over 30 years, played the most lovely instrument the French Horn in high school, and now in a New Horizons Band for older folks. But I have no one to share this magnificent music with. What a shame. My husband who was also carried away with my music passed away 4 years ago. Sorry to amble on—–it’s just my wish.

    Comment by L. Swan — September 4, 2016 @ 4:47 am

  8. I was at my daughter”s piano recital,different I know,I was feeling kind of foolish to be fighting back tears but this made me feel validated. Something about the beautiful music on the grand piano, our brave young performers , our lovely friends in the small audience. Music does indeed touch our souls.

    Comment by Lucy — July 30, 2016 @ 12:30 am

  9. Reminds me the feeling I get whenever I hear “Enamorada” by Amaral.

    Comment by Emanuel — May 6, 2016 @ 12:30 am

  10. I find this article arouses me to an emotional live concert memory. Besides the above suggested classical music works, another majoy factor for me to drop my tears in concert is the power of the performer, two days ago I was in a piano concert, the interpretation of the young pianist leads audience emotions, no matter which works he plays, the music kept speaking to your inner heart, a group of audience kept droping tears during and after the concert. The tears are a natural reflection of the beauty music that he makes. It was such a miracle intimate experience in a once lifetime.

    Kit Chan

    Comment by Kit Chan — March 17, 2016 @ 3:35 am

  11. There’s this Japanese song called Unravel and is used in an anime named Tokyo Ghoul that I really liked. It’s a modern song but I always thought the words were lovely. Even the rhythm! Recently, I’ve ran across this man who calls himself Animenz that played the song on the piano and before I knew it, I had tears streaming down my face. I could feel the emotions pouring out of the keys he played. I didn’t think it was possible, but he made it sound even more beautiful on the piano. It gave me some very intense feelings. Every time I listen, it truly does get me each time. It’s not classical but it sounds beautiful on the piano. I really wish it was appreciated more.

    Also, yet another another Japanese song I ran across called Glassy Sky and is played by Theister. I believe he does pieces with Animenz (I’m not really sure though). It was my first time hearing a piece by Theister. Once again, another man makes me sob because of the way he played the piano. I don’t find it as intense as Unravel because I know the backstory to that song (I’m a fan of the manga) so I could feel the intensity of feeling torn and lost. While as Glassy Sky has a softer melody and few intense parts in the piece. But those few intense parts always make my heart ache. I cry each time I listen to them play. No words can describe the feelings I get when I listen, to put it simply.

    Again, I wouldn’t really consider this classical music but the way these men played melted my heart. If you appreciate the piano and classical music, I’m certain you’d appreciate the lovely sounds these men produced. I know this is completely different! I may be a little crazy for crying to these songs but I love the pieces so much, I thought to share my thoughts. Thank you!

    Comment by Bunny — March 15, 2016 @ 3:19 am

  12. That’s a great list. I would add – because it just happened to me! – the slow movement to Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto. It moved my heart. I was caught up in the moment, and was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the music, that I wept with joy. Someone I know said something to the effect that there’s rno logical reason God created music. Without it, we could live life just fine. But music is a luxurious gift that adds so much color, and spice, and magic to life -?an extravagant gift, from the creativity of the one who made the universe.

    Einstein found Mozart’s music so pure, and yet so profound, that it seemed to him the stuff that holds together the universe. Einstein – theoretical physicist – speaking like me, an English major. 😊 Thanks for this post.

    Comment by SallyMJ — January 29, 2016 @ 1:17 am

  13. I wasn’t able to read through all of the replies/comments , so some of my “crying” pieces (beyond many that I did see mentioned) are:

    Faure’s Requiem – any part of it may bring tears to my eyes, but the build up to and the moment of the louder “Hosannas” will do it as well as the soprano’s “Pie Jesu” and of course the final “In Paradisum.”

    Finzi’s Ecologue for Piano and Strings, op. 10

    Handel’s Theodora – New Scenes of Joy Come Crowding On, aria for IreneBellini

    Handel’s Hercules – My Breast With Tender Pity Swells – aria for Iole

    Richard Strauss’ – Four Last Songs

    J.S. Bach’s – Concerto for 2 Pianos (Harpsichords) in C minor, BWV 1060 – have never heard a more memorable recording than the one by Robert & Gaby Casadesus

    Brahms’ – Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, Andante

    Schubert’s – Symphony No. 9 C Major ‘The Great”

    Bellini’s I Puritani – The “Mad Scene”

    Vivladi’s Concerto For Lute, 2 Violins And Continuo In D, RV.93 – 2. Largo

    Copland’s Eight Poems Of Emily Dickinson:- Heart, We Will Forget Him!

    Comment by Thomas Moody — January 4, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

  14. I’m pleased to see that Brooke from the comments below finds Tchaikovsky’s Pas de Deux moving too. I love going to see the Nutcracker ballet performed but have a hard time controlling my emotions – I will have a little cry to myself at different points throughout (e.g. the Waltz of the Snowflakes) but come the Pas de Deux… well, my Kleenex box comes out.

    Comment by Larisa — November 7, 2015 @ 4:55 am

  15. I’m a combat vet USMC of OIF 07 and some of Bach’s music makes me cry. Hardly anything else will, but Bach makes me feel. It’s a good kind of cry listening to Bach though, a productive one, not a destructive kind.

    Comment by Rex D. — October 19, 2015 @ 12:00 am

  16. The second movement of Schubert’s Piano Sonata Op. 120 in A Major, Tchaikovsky’s Pas de deux from the Nutcracker, The Funeral March from Chopin’s 2nd Piano Sonata ( I think many people don’t realize how beautiful it is when you get past the familiar first theme.), Chopin’s 4th Ballade, Mendelssohn’s Op. 20 Octet (1st mvt), Chadwick’s Symphonic Sketches II (Noel) and Liszt’s B Minor Sonata.

    Comment by Brooke — September 12, 2015 @ 3:40 pm

  17. If there’s one piece of non-classical music that has always invariably made me cry, it is the ending soundtrack of the movie Cinema Paradiso (the one’s that played in the final scene), composed by Ennio Morricone.

    Comment by Debojyoti — June 14, 2015 @ 11:12 am

  18. I am so glad to have stumbled upon this website; I thought I was an authentic weirdo!! It’s so reassuring to know that I am not alone.
    I consider myself a sensitive ‘new age’ guy, and I am a classically trained musician, but even so I have been feeling so ‘abnormal’ recently, because listening to certain classical pieces, I find my eyes suddenly start to well up and I have the the urge to suddenly start bawling!!
    This can be triggered by certain harmonies, even single chords with particular orchestration; these are things which, inexplicably, effect me enormously, Countless works by Bach elicit this reaction, as do pieces by Handel, Brahms, Mozart, Prokofiev, Shostakovitch, Malcolm Arnold, and especially Puccini.
    I frequently have to dry my eyes when listening to classical music, and have to hide this from those around me who just wouldn’t understand!

    Comment by Michael — April 26, 2015 @ 8:24 am

  19. Mahler’s third movement of his 4th symphony. About 5 and a quarter minutes in, I tear up.

    Comment by stan — April 15, 2015 @ 4:17 am

  20. I’ve been scrolling through this page a lot the last few weeks. Found some incredible suggestions that made me blink a tear away now and then, thanks for that!
    I am a french horn player myself in a classical orchestra so ófcourse the instrument moves me maybe more than others. Here are some pieces which get me a little lip quiver.

    Alexander Glazunov, Reverie in D flat, op. 24 (Andantino). Very moving french horn piece.

    R. Strauss, 1st Horn Concert, especially the second movement (andante). Ever since I was a child I’ve always imagined how this piece could be an example of someones course of life.

    Franz Strauss, Nocturne, Op. 7

    Mahler’s 5th, IV. Adagietto. Simply one of the best.

    Puccini’s La Rondine, Chi il bel sogno di Doretta, I’m not an opera fan to be honest but this piece moves me somehow.

    Erik Satie, Gnossiene no.1: Lent. Probably already posted around here, very depressing now and then.

