The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What five minutes of music would you choose to make someone fall in love with classical music? | September 9, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

What five minutes of music would you choose to recommend to make someone else fall in love with classical music?

That is the question that, this week, The New York Times put to a distinguished selection of critics, performers and composers.

But The Ear finds that a lot of the choices seem very odd.

It seems that a lot of the responders stretched to name something unusual or out-of-the-way. So on the list you will find John Cage and Lou Harrison and Olivier Messiaen and Steve Reich (twice) and Anna Clyne (below top) and Unsuk Chin (below bottom).

Beethoven makes the list and so do Ravel and Berlioz and Stravinsky and Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

But you won’t find Bach (below) or Vivaldi or Handel or Mozart or Schubert or Chopin or Schumann or Brahms or Tchaikovsky or Dvorak or Rachmaninoff.


Very curious.

It almost seems like a very self-conscious spurning of The Greats, of “The Canon,” that got so many listeners started on classical music and hooked for life.

But maybe not.

Decide for yourself. Here is a link to the long story, engaging to read, that is complete with generous sound clips of the music named:

But here is what The Ear wants to know:

What do you think about the selections named in the Times’ story?

What was the piece of music that first made you fall in love with classical music?

And, if your choice would now be different for someone else, what piece would YOU recommend to make a friend or someone else fall in love with classical music?

Please leave your opinion and choice in the COMMENT section with a link to a YouTube video performance, if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Hard to pick one piece, but one that captured my attention in high school is the Requiem by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Pie Jesu is particularly moving, for example (feel free to ignore the video),

    Comment by kakaczma — September 14, 2018 @ 11:19 am

  2. This was the question:
    “What are the five minutes or so — longer than a moment, shorter than a symphony — that you’d play for a friend to convince them to fall in love with classical music?”

    “for a friend” changes the whole context of the question, and explains the odd choices.

    I’m assuming that the writers and editors of the NYT are in a different social sphere than most of us.

    As for my introduction, it was the Hummel’s second movement from his horn concerto in E.

    September of 1976, listened to on NPR. I was living in Milwaukee at the time and I remember walking to a downtown record store and handing the clerk a piece of paper on which I had scribbled the Nonesuch record information. I still have that recording.

    Comment by Augustine — September 9, 2018 @ 7:29 am

    • Interesting that you chose Hummel, Mozart’s favorite student.

      I must listen to that.

      The 2nd, Larghetto movement from his 3rd piano concerto is also lovely (and in addition to piano has some beautiful horn playing). It’s about 8 minutes long.

      Here’s Steven Hough playing the piano:

      Comment by fflambeau — September 10, 2018 @ 11:38 pm

      • The Hummel you feature in a link is not for horn (French horn) but for trumpet.

        Comment by fflambeau — September 10, 2018 @ 11:46 pm

      • Yes, I should have written Trumpet Concerto. For those readers interested in the Nonesuch Recording I alluded to earlier that was my intro to classical music:
        Trumpet Concertos, Edward Tarr, Trumpet, Consortium musicum, Fritz Lehan, conductor. Nonesuch H-71270
        One of my favorite recordings in my vinyl collection.

        Comment by Augustine — September 12, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

  3. 1. Debussy, Rêverie (either the original piano version or the orchestrated version played by E. Ormandy)

    2. Hovhaness, “Mysterious Mountain”;

    3. Khachaturian, “Spartacus Suite”;

    4. Mozart Clarinet concerto

    5. Mozart horn concerto (in fact, any 5 minutes of Mozart).

    Comment by fflambeau — September 9, 2018 @ 12:09 am

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