The Well-Tempered Ear

Will car ads help save classical music? | November 14, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

I guess I am as disappointed with a lot or marketing and advertising as much as the next fan of serious culture that goes beyond consumerism.

But ironically it seems that the very commercial culture I often turn away from is helping to preserve and promote the same classical music that I so value and that so many observers say is under siege and in danger of gradually disappearing.

Maybe it should have come as a surprise with a Korean car company using “Sonata” for a model name.

But it did come as a surprise – and a pleasant one.

I of course expect to hear tunes by the Beatles and Rolling Stones used to sell things and services. But Mozart? And Wagner? And Grieg?

As background, try reading this story and listening to the sound clips:

I also recall the gorgeous slow movement from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B-Flat Major K. 570, for a car ad. (Yes, of course it’s the Hyundai Sonata, in an ad that also mentions Schubert’s Sonata in A minor, but doesn’t play a snippet – could it be on the way?)

And another Mozart piano sonata, namely the famous “Rondo alla Turca” finale from the Sonata in A Major K. 331, is also in an ad for the Hyundai Sonata. Here it is on YouTube:

Hyundai isn’t alone.

Audi uses Ravel’s sparkling “Jeux d’eux” (Fountains):

And other kinds of companies are also using classical music. uses the lovely second movement from Ravel’s String Quartet in this ad:

What is it about the music of Mozart and Ravel that appeals to advertising creators? Perhaps the clarity and precision? Perhaps the lightness? Perhaps the ability to splice it up and edit it?

Anyway, do you know of more ads with classical music? I could swear I hear some Chopin used, but I can find it or remember it. And I would expect some ads or commercials to use Bach, Beethoven and Schubert snippets?

I’d love to hear some more specific examples with links to YouTube performances if you know of them?

The Ear wants to hear – the more, the better.

Posted in Classical music


  1. Does anyone remember a commercial or two which used clarinet playing flurries of notes in running passages with the most beautiful tone and technique? These commercials aired probably 20 years ago.
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    Comment by Richard Foote — August 6, 2019 @ 6:59 pm

  2. I’m very late to the party, but I love this topic. I have downloaded much classical music from iTunes when I have successfully identified a piece of music from a commercial.
    I’m always listening for snippets from Carmina Burana, and have also noticed occasional parts of Mozart’s Requiem in different ads.
    One of my downloads has been mentioned here, that being Beethoven’s Piano Sonata 21 from the car commercial several years ago.
    And there was the beginning of one of Grieg’s Norwegian Dances in a Las Vegas casino commercial many years ago.

    Comment by Rose May — March 10, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

  3. Ravel’s string quartet may be used in the “behind the scenes” video, but in the ads themselves, it is not the actual Ravel piece, but some cheesy knock off. Hearing Ravel’s music desecrated and simplified to suit the needs of some advertising exec really irks me.

    Comment by Chris Hewitt — December 20, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

    • Hi Chris,
      I couldn’t agree more.
      You hear a lot of classical music rip-offs and atrociously edited down versions in all sorts of media. It is indeed shameful.
      Still, it may intrigue some listeners who don’t know the beauty of the original to do some investigating.
      One can hope so, at least.
      Thank you for reading an writing.
      Happy holidays to you.

      Comment by welltemperedear — December 20, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  4. The music for a Suburu TV ad sounds classical but I’m not sure. Anyone know?

    Comment by Shirley — November 17, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    • Hi Shirley,
      I am not sure what the ad or music is, but I will try to track it down for you and let you know.
      Thanks for reading and replying with your potentially helpful observation.

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 17, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  5. Has anyone mentioned that Edmond Hyundai, in Edmond, Oklahoma, uses Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” for its commercials? The relentlessly driving beat seems to irritate some listeners, but it is certainly memorable — and Classical!

    Comment by Mama L — March 4, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

    • HI Mama L,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I am unfamiliar with that ad, so that you for the contribution.
      That is one very lively piece of music. I recall it from the Ed Sullivan Show.

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 4, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lansing Symphony and Naxos of America, Kickass Classical. Kickass Classical said: Will car ads help save classical music? […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Will car ads help save classical music? « The Well-Tempered Ear -- — November 22, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  7. My tumblr has numerous advertising videos utilizing classical music. Enjoy

    Comment by Randall — November 21, 2010 @ 9:56 am

    • Hi Randall,
      I and, I suspect, other readers will check it out.
      Can you name specific ads and specific composers and piece you use?
      Thanks for reading and writing.

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 21, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  8. When I hear TV ads with classical music I wonder if The Ear finds them worthy of interest and decide he probably does not. But he DOES and thank you. I enjoy these ads.

    When I am away from the TV and hear ads with classical music I rush to see who is doing what and hope to be favorably impressed by the sponsor. Most of the time I am but the use of the Mozart Requiem Lacrimosa for Direct TV makes no sense. Maybe I am missing something but I don’t find it amusing.

    You have already suggested why ad designers might select certain classical passages. For I wonder: did they relate to their own treasure of classical music? Or do they consult a quick library with music classified by theme, and find that energetic and earnest inquisitiveness is signified by the rhythmic movement of the Ravel String Quartet?

    Ultra-upscale autos like Lexus have used original compositions, not classical but artful New Age-like melodies that have stirred viewer/listener notice. I found many such references when looking for but not finding ads I liked that used dramatic Beethoven piano. For Lexus:

    More people will relate to the car in the straightforward Hyundai ads than the Lexus but any classical or classical-sounding music that garners notice and respect has the potential to broaden the taste for “serious” music. How can that not be a good thing today when we are concerned for the future of classical music and its place in mainstream preferences? Some contemplative New Age sounds (that are not too tinkly) can be a good bridges to classical music.

    Comment by Anne — November 16, 2010 @ 1:32 am

    • Hi Anne,
      I’m pleased you like the topic covered.
      The use of classical music in commercial ads is an interesting phenomenon.
      Like you, I wonder how they choose it.
      Do they look at record sales of certain pieces? Frequency of performances? Do they use focus groups?
      It would be interesting to know.
      Maybe one of The Ear’s readers has the answer and will pass it along?

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 16, 2010 @ 7:29 am

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