    Nearer, My God, To Thee, yes the Titanic movement, don’t blame me haha 😉

    D. Bortniansky, Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe. Not very classical but search the web for a brass recital, for example by Brassmen.

    John Williams’ score for Saving Private Ryan has got some brilliant tracks, but then again that’s because I’m a brass player. ‘Hymn to the Fallen’ and ‘the Last Battle’ are very moving, even more when I imagine the horrifying pictures of war with it. Can’t stop sobbing on these parts. Sorry for the modern-classical suggestion here!

    Comment by Roger — March 20, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

    • Forgot about Sibelius’ Petite Suite, Andantino, Minuet for Brass Septet.

      Comment by Roger — March 20, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  21. The first piece to make me cry was Bach’s 1st cello suite (I cried at the end of the Prelude an at the end of the composition). I’ve also cried listenin to Claire de Lune, Brahms’ 1st Symphony, and Sibelius’ Karelia Suite (I played this in youth orchestra, cried at the end). I’ve gotten teary eyes with quite a few, but I’ve entirely lost it with the listed musical compositions.

    Comment by Will — March 13, 2015 @ 9:40 pm

    • Sibelius’ Karelia suite for me as well (and I also played it in youth orchestra!).

      Comment by Rachel — March 14, 2015 @ 7:47 am

      • And agreed on Bach’s Prelude to the 1st cello suite, of course. Another one that I cried while playing!

        Comment by Rachel — March 15, 2015 @ 8:24 am

  22. Elgar: Serenade for Strings (four-hankie piece for sure)

    Dvorak: Serenade for strings (2.5 hankies)

    Borodin: string quartet #1

    Mahler: Symphony 2, 4, 9 (probably others)

    Handel: Messiah (& many more)

    Haydn: Some piano sonatas

    Janacek: On An Overgrown Path(solo piano)

    Victoria: Agnus Dei from Missa O Quam Gloriosa (buckets)

    Sheppard: In Manus Tuas

    Ken S

    Comment by Ken Smith — February 13, 2015 @ 11:44 pm

    • Loved that hankie comment, Ken! Dvorak’s serenade for strings is the bomb!!

      Comment by Lucia — February 14, 2015 @ 12:07 am

  23. I love Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise. I have heard it as a horn solo with piano accompaniment and in other settings and with other solo instruments too. The melody just does something to me. I agree with many other pieces mentioned. Music has the ability to transport me from this earth in a way that is unlike anything else.

    Comment by Beth — February 2, 2015 @ 5:18 pm

    • I love that piece too.
      And I completely agree with you about music carrying me away.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 2, 2015 @ 9:50 pm

  24. One musical piece that never fails to bring me too tears is, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. (It must be played by the Jean-François Paillard Orchestra, they do it the best) I’ve got no idea why I cry whenever I hear this piece, but I do.

    Comment by Sam Salibi — October 6, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

  25. I didn’t cry, but tears were actually in the edge of my eyes (almost cried). That was when I went to classical music concert and they played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Specifically, it was the 3rd movement that brought tears to my eyes. I never knew a music would do such a thing to me.
    But now I know it is worth it to cry over beautiful things 🙂

    Comment by Shabrina — July 24, 2014 @ 8:37 am

  26. For me, it’s not just slow, sentimental, lyrical or sad music that makes me cry. I cry when music makes me happy. That’s why it can be classical or soundtracks or disco or any other genre. For example, I find it hard not to cry listening to John Adams’s “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” or Eddie Holman’s “This Will be a Night to Remember” and there’s nothing sad or lyrical about either of those pieces. But I just love both of them to death.

    Comment by Alan — June 27, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

  27. While I was coming back from lunch the local classical station was in the middle of the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I always get a catch in my throat during the transition of the Third and Fouth movements. The Fouth movement had just started when I pulled into the parking lot at work. Needless to say, I took an extra few minutes to revel in the majesty. Thanks for such a wonderful site.
    Cheers,
    Jon

    Comment by Jon — January 14, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

  28. Mozart – Requiem – Lacrimosa hauntingly beautiful..

    Comment by KEP — December 21, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    • The Finale – ‘Let us sleep now ‘ of Britten’s War Requiem is the saddest piece imaginable. I can’t go to this work with a friend and want to cry alone.

      Comment by Malcolm — March 22, 2014 @ 5:03 am

      • Hi Malcolm,
        Thank you for reading and replying.
        You are right on target, so to speak, though I feel the very opening — “What Bell Tolls for These Who Die lIke Cattle,” I believe — is also unbearably moving in sound and text.
        Th whole War Requiem is one of the greatest musical achievements of the 20th century.
        Others can have Schoenberg and his colleagues Berg and Webern.
        Britten beats them all.
        It is good and cathartic to cry. It means the music is speaking directly to your heart — as great music should.
        So continued good listening, and I wonder what other pieces you react similarly to?
        Let us know if you want.
        Best wishes,
        Jake aka The Ear

        Comment by welltemperedear — March 22, 2014 @ 6:07 am

  29. There are so many songs from different genres, not just classical, but also metal, rock, and folk, that make me cry. But the reason I found this webpage just now is that I was learning to play a beautiful cello solo from the symphonic metal band Nightwish’s song “Poet and the Pendulum” (the solo starts at around 4:20), and I started weeping, tears running down my face, while playing. So I looked up whether other people cry while playing cello, and I found this site!

    Comment by rachel — December 18, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

  30. I know that my soul also resonates with the classical works everyone has named , I feel that we are drawn to the ever loving surge of human emotion when we hear the sounds that best reminds us of the spiritual paradise we resonate from , words cannot even begin to encompass this energy but be it classical music that describes this home our soul remembers , and tears of happiness ,sorrow ,joy ,love and inspiration overcome me !
    That’s just the feeling i get .I know it may sound funny to some of you ,but something tells me that these are the notes of architecture that we’ve known as long as the beginning of time.
    I also loved hardcore rock ,rap ,r&b ,punk ,grunge and metal . I started listening to classical music in my early 30s now mid 30s it’s all listen to when I have time in the car or at night . I can’t describe why I just feel it just matters most in my life to find a wholeness and I was never exposed to the classics as a child . My parents were dead heads .
    Anyway thanks for reading …… J

    Comment by Jason — October 15, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

    • Thank you Jacob. I have just started to try to find the reason that many of us start to cry at certain parts of music. It seems to make no sense, but it happens. The fact that certain parts of certain music cause this reaction must mean something, surely.

      Nimrod, seems to be the piece most causing of tears.

      Comment by Janferie Barnwell — November 29, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  31. Hi, I just googled “nimrod elgar makes me cry” and came here , the reason is that almost every time it does tear me up, here I am sitting at the office trying not to get noticed with tears in my eyes. It’s a real comfort to find this page and find out that I’m not alone in this 🙂
    I am in my early thirties, and I’ve been listening to music since my late teens, I just suddenly shifted from hard rock and heavy metal bands to film soundtracks then to classical music to my own amazement and my friends 🙂 I feel It’s a freedom to listen to music and apply it to a story that your mind just creates as opposed to song.
    I know you guys will laugh at this but there is a piece of music by Hans Zimmer from the movie “The thin red line” called “light” It tears me up because I remember the scene where the title character played by Jim caviezel dies at the end and just goes to a form of heaven imagined by Terrance Malik. It just gets me.
    Love this page

    Comment by A.G — August 31, 2013 @ 6:17 am

    • Hi A.G.,
      Thank you for reading my blog and then offering your heartfelt reply.
      Nobody is going to laugh at you.
      The important thing is to find music, or any art, that holds special meaning for you.
      I also seem hardwired to weep at Nimrod and other works.
      Who knows why?
      But I am glad I do.
      And I am happy that you have made the kong journey from pop and rock to classical music.
      Welcome home.
      The classical music world is a very big and very deep one, with so much to offer all of us.
      I look forward to hearing from you again in the future.
      Best wishes,
      The Ear (aka Jake)

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 31, 2013 @ 9:05 am

      • Ha, I need to post again. Brahms’s number 2 of the Six Piano Pieces (op. 118) NEVER fails. If it catches me at work, I hope no one knocks my door because I am going to have tears rolling down my face.

