Playlist: Classical Music You Probably Know (But Can’t Name): Vol. 3

By Adela Skowronski |

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Whether through movies, advertising, samples, or other popular media, classical music is everywhere — you just have to know what to look for!

We'd hazard a guess that you've heard all of these pieces at some point in your life. But it can be so hard to track down classical music! Well, in part 3 (check out Volume 1 and Volume 2) of our ongoing series, we break down music you probably already know but might not be able to name or place. Enjoy delving in!

Erik Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1

Gymnopédie No. 1 kicks off a triptych of slow, contemplative solo piano works composed by Satie. It’s since been orchestrated and arranged for different instrument combinations, a testament to the transcendent quality of the piece. The transportive work itself has been featured in many movies, but also sampled by musicians of other genres. A sample is even found on Janet Jackson’s 2001 hit single “Someone to Call My Lover”, which reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “Rondo alla Turca” from Piano Sonata No. 11

Well known in part due to "Best Of" CDs, Baby Einstein and other classical compilations, the last movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 is better known by its nickname “Rondo alla Turca.” The “alla Turca” note was added by Mozart himself; it is thought that the piece was inspired by the sound of Turkish Janissary bands (military-style bands), which were in vogue during Mozart’s time in Vienna.

Amilcare Ponchielli: Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda

Though initially the Act III finale of Ponchielli’s opera La Gioconda, the spritely, upbeat Dance of the Hours has become such a popular work that it is quite common to perform as a standalone orchestral piece. It is perhaps best known today as the music that hippos and ostriches dance to in Disney’s Fantasia; this may account for why today, it is one of the most performed (and parodied) ballet numbers in classical music.

Jean-Joseph Mouret: Fanfare-Rondeau from Suite de symphonies

Jean-Joseph Mouret’s Fanfare-Rondeau from Suite des symphonies is more commonly known today as the theme for Masterpiece. It is also commonly used at formal ceremonies such as weddings and graduations!

Zequinha de Abreu: “Tico-Tico no Fubá”

This song has been modified and covered so many times, it’s almost hard to believe that it started off as a piece of classical music! "Tico-Tico no Fubá" is a Brazilian choro song composed in 1917 that exploded in international popularity after Ethel Smith recorded it in 1944. Beyond the intoxicating melody, some recordings have lyrics, across multiple languages! Aloísio de Oliveira wrote the Portuguese lyrics, The Andrews Sisters wrote a set of English ones, Arika Takarano wrote Japanese, to name just a few.

We hope some of these selections rang a bell for you, and we hope they helped encourage you to seek out more great classical music! There's a good chance you know more than you think.

And to help you explore, we've made a huge library of playlists right here.

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