Ah, classical music. The good, the bad, and the horribly, horrendously overplayed beyond all known recognition thanks to the Internet. Join me, my friends, as I list the ten most overplayed pieces of classical music and cry over how glorious these ten pieces once were…in no particular order, of course.
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (Holst)
Look, I get it. The Good Part of This Song made up the best two minutes of my life and gave me spectacular pleasure when I first heard it. But after listening to it on a loop hundreds of times, one grows wary when TV shows and movies cannot seem to stray away from using the same two minutes over and over again. Carol’s brother is getting married? JUPITER. Sally didn’t get into her dream college? JUPITER. Demon sacrifices? JUPITER. No doubt the piece is wonderful to listen to, but there is a time and place for everything.
In The Hall of The Mountain King (Grieg)
A tense song with a cool melody that ends with an epic accelerando passage? More like a criminally overplayed death tune to my ears that may or may not have once been enjoyable prior to the pop culture treatment. You know, where every time an action montage needs background music they play this piece. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun dun dun dun dun MY EARS ARE BLEEDING HELP.
Flight of the Bumblebee (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Maybe one of the best examples of Used-And-Abused-By-Pop-Culture (and violinists everywhere), Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of The Bumblebee is played literally every time someone wants to show off their epic musicality, despite the fact that anyone who’s practiced their chromatic scales and is capable of sliding their fingers around can play this piece that actually sounds like a fly when you play it two times fast. Rimsky-Korsakov would have cried if he knew what his piece was being used for.
Für Elise (Beethoven)*
If you like to watch sad, melodramatic movies, this piece is most likely your worst enemy. The sad part is that the history behind this piece is fairly interesting – during the time when Beethoven was composing it, he had fallen madly in love with his student Therese Malfatti, only to discover she was engaged to another man. In that case, the piece could have actually been titled Für Terese and we just couldn’t read Beethoven’s handwriting.
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach)
And once again, we have a piece you only know part of, thanks to the steady stream of cheap horror, alien abduction, and space-themed movies that Hollywood pours out. Nothing like cool organ music to set the tone for your scene and build suspense for your audience…unless your audience just so happens to be a classical musician and is tired of listening to this piece, as much as the said classical musician likes their buddy J. S. Bach.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (Tchaikovsky)
Tchaikovsky was an accomplished man, and yet even he could not stop the internet (or the folks who made Tom and Jerry) from using his piece as everything from moody background music to something as simple as the twenty-first level on Piano Tiles 2. It even makes cool Christmas music if you’re the type that likes to sneak around at midnight looking for signs of Santa Claus. So is it any wonder that half the population no longer remembers that this is from The Nutcracker? (Do people even watch that ballet anymore? I live under a rock.)
Ode To Joy (Beethoven)
If you listen closely, you can hear the collective sighing of classical musicians everywhere who were forced to learn this as their very first piece on their instrument and that is a fact. You know that meme currently going around where Marie Kondo’s sitting there like, “This one does not spark joy”? This piece does not spark joy. Sorry Beethoven, but your piece sparks frustration among everyone who’s played an instrument before.
Alright, so maybe this isn’t entirely the fault of pop culture. It’s probably more the fault of those baby companies that oversell those cheap plastic baby toys that play this lullaby at the click of a button. And, ok, the movies where the character is trying to get their annoying baby to go the @#$% to sleep. Wherever the blame lies, this piece will forever be associated with babies and parenthood. Just don’t expect me to sing it to my firstborn.
Nessun Dorma (Puccini)
I guess this is what you get when you combine a weird opera about a guy who is so self assured he sings an aria about his self assurance and a performance of that same aria at a sporting event the whole world witnesses: global fame, and with it, global exploitation. Suddenly, everyone is using the piece as background music to express relief or joy, YouTube videos are popping up all over the place, and billions of people are searching for the name of the melody they have stuck inside their heads.
LOL, I’m just kidding with this one. Anyways, thanks for putting up with my blog that says it updates every week but doesn’t really. This one’s on me. OH, and Americans, HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY. To the rest of the world, HAVE A NICE EVENING. *takes off hat and bows*
*That mood when you work hard and and write a long piece and everyone only plays like two pages of it. Really feeling for Beethoven right now.
**The literal translation of ‘Nessun Dorma’ is ‘None Shall Sleep”.