        And Chopin’s sonata #3. I think it’s one of the most extraordinary things ever written. I may not cry because it’s so restrained, but I do feel a knot in my throat.

        As for soundtracks… many scores are sublime. I still remember many years ago I was dusting my house and I was listening to this CD by the London Symphony with John Williams playing Oscar winners and I found myself crying with the suite from the Wizard of Oz. That violin solo was amazing. And if you have seen Cinema Paradiso, the scene with all the clips is very poignant, but it’s Morricone’s score what makes you cry like a baby. I’m still wondering how he didn’t win the Oscar for that score.

        Comment by Lucia — August 31, 2013 @ 10:28 am

      • Hi Lucia,
        I agree with you about the Brahms Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2– very moving piece. And not too hard to play — at least for Brahms.
        I too love the Chopin Third Sonata, especially the second theme of the slow movement. Talk about heart-breaking! I play a lot of Chopin and love his works, but I wish I had the chops to play that one.
        Some soundtracks also get to me — Cinema Paradiso is one, another is Brokeback Mountain. I find they are sometimes linked to the story or characters.
        Thank you for reading and replying.
        Best,
        The Ear (Jake)

        Comment by welltemperedear — August 31, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  32. Hi, I love it when I’m moved to tears listening to music. It overwhelms my usual hard focus on just living life and doing what I need to do in a given day.

    This song in particular always moves me to cry at its beauty. I’m not religious, but I feel this song is as close to true spirituality as one can get. I hope you listen to it with your eyes closed and your heart open.

    S. Rachmaninov, “Mother of God, Virgin full of grace”

    Leo F

    Comment by Leo — June 29, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

    • Thanks
      I actually meant laugh cause I was referring to a soundtrack other than classical music. My father’s friends a couple actually who are experts when it comes to classical music, well they don’t have the same look at movie soundtracks the way they value classical music. For me, I believe than some soundtracks are really good, the works of hans zimmer for instance and can have the same effect on people as the classics do,

      Comment by A.G — August 31, 2013 @ 9:45 am

      • oh sorry, replied to the wrong comment

        Comment by A.G — August 31, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  33. I’m so glad I found this article, I was surfing around trying to find out if it is normal to cry when I hear certain types of music, and I don’t mean just tear up, I mean full on crying, but not from hurt. Only when I listen to classical with piano, violin, strings…. I thought it had something to do with my bipolar disorder. I mean I still don’t have an answer, but I feel better knowing I;m not crazy. 🙂 I try to get my friends to listen, I describe it , but they don’t hear it I guess. I wish I could find a reason why some people are this way……

    Comment by Renee' — June 27, 2013 @ 1:16 am

  34. Adagio For Strings never fails to make me cry, it’s a hauntingly beautiful and poignant composition able to take any listener on a cathartic journey which is why it still resonates with people. This flawless Samuel Barber piece was only revived for a modern audience back in the early 2000s and, despite being an obligatory techno anthem these days, I still blub at how melancholy it still is. I’m no great follower of classical music but there’s something about the eight minutes or so of hearing it that brings me to a state of great sorrow.

    Comment by Dan — June 20, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  35. My cheeks are sodden as I write this comment.
    Below is a list of pieces could be safely considered my ‘go-to’ buttons if I’d wish to have some happy tears in my eyes.

    1. Franz Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, his Great Symphony

    2. Beethoven’s Appasionata, Hammerklavier 3rd Movement, his 7th Piano Sonata 2be mvt. Pastoral Symphony 5th Piano Concerto Moonlight Sonata, 21st Piano Sonata 17th Piano Sonata; 5th Symphony 1st Mvt.

    3. Mozart’s 21 Piano Sonata Andante; Violin Sonata K.378; Clarinet Concerto Adagio; Flute And Harp Concerto;

    4. Tchaikovsky: 5th Symphony 2nd Mvt. 6th Symphony 3rd symphony Violin Concerto in D major; Nocturne Op. 19, No. 4; 1812 Festival Overture

    5. Scott Joplin’s Solace

    6. Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto 1st Mvt. his 2nd Piano Concerto;

    7. Chopin’s Nocturne No.2; Variations on La Ci Darem La Mano; Rondo a la krakowiak; Raindrop prelude; 3rd Etude

    8. Antonin Dvorak’s 9th symphony largo

    I hope this list helps you add some of the most incredibly beautiful pieces to your current list.

    Comment by Rohit — May 29, 2013 @ 12:01 am

    • I cried for about an hour while listening to SCHUBERT: PIANO TRIO IN E-FLAT, second movement. I listen to hip hop not classical. And Today Saturday I went and worked out in this beautiful weather. Then I got home, showered and chilled watching a movie. Then bam, bam — I heard it. I went straight to Google it and, man, I thought I had issues thinking I’m going COCO in the head. I cried and kept crying until my girl came back home 🙂 straight to the bathroom to clean up and put the man suit on 🙂 our secret

      Comment by Ben — June 29, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  36. So I’m not the only one? For me it can be any piece of music: classical, movie themes, even pop and disco. But only music. Doesn’t happening looking at artwork (except for tear jerker movies) or reading books or experiencing sunsets, etc.

    Comment by Alan — March 31, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

  37. I enjoyed your article. Have you ever heard Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” (“Scenes from Childhood”), Op. 15? What a powerful piece. He really hits the nail on the head when it comes to that bittersweet feeling of wishing for childhood and innocence to return, but knowing they’re gone forever. I think you would enjoy its powerful silences and those heart-wrenching final three notes. I have cried so many times to Jenő Jandó’s version, which is very emotional. The song was lended a lot more tragedy when I learned that Schumann tried to kill himself and later died in a mental hospital. If you don’t know it already, I’m sure it deserves a spot on this list of tearjerkers. Take care, and let me know what you think! – Nina

    Comment by Nina — March 29, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

  38. I always cry when listening after a long pause to J.S. Bach – Keyboard Concerto (No.5 in F minor, Largo). Feels so much relieveing afterwards, indeed cathartic. Not only crying, but also something else comes along in the heart..like a longing for something lost and melacholia and some mixed memories of an old life…I always loved Bach.

    Comment by elena cornelia voicu — March 29, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  39. What on earth is going on with me? Is it age-related?

    Last night I heard the Armonico Consort singing their Naked Byrd programme in concert.
    A sublime and moving collection, perfect voices producing wonderful music…and it induces in me the most exquisite emotional response.
    I’m sat there welling up, lip quivering, dabbing my eyes, wondering if anyone else notices this.

    I had to buy the 2 CDs of this medley straight after the concert.
    So now, while these are now playing, once again I blub, listening to the ethereal, magical, uplifting and, frankly, sensual, music.
    Even just hearing a certain phrase, a particular swoop or combination of a few notes…

    I’ve tried to view this analytically, dispassionately, to get a grip on myself – what causes such an overwhelming reaction?
    I mean it feels wonderful, to revel in the beauty of such sound – but come on!

    If this continues (and it’s happening more with tv & films too), I’m going to be a liability at future concerts (I’m just reassured that many others report the same ‘problem’!).

    I’m obviously turning into a right, soft, southerner 😦

    Comment by stiffupperlip — March 22, 2013 @ 4:39 am

    • As long as I can recall certain music has moved me to tears and i’ve never really questioned it. However 2 days ago I was in a crowded restaurant having a fun lunch with a group of friends. The 3 singers performing had done a couple of numbers, then one of them launched into a new song, something I was totally unfamiliar with and it certainly held no special memories. He had only sung 3 or 4 notes when the tears started streaming. Very embarrassing , I could see people at nearby tables looking . My friends were all concerned. How on earth do you explain to people that its not the song or lyrics, it was simply those first few notes . I have been reading posts on this tears and music issue, and the consensus seems to be that the song evokes memories . I think it must be certain pure tones , or maybe a combination of tones and may be quite different from person to person . Certainly no one else was crying! Lesson learned , only listen to music in dimly lit venues in future!
      Ann (Brisbane,Aust)

      Comment by Ann Frommelt — March 25, 2013 @ 7:54 am

  40. E on a G by WSP.
    Easy to play not anything like the listed music however, it moves me to years when played perfectly.

    Comment by Pete — March 11, 2013 @ 7:24 am

    • “Tears” that is. Autocorrect on iPhone is silly.

      Comment by Pete — March 11, 2013 @ 7:28 am

  41. Mahler Symphony No. 2, mvt. 4

    Comment by lee — February 27, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

    • Hi Lee,
      You have made an excellent choice — the choral movement from Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony is indeed powerful and moving.
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 28, 2013 @ 9:03 am

  42. WoW! What a relief! When I look around as this phenomenon happens to me, it seems I am sure I am the only one. My kids accept this much easier than I! Happened the other night at my son’s grade 9 band concert. All was well until unbeknownst to me they were doing a sound check of a few members of the school choir who I didn’t know would be part of the concert. all it took was thee perfect sustained notes from one young woman and Blah…tears streaming. THREE notes!!! I did feel slightly sad after I remember noticing thinking how I was sure everything in the universe was connected. I think a documentary is in order. If anyone knew how certain this happens for me they could really have a heyday. I notice it is with live voice but have experienced it with ,Meditation on Thais” just when the violins come in from a New York or Chicago Philharmonic version. Lyrics are rarely part of it. Grateful to have company here.: )

    Comment by Loretta — November 7, 2012 @ 4:15 am

    • Hi Loretta,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      Yes,sometimes just a couple of notes, especially if they announce a beloved melody, can move me too.
      And I am more an instrumental than vocal person. So I agree that my tears have all to do with music and nothing with lyrics.
      Please keep reading and replying so insightfully.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 7, 2012 @ 8:55 am

  43. Fantastic site – glad I found it. I think it would be quicker to list the music that doesn’t make me weep! The problem got so bad I was afraid to go to a concert (live music is ten times more likely to make me blub). The last but one concert I went to, about 15 years ago, was so embarrassing as I started to sniffle during the tune-up! The performers were the strings of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (perfection) By the end of the concert I was a complete wreck. This year I thought I would risk another concert – all Baroque and therefore much safer to listen to. However, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins was so ravishingly beautiful that I soon succumbed to the tightening throat, red face, perspiration and running eyes. I couldn’t even speak about it afterwards as I knew I would weep just by recallin its beauty. A few days later I heard the same piece played by two accordionists in the street in Frieburg – same reaction.

    Even last night, dancing with my wife, the recorded music was Phil Kelsall at the Blackpool Wurlitzer playing a slow waltz with lots of glissandi and sudden snatches on the swell pedal. I had to spend the whole dance suppressing tears, coughing and breaking into a sweat. A few years back, at the same venue, I had to run sobbing from the hall – the culprit: ‘Colours of the Wind’ from Disney’s ‘Pocahontas’. Don’t even mention ‘Feed the Birds’ from Mary Poppins!

    I guess I am a hopeless case but the truth of the matter is that the emotional release is, for me, part of the enjoyment of music. Its just embarrassing when you can’t control it in a public place. And its not music alone. Parts of films (usually about caring love) will set me off. Even being suddenly confronted by an amazing landscape in Snowdonia brought tears to my eyes!

    God bless you fellow weepies.

    James

    Comment by James — October 25, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  44. The sentimentalist I have no idea how to play an instrument , I Have always wanted to learn, but music moves me, to tears sometimes it feels like God ‘s love to me, wonderfull and sad at the same time.

    Comment by Ross — August 12, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  45. I love music. I don’t think there is any better form of expression.

    I’ve cried while listening to Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony (especially the first and fourth movements), Song to the Moon from Rusalka, the second movement of Beethoven’s seventh, the finale of Beethoven’s ninth, Air on the G string, Nimrod from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the third movement of Shostakovich’s first violin concerto, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Mahler’s second symphony, Nessun Dorma from Turandot, Con te partirò, Bach’s Arioso, Mozart’s Requiem, William Walton’s viola concerto (especially the part at the end of the third movement where the original theme from the first movement comes back), and the second movement of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, which brings back a lot of memories for me.

    Comment by Hermione — July 19, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    • You really need not have hidden. You are, after all, human.
      If it is ever discovered why we are so affected by music, you might be way up there with those who have knowledge that we do not have.

      Incidentally, what is it about the Rachmaninoff piece?

      Comment by Janferie Barnwell — November 29, 2014 @ 8:29 am

  46. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one. heck, there are innumerable pieces that bring me to tears. they are just so agonizingly beautiful. Let me quote “Last Rose of Summer” (especially sung by Anneliese Rothenberger or Rene Fleming). Then Beethoven’s “Fidelio” just tears me to pieces from start to finish. What about “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak’s “Rusalka”? (that last high note is almost too much for me to bear.) that duet -the deceptively simple “Bei Mannern …” from first act of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Also, that exquisite quartet of farewell from Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”; and Antonia’s Death from Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann.” There are lots of others, sure, from popular and folk music. I am affected deeply by “Streets of London.”

    Ron, 77-year-old Australian.

    Comment by Ron Hedgcock — July 6, 2012 @ 3:07 am

  47. For me: Rachmaninoff’s 2nd and 3rd piano concerti, Rachmaninoff’s Elegie, “Un bel di vedremo” from Madame Butterfly by Puccini, Beethoven’s Appassionata and Chopin’s 3rd and 4th Ballades.

    His Ballade in F minor probably deserves a special mention, to say that I cry when I listen to it is an understatement, I collapse into fits of sobs and my shoulders heave. By far the greatest piece of music ever written.

    Comment by bob — July 2, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    • I thought I had developed some immunity to Rachmaninov, but the other night they were playing his sonata for cello and piano… I was a wreck.

      Comment by Lucia — July 2, 2012 @ 11:25 am

      • HI Lucia,
        Thank you for reading and replying.
        And thanks for your candor.
        Rachmaninov has a way of sneaking up on you and doing that.
        His poignant music speaks to something deep. So I completely agree with you and share your reaction.
        Happy listening.
        Best,
        Jake

        Comment by welltemperedear — July 3, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    • Hi Bob,
      I agree with you on all scores, including your esteem for Chopin’s Ballade No. 4.
      Great choices.
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 3, 2012 @ 10:48 am

  48. The two pieces that affect me the most are the Firebird Suite (especially the Finale movement) by Stravinski, and the entire Pictures at an Exibition when scored for full orchestra. By the time that the Great Gates of Kiev comes along, that piece has made me experience the entire spectrum of emotion. When the final chimes sequence enters, I am literally weeping as if I have experienced a new beginning…that’s what all good music should be able to do…

    Comment by Carmine Strollo — April 23, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

    • Hi Carmine,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      Those oar both very try good choices.
      They always move me too.
      Both have certain cathartic qualities built into them.
      I’m sure other readers would agree.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 23, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  49. I know I am a bit late on the uptake, but I am so glad to have found this entry. I’m a classically trained violist and am forever crying about music. Brahms gets me right in the gut, especially his string chamber music (string sextet no. 1 in particular makes me ache for the overwhelming beauty of it all), as does Beethoven. How is a human mind capable of notating the entire scope of human emotion onto paper? How can one orchestrate joy, devastation, hope? I’m currently listening to the “German” Requiem and having quite a good cry.

    Comment by maya — March 28, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

    • Hi Maya,
      I am so pleased you found the post, read it and replied.
      Yes, I agree: Brahms will make people cry very often.
      And especially in the “German” Requiem, which always gets me from the opening measures to the closing ones.
      It really about as close to perfect as a long piece can get.
      And it touches something deep every time I hear it.
      Keep listening and keep crying.
      It is cathartic, no?
      Besides, composers wrote to move people, not to be studied.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 29, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  50. I find some musical selections make me gassier than others, The William Tell Overture among them!

    Comment by Barb — March 24, 2012 @ 2:25 am

  51. A lot of classical music brings me to tears, but Puccini’s music hits me very hard. No other composer’s music affects me so much. I weep throughout Madama Butterfly.

    Comment by Peter Prainito — February 28, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    • Hi Peter,
      Thank you for reading and replying with such candor and openness.
      I too respond emotionally to Puccini.
      For me, it is the first act of “La Boheme” and certain moments in “Tosca” more than “Madama Butterfly.”
      But there are many moving moments in Puccini.
      He had the gift, that is for sure.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — February 29, 2012 @ 9:31 am

  52. After listening to a few different versions of “Death and Transfiguration” last night and crying frequently, I too wondered as another poster did, how this happens from a scientific standpoint. One cries at certain moments as if on cue.

    While I’ve seen many Wagner operas I will not see “Parsifal” ……and as was stated, this does seem to happen the older I get. Even with a movie –I cried throughout “The Joy Luck Club.” Now while the movie stories were sad enough, I realized it was the music causing the true emotion I experienced.

    I did read long ago when I studied Wagner that there was a deliberate process of withholding resolution to achieve a certain relief if you will, when it finally does occur.

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. Before computers and the community it creates, I would sit in the theaters or opera houses looking around at my dry-eyed fellow patrons wondering why I was the only one with tears in my eyes …

    Comment by Barb Seller — December 18, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  53. Can anyone recommend a method to obviate the sudden overwhelming response to cry when listening to sad music? A recent example was that in a restaurant where (so called relaxing music) was playing in the background. A few bars of Rachmaninov and I broke down. I know we are supposed to be in a tolerant society, but it is embarasing to be so overcome in public. It seems to be getting worse the older I get.
    Thank you in anticipation of a positive suggestion.
    Keith

    Comment by keith — November 27, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    • Hi Keith,
      Thank you for reading and responding, especially so frankly and personally.
      I suppose someone might recommend taking an antidepressant.
      But I think what you experience is just fine and shows a sensitivity. Certain pieces do that to me too.
      Others should be embarrassed if they don’t respond, not you.
      But if you really must overcome it, I suggest two things.
      One is listening to it over and over again until you become desensitized, much like they do with phobias.
      The other is to put words to the music, words that have a sense quite opposite from the sensibility or sense of the music.
      That might break the connection.
      But then you might never get it back again when you want or need it.
      Let me know what you think.
      Good luck.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 27, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

      • Hi Jake,
        Thank you for your kind thoughts.
        My initial response is that, having read your blog, I’m more than relieved to find there are other people so sensitive to music and I really like your comment that others should be embarrassed if they don’t respond similarly.
        I agree, I don’t think I should try to desensitize myself at this stage but I shall try your “positive lyric” recommendation.
        Regards
        Keith

        Comment by keith — November 28, 2011 @ 4:43 am

      • Hi Keith,
        Glad I could be of some help.
        Your instincts are correct, I think.
        Who would want to become insensitive to beauty?
        Life is hard enough without it.
        Good luck.
        Jake

        Comment by welltemperedear — November 28, 2011 @ 8:22 am

    • yes, i hardly dare go to public chamber music concerts anymore– mendelssohn’s trios break me down (especially the 2nd movement of piano trio #2) all of brahms, late mozart piano sonatas, and most of rossini’s william tell.

      the brahms violin sonatas, piano quintet, the horn trio, and most noteworthy, the three piano quartets are too beautiful to bear. my “soul” is captured and revealed in the #2 a major– especially the andante, second movement– i want that at my funeral someday– it has shown my mother’s love for me, and my love as a mother for my three adult children. but most of all, it shows the love of the Divine for me.

      yes, i will be 65 and it does get worse– one’s perspicuity and capacity for beauty, i think, reveals the next world, and, as we grow closer to death and the next world, and also as we, as mature adults, see more and more of the ugliness humankind has perpetrated on the earth.

      contrastingly, we see more Divine Beauty in the art form, the supreme art form on this earth, of fine art music– especially, to me, the very

      distilled, essence of chamber music from the 19th-century.

      one need not fear death when experiencing “the great beyond,” as taoists contend.

      lyn

      Comment by lyn — February 28, 2013 @ 10:27 am

  54. Pretty much all the lyrical music of Richard Strauss turns me into a tearful heap. It’s quite embarrassing really!

    Particular powerful examples are the “Four Last Songs,” the slow movement of the oboe concerto, “Presentation of the Rose” and trio and conclusion of “Rosenkavalier,” the summit and homecoming of the “Alpine” Symphony, and the end of “Death and Transfiguration.”

    The music just ratchets up the emotional tension until it’s unbearable. I do sometimes wonder if the music is heartfelt or if Strauss was just cleverly manipulating the audience’s emotions … I think it’s the combination of skillful use of dissonance, shifting harmonies and powerful bass line counterpoint combined with glorious orchestration.

    Comment by Mike — November 2, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks of reading and replying — with such heart and sincerity too.
      I think your taste is terrific and your analysis and speculations are exactly on the mark.
      Those same qualities mark a lot of very late Romantic music, including Wagner, Mahler and Bruckner.
      Happy listening and happy weeping — it’s good to be into the music that deeply and let it be into you that deeply, no?
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 2, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

  55. The auferstehn section of Mahler 2. Once the choir comes in I melt in awe of the sound. It is pure joy and “resurrection” and if you look up the version Leonard Bernstein conducts, it is the most heartfelt piece.

    Comment by Leo — September 10, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

    • Hi Leo,
      Thanks for reading and replying.
      I couldn’t agree with you more about the Mahler Second. One waits through the whole symphony, which will be broadcast tonight (Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011) on PBS’s “Concert for New York” on “Great Performances,” for that choral ending of such hope.
      By the way, tonight’s performance It will be done by Bernstein’s home orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, with which he recorded his first pioneering Mahler cycle, under its new conductor Alan Gilbert.
      It should be special indeed.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 11, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  56. What beautiful music and what a lovely idea for this site.

    Now, try this one. I’m afraid I can only give the name and composer but I can assure you all that it is worth the search. Get the tissues handy!

    Composer: Eric Whitacre
    Title: The Seal Lullaby
    Performers: Eric Whitacre Singers

    Comment by Angie Watson — August 27, 2011 @ 10:40 am

    • Hi Angie,
      Thank you so much for your kind words about the site,
      and for reading and replying.
      I will check out your suggestion by Eric Whitacre and then get back to you and others.
      I’m sure I will like it — and maybe even cry.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 27, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  57. why hasn’t anyone mentioned Tchaikovsky? perhaps his grand pas de deux from the nutcracker suite, or the last movement of his sixth symphony, the Adagio Lamentoso?

    Comment by bob — July 17, 2011 @ 3:12 am

  58. Just found your blog. I guess I’ll add it to my favorites. I cry like crazy with Dvorak’s 8th symphony, especially the second movement. And yes, I said the the 8th, not the 9th, but I have cried with the 9th for various reasons. I cry with the first and third movement of his cello concerto. Yes, I am a Dvorak’s die hard fan. And with his “Song to the Moon,” from “Rusalka.”

    I do cry with the Elgar’s “Nimrod” variation and I cried the first time I heard “Nessum Norma.” I cried the first time I heard Beethoven’s “Pastoral,” at the end, with the happiness after the storm. I have choked with the Swan by Saint-Saens, and the adagios of both 4th and 5th by Mahler. Bruch’s violin concerto and romanza. “Holgberg” Suite by Grieg… Beethoven’s Spring Sonata doesn’t make me cry but pierces my heart.

    Comment by Lucia — July 12, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    • Hi Lucia,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I am honored you will add it my blog to your favorites.
      You can also subscribe to it.
      You name a lot of good choices that also move me deeply.
      Clearly, you have broad taste and deep appreciation.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 12, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

  59. Liszt’s Consolation gets me every time

    Comment by JSmrd — June 21, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

    • That piece does it for a lot of people.
      You’re not alone.
      I hope it brings you the consolation it promises as well as tears.
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 21, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

  60. this one does it for me…as well as many you have mentioned here


    if that doesnt work, do youtube and out in Cinema Paradiso tema d’amore per Nata…magic

    i always listen to music that makes me cry when my partner goes away for a few days…i think it just reminds me of a deepness and a passion that i miss

    Comment by Leslie — May 6, 2011 @ 8:48 am

    • That one is amazing, Leslie. I always say I loved the movie because of the music.

      Comment by Lucia — July 12, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  61. As a musical omnivore I’ve often had classical pieces in my mixes since I was 12 and love to catch music of any kind that is new and interesting to me.

    I was stopped in my tracks tonight by the prelude from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana;

    Luckily I was in a position to identify it and then confirm or it would have haunted me for the rest of my life. For some reason it reduces me to tears every time I hear it.

    The last 1m30s from a really spartan recording of Danse Macabre will have the same effect as will some Appalachian music. Go figure!

    Thanks for inviting the comments, I’ve enjoyed reading them.

    Comment by Rob — April 1, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    • Hi Rob,
      This is a fine choice,. Thank you for the link.
      I also like the orchestral Interlude — very moving.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 2, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  62. I was pleased to discover this site,having just Googled the question; “Why does Elgar’s music make me cry?”
    The piece in question is the slow movement of his 1st symphony.I didn’t actually cry but wanted to,and it seemed to involve a feeling of comfort and reassurance in the midst of much pain.Like a long-term utterly reliable friend providing a listening ear and complete understanding.

    I have experienced the same feelings with the slow movement of Samuel Barber’s violin concerto, and it was like someone telling me they knew how I was feeling,and understood.

    I don’t think rock music has quite such a profound effect although at times it comes close. Marillion’s “Out Of This World”, Dave Gilmour’s “Where We Start” and The Beach Boys'”She Knows Me Too Well” as well as many of their slow songs,come to mind.

    I was also moved to tears inside Lincoln Cathedral when listening to the choir and I suspect this deep reaction to music has a spiritual element to it.Maybe it’s a spiritual experience.

    All I’m sure of is that music has been extremely important to me all my life and I’m immensely grateful for it and the opportunity to share it with others.
    Dave

    Comment by Dave — December 9, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    • Hi Dave,
      Welcome.
      Thanks for discovering, then reading and replying.
      You name all good choices and write thoughtfully.
      I just heard the Barber Violin Concerto live. Wonderfully moving.
      Hope you continue to enjoy this site.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 9, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

  63. You have mentioned some songs that make me cry too. I guess it’s the beauty of the sound that stimulates a part of our brain or our hearts. I’d like to share this piece.

    I know it’s from a video game but look past that. Even the trance version gets me.

    Comment by Mark — December 3, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  64. I stumbled across your site and am gratified to know that I am not the only one moved to tears at beautiful music. Pop music doesn’t seem to do it to me, but nearly any skilled, live performance of classical music (in the colloquial sense- I am actually a fan of Baroque and Classical) can elicit tears, even from the beginning of the piece!

    My first realization was when I was in Paris and saw a special concert of Vivaldi (my favorite) at St. Chapelle. The first note from the strings sang out and tears started streaming down my face- I was quite unable to stop! It was as though the beauty of the place and the beauty of the music filled me so much that the only place to go was through my eyes! Sheer delight!!

    Try this one for a little mistiness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXh7JR9oKVE
    Thank you for your blog!

    Comment by amattke — November 27, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

    • Hi Amattke,
      And thank you for your moving reply and story as well as your kind words.
      I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 27, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

  65. jake, i happily received your note yesterday.

    as for me, i have been an english professor for the last 40 years, never having achieved tenure in various iowa colleges, and so segued into adult day care in 2005. Actually, the more i did teach, the more black-and-blue i felt, and at the juncture of that career i voluntarily vacated, i literally could hardly abide the students. perhaps two out of 75 were actually what we used to call, “collegiate material.”

    at present, i have had the marvelous opportunity, after being in iowa 42 years and never liking it, to have been transported back to my home in minneapolis where i am actiity director for the first and largest all-somali adult day care. here, i teach three levels of esl, do all the 21 exercise routines, plan special events, write for the warsan times bi-lingual newspaper, and am editing a book for an eritrean man who is president of te newly-formed mpls. taaxicab driers and owners association where i have been invited in as executive board member as an advocate (with my speaking and writing abilities as an assistance to the immigrant men.

    we are fighting the city concerning the harassment and even the persecution of particularly our east african drivers, and i have written for the mpls. star and trib, been interviewed twice, and have been on a radio show. also, i recompose and edit our monthly newsletter.

    as i love to write, the bounty of doing just that is upon me, and i am so grateful.

    i earned my doctorate at age 29, focusing on english literature– my dissertation was a book of my poetry.

    on the way to work today, i didi replay the final ovement of the eroica, and i must say that the coda is astounding, the entire symphony ending with that two-note call— one octave apart– a revisitation of that “herald of triumph.” it is nearly impossible to keep driving the car when one wants to shout and stand up in jubilation.

    p.s. what do you all think of rossini’s william tell opera? that work is perfection every recitative, aria, and more. i have the 1972 recording, starring tenor nicholai gedda who can hit those high c#’s– and, to hear him, is never to want to listen to any other tenor– his voice is perfection, and that is an injustice in the very word.

    i heard that opera is so demanding, so lengthy, that it is only performed in germany and switzerland– i doubt if any tenor alive here, except gedda, can even master the demands of the tenor part.

    my best to you!
    lyn l.f. lynner

    Comment by lyn l.f. lynner — August 11, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    • sorry about those typos, everyone! i have an old lousy keyboard at work which does not work well! poor excuse for a former english prof!

      Comment by lyn l.f. lynner — August 11, 2010 @ 10:26 am

      • hi lyn,
        despite the typos we can make out what you.
        but new keyboards are cheap.
        you’d do yourself a favor — to say nothing of us –to go out and buy one.
        it will good for your readers and also your fingers.
        jake

        Comment by welltemperedear — August 11, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  66. Hi, Jake,

    I have been on a Beethoven kick this Summer and wanted to comment about what I deem is the most “triumphant” of all symphonies– his “Eroica,” No. 3.

    The first movement is playful, nearly childlike in its jublilant, repetitive themes going hither and thither,–(nearly like a private joke)– it heralds an apocalyptical awakening to be found in the trio section of the second movement.

    In this movement the “Funeral March,” this particular trio section has got to be the most cathartic, exultant conversion from grief to triumph ever written by any composer with the timpani pounding, the brass resounding, and the denouement of strings– as if there is a supreme sacrifice of the “Self” at the altar of eternal bliss.

    Too, I wanted to make mention of Richard Strauss’ “The Four Last Songs,” and Liszt’s Etudes # 11-13, emblems of the spirit’s imminent journey to The Great Beyond, as attested in Taoism and major world religious philosophies.

    When I receive my David Oistrakh recording this week in the mail of the Brahms Violin Concerto, you will hear my obnoxious romanticism on this blog again!

    Always, I have wished to be a musician who could deconstruct the mathematics of any grand piece of music– but unfortunatey perhaps, I interpret through the vehicle of a poet’s sensibilities.

    Lyn L. F. Lynner

    Comment by lyn l.f. lynner — August 10, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    • Hi Lyn,
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      You’ll have no argument from me when it comes to Beethoven’s “Eroica.”
      I love all the movements, but the fugue after the funeral march goes right through me. It sounds like a giant middle slowly lifting off the launch pad and taking flight, at least the way Leonard Bernstein conducts it with the Vienna Philharmonic.
      Do you have a favorite interpretation or recording?
      Other favorite works after your Beethoven binge this summer?
      Let us know.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 10, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

      • jake– the recording of the eroica, and the other symphonies in this cd package i only state “membran,” so thereby, i do not know the orchestral interpretation nor the conductor.

        i so enjoy your website and want to apologise for my stupidity last week, asking, who are you. obviously, you are the blogger!

        where are you located? the east coast?

        i hand it to you for developing this magnificent site! now, i can pontificate to my heart’s desire!

        sincerely yours,
        lyn l. f. lynner, ultimate 19th c. romantic.

        Comment by lyn l.f. lynner-- the obnoxious one — August 10, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

      • Hi Lyn,
        You are not obnoxious at all. All readers are welcome, and you are especially informative and enjoyable.
        Heartfelt thanks for your kinds words about the blog. I am glad it provides you pleasure.
        I’m sorry you can’t identify the recording of the Eroica with the orchestra and conductor.
        Perhaps other readers will send in their favorites interpretations of that Beethoven symphony.
        I am located in Madison, Wisconsin, where I teach journalism at the UW-Madison and was a reporter, arts writer, critic and editor at a daily newspaper for many years.
        For more information about me, check out the first blog posting on Aug. 20, 2009. It was my official introduction of myself.
        What about you?
        Keep reading and writing.
        I look forward to hearing from you.
        Jake

        Comment by welltemperedear — August 10, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

  67. Admittedly, I’m quite surprised that I haven’t seen anyone mention Tchaikovsky. The second movement of his Fifth, although so well-known, when played in its entirety, is perhaps one of the pieces that make me cry most…And don’t get me started on the Fourth Movement of Mahler 5. Finally, the “chorale” of the Fourth Movement of Brahms 1 after the dazzling horn solo with the sextuplets accompanying. The syntax is so simple (mere quarter and half notes with little dynamic or tempo change), yet it is one of the most genius passages ever written to this end. Yes, you can probably tell that I love symphonies…probably because I play the violin haha

    Comment by James — August 9, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    • HI James,
      Thank you for reading and writing a comment.
      Every piece you mention has a deep emotional impact on me too.
      They are all great symphonies.
      I too am surprised that others haven’t mentioned them.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 9, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

  68. i rejoice finding this site, as, the older i become, the more supernal my experience is in listening to the music of johannes brahms, my beloved-one in paradise.

    i am serious, here. . ..

    his chamber music in particular catapults me to realms never visited– and i literally soak handkerchiefs in the privacy of my home: and when attending concerts, I make certain i have one handkerchief with me, and attempt often in futility, to assuage my devastating wonderment of being so transported to what i interpret as “the eternal world of God,” eternal Beauty in his works for piano, cello, and violin.

    his piano quartet #2 in a, opus 26 has got to be my very soul, (whatever that is. . . to be discovered later, at some future point)– particularly the middle movement, the one i hope to have at my funeral someday, is, to me, tantamount to my profound, singular very spirit-identity, before i was even born on this sphere of earth.

    his one piano quintet is also ethereal, and his violin sonatas, and every piece of his chamber work, including his sextets and other piano quartets and string quartets. the andante of this movement of the sextet in g is also, a bequest to the eternal world, in my humble eyes.

    are there any other “brahmsophiles” out there?

    i have about every photo of him, especially from his youth, all over my house.

    the music of schubert comes close with his great quintet in c major and the g-major quartet and many other chamber pieces, and the late quartets by beethoven and his violin concerto, a seraphic demonstration of the soul’s flight up to the empyrean and back again like a sacred bird.

    assuredly, brahms is beyond comprehension and comparison to any other great 19thc composer.. and schubert and bethoven are my second loves.

    In my 20s, i used to behold an old couple, the man of whom would sit through entire chamber concerts, head in hands, never lifting his head. i used to question the meaning of this position, as no one else demonstrated such “humility in the face of Beauty.”

    now, i realize that i have become the same as he, perhaps more so. . . .

    Comment by lyn — August 5, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    • Hi lyn,
      Thank you so much for your comments about the blog. I hope it continues to satisfy you in the future.
      And thanks you for your detailed, direct and eloquent reply about Schubert and especially Brahms.
      Brahms certainly does have an emotional directness that touches me and many others.
      You mention mostly chamber music — and single out some of my favorite compositions of his in that genre — but I feel the same way about much of the late piano music, and the piano concertos and symphonies as well.
      As for Schubert, I like him even more than Beethoven. Something in Schubert makes him seem more human and approachable.
      Other listeners should envy the depth of meaning you find in music.
      The best of listening to you in the future.
      And I hope you will keep us current with your choices of new works you hear and new recordings or concerts you like.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 5, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

      • complimented am i to have received such a beautiful array of statements from whoever you are!

        to add: yes, schubert is more “human” in that sunlight- -transmogrifying-to-shadow with those major-minor key alterations one atop the other in his music.

        i attempted to relish in the late piano works by brahms, but i found that they were not what the earlier and middle years of his life produced– rather, these were “disturbed” in a way, perhaps in that he was already in a sphere one we have not been privileged to visit.

        who are you? let me know. thank you.

        Comment by lyn — August 5, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  69. You really got me with Luciano Pavarotti singing Puccini’s “Nessun dorma”. I am not an opera expert but I know when a certain piece of music moves me. And this one immediately brings me to tears when I hear it. I finally looked up the translation and it is even more touching and beautiful to me. Thanks for posting this. (I found it by looking for opera songs that make you cry – since I didn’t even know the name of this one)

    Comment by DeeDee — August 1, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

    • Hi DeeDee,
      Thank you for reading and then commenting with such kind words.
      You’re not alone.
      “Nessun dorma” really gets to me too.
      I have heard many different singers — and I still like Luciano Pavarotti the best. But they all get to me.
      It’s a great piece of music that goes right to the heart, whoever sings it — or plays it.
      I hope you find more.
      Let us know.
      Best wishes,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 1, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  70. I honestly never listen to classical / orchestral music and found this website after hearing:

    Stravinsky Conducts Firebird

    Which made me cry like a baby. lol.

    I’ve always wondered if other people cried to music like this and the first time I ever cried to any music was “Nessun dorma” when I was around 15-16. It got me yet again and I’m 26 years old now and still don’t know how to play any instruments or sing or anything but when I hear either of these 2 songs it hits me every time like a wave of emotion. I’ve never felt anything like it with any other songs.

    The songs just sound so sad but yet they’re so awesome. I have to say I honestly hardly ever cry, but it’s just so weird to me that 2 songs can make me do it if I’m just sitting around alone in my room.

    Comment by Danny — August 1, 2010 @ 12:38 am

    • HI Danny,
      Thank you for reading and commenting.
      And thanks for providing the great link to a wonderful and very moving piece of modern music in a moving performance.
      Puccini’s “Nessun dorma” has the same effect of lots of people — one reason the late superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti made it his signature, I suspect.
      I understand your wondering about why music touches you so deeply. I can’t tell you.
      But I can say that for me and many others, music gets to us in ways that other art just doesn’t.
      Welcome to the club.
      I hope you find more such music that speaks to you so directly.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 1, 2010 @ 10:44 am

  71. I agree with lots of the comments here, particularly concerning Mahler, and thought I’d share a few of my own choices which might not seem so obviously tear-jearking.

    Without fail, I shed a tear at the end of the cadenza-type episode in the finale of Dvorak’s Cello concerto when the violin quotes one of his own songs ‘The Cypresses.’ It was a favourite of his sister-in-law Josefina, with whom, it is supposed, he was in love and who had recently died.

    I also feel myself welling up at “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams– particularly at those isolated double-stopped passages in the violin and, more than anything else, at the incredible subtle beauty and finality of the final chords before the solo violin finishes the piece.

    Télaïre’s aria ‘Tristes apprêts’ from Rameau’s Castor and Pollux is to me those most beautiful in all opera and underpinned by possibly the most exquisite writing for the bassoon!

    There’s also the Basil G. Nevinson variation from Elgar’s Enigma variations and the lilting viola tune from his cello concerto (and, in fact, the rest of the concerto) which never fail to impress upon me the devastation of WWI in a way that no written account ever can.

    I also often find myself moved to tears by the sheer power of some music rather than any inherent sadness. There are moments in The Rite of Spring, for example, when the sound is so overwhelming and, frankly terrifying, that I find myself with tears in my eyes. Another example is the Lacrymosa from Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem.

    A last choice, for the sheer uplifting beauty of it, is the moment in the Prélude to Bach’s 6th cello suite (roughly about 2.50 minutes in) when one has the impression of being lifted up to heaven. It is equisite and worth every tear it gets!

    Comment by Conal — July 14, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    • Hi Conal,
      Thank you for reading then taking the time to write or and reply.
      The Dvorak Cello Concerto and the “Lark Ascending” are both excellent choices. I should have thought of them, but are glad you did. I am moved by much of Dvorak.
      I look forward to hearing more form you in the future.
      Best,
      Jake
      jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — July 14, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

  72. I can’t explain it, but Mahler hits my emotional epicenter like no other composer can. The Second Symphony (Resurrection) is such a journey from profound grief to eventual fanfare and jubilation. I will never, ever tire of the last 7 or so minutes where the chorus so beautifully recounts the themes of the last movement.

    I’ve heard most Mahler 2 recordings out there, but my present favorite is the Boulez reading (DG in 2006) with the Vienna Philharmonic, which, despite some dynamic imperfections, is so light in bombast and so heavy in emotion and harmonic clarity. I shake every time I hear it.

    Comment by romanticfan — May 3, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    • Dear Romantic Fan,
      You’re not alone. That Mahler symphony moves many of us to tears.
      Thanks for also directing us to a special recording of it. It is a great one.
      And thanks also for reading and writing a comment.
      Best,
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 3, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

  73. […] Yes, classical music critics cry too: What pieces make you cry? Try these. « The Well-Tempered… […]

    Pingback by Piano Lessons Online – 3 Things You Must Do For Fast Piano Learning! — May 2, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

  74. I just signed up for your blog and am loving it!
    These have instantly come to mind.
    I, too, tear up at Wagner’s “Liebestod”. “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” as does “O Mio Babbino Caro”, especially by Angela Gheorghiu, start the flow as does the “Adagietto” from the 4th movement of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. However, I am never able to hear the final chorus from Mahler’s 2nd Symphony – “Resurrection” without losing complete control, almost to the point of embarrassment

    Comment by Nina Sparks — April 24, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

    • Hi Nina,
      I am so glad that you enjoy the blog.
      Thanks for signing up, for reading and for commenting.
      Your responses are great. I share your feelings especially about the Puccini aria and the Mahler symphonies, but would also add the slow movement of the Symphony No. 6 (“Tragic”) and the last movement of the Symphony No. 9.
      Happy listening— and happy tears of joy.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 24, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

      • There is something gratifying in the exquisite despair that beautiful classical music can bring.
        Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” is the supreme example, a composition that encapsulates sorrow in a way that in and of itself brings a poetic beauty in the only way that many of us are able to express.
        I personally remember you openly weeping at Nicole Cabell’s version of “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s “Gianni Sicchi,” one of opera’s most beautiful and touching arias.
        Music that can touch the heart so strongly is God’s – or at least the composer’s – gift to us.
        Our ability to respond so completely and appropriately is our gift in return.

        Comment by Mike and Jean — April 25, 2010 @ 12:34 am

      • Hi Mike and Jean,
        How right you are and how well you express your thoughts.
        And what a good memory you have.
        Yes, I cried openly at the Puccini aria, and it wasn’t just because of low blood sugar.
        I also cried openly when the Madison Symphony Orchestra played Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” right after the attacks of 9/11 as an homage to the victims. They played it right after The Star-Spangled Banner, and it was a perfect touch for the occasion.
        Perhaps the most quiet and eloquent testimony to the power of music to move us can be see in the YouTube video of pianist Vladimir Horowitz playing Schumann;s “Traumerei” (Dreams) as an encore to his Moscow recital.
        Go to YouTube, plug in Horowitz and Traumerei and about half-way through you will see an older man with eyes closed and a tear streaming down his cheek.
        Is he recalling his own childhood? Playing the piece himself? Living in a police state?
        The music itself is sufficient cause, no?
        As always, thanks.
        Jake

        Comment by welltemperedear — April 25, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  75. I’ll tack on a few that have moved me to tears, and are not as well known:

    Henryk Gorecki — “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs” — there are really moments in all three movements, but particularly the climactic center of the first.

    Maurice Durufle — Requiem — particularly, the Kyrie, the Cello/Alto duo in the middle, and the In Paradisum.

    Lowell Liebermann – “Nocturne #8” – particularly the final Epilogue/resolution.

    Samuel Barber — “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” — Agee’s final words, and Barber’s setting, succeed in ripping my heart out.

    Comment by Tim Adrianson — April 23, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for reading and responding.
      These are all good choices, and I know most of them and also find them moving even if they don’t make me cry.
      I have to check into the Lowell Lieberman Nocturne.
      Thanks for the tips.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 23, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  76. I was up north for the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra concert last weekend. It included the “Enigma” Variations and yes, “Nimrod” got the tears rolling down my face.

    Comment by steph elkins — April 23, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

  77. I get choked up at a different spot in the Brahms “Requiem,” the fifth movement (Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit) with the lines about ‘comfort you as a mother comforts her children’ and ‘for a little while I had pain and hardship, but I have found rest.’ I’m always reminded of Margaret Hawkins, the founder of the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, and how she struggled to keep conducting our rehearsals and performances as she was battling breast cancer. We knew she was in great physical pain, but we also knew that continuing to share our growth as singers was the best thing for her…for all of us. We’ve sung this piece several times since she died and will perform it again next weekend, and I still sing movement five with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

    Comment by Lori Skelton — April 22, 2010 @ 9:33 am

    • Hi Lori,
      Now that is indeed a story to explain why the movement touches you so deeply. Thank you for passing it along.
      There are many moments in the Brahms Requiem that move me. (I also love the “Death, Where Is Thy Sting” movement and “Lord Thou Art Worthy” fugue.) I could hear it every year and not complain.
      And to think George Bernard Shaw once complained that no one should have to sit through it twice!
      Thanks for reading and writing, and keep singing.
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 22, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  78. Well now, I’ve attended many concerts that have made me cry.

    Actually. there’s so much music that evokes from me those tears that are an exquisite mix of pleasure and sadness – very often it’s Chopin, even at his most familiar, with his amazing ability to be simultaneously tender, poignant and melancholy, but not maudlin or cloying. (Here’s Rubinstein playing the Nocturne Op. 9 #2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGRO05WcNDk&a=lX8L61bQkcU&playnext_from=ML ).

    And certainly there’s plenty more – Ravel’s “Pavane pour une Infant Defunte” is a favorite. Here’s a version by Sviatoslav Richter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuFwt66Vr6U

    But I also agree with commentator Janice Golay, above – there are those tears that mingle with smiles of sheer, voluptuous joy (Beethoven Symphony #6, last movement – talk about “Beneficent feelings with thanks to the Godhead” – whoever that is).

    Well, we could all go on and on, couldn’t we. Great topic, Ear.

    Comment by Marius — April 22, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    • Hi Marius,
      And great comments with great examples and suggestions from you.
      I feel much the same way about Chopin and much of Ravel as you do.
      And the tears are indeed tears of joy, but sometimes mixed with a poignancy.
      Thanks for the link.
      I hope others respond similarly.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 22, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  79. A good performance of classical music can make me cry, but most often I find my strongest involuntary nervous system reaction to be a smile. All of a sudden I find myself smiling — it is not at all conscious. I just discover or become aware of the smile on my face; of course it is connected to the performer’s interpretation and to the music.

    Janice Golay

    Comment by Janice Golay — April 22, 2010 @ 7:57 am

    • Hi Janice,
      Thank you so much for reading and writing.
      You make a terrific point.
      I also don’t always cry or have an extremely emotional response.
      More often, I too quietly smile or just close my eyes and feel deeply, deeply satisfied and privileged to experience such beauty.
      And sometimes great music simply summons up personal memories of special people or moments.
      But whatever form they take, my reactions to classical music are different form my reactions to literature or painting, for example.
      Are there specific works of classical music you can count on to elicit a deeply emotional reaction? I would be interested to know.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — April 22, 2010 @ 8:46 am


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