10 classical pieces you know but can't name

You'll have heard them all before; in films, in the shops, and on adverts. These pieces are iconic and you seem to know them like the back of your hand, but you're always missing one thing: their names! In our own version of Classical Shazam we take you through 10 of the most famous pieces you always hear but can never name. 

The dramatic orchestral one: Mozart's Symphony 40 in G minor

This is the one that just makes you picture a concert hall - the strings moving their bows faster than you can follow them, the percussion hitting the timpani with the force of a bodybuilder, and the conductor keeping the whole thing miraculously together. Mozart's 40th Symphony is one of the most well-known symphonies of all time and a regular in the classic repertoire (as well as the GCSE music syllabus).


Is there a fly in here? Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee

Originally written as an interlude for the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan in 1900, Rimsky-Kosakov's Flight of the Bumblebee is now one of the best-known pieces in the world, with versions for piano, violin, and even beer bottles! It is famous for its incredibly fast melodic line, which is very difficult to play for even the world's best musicians. 

The one that sounds like circus music: Entry of the Gladiators

Written in1897 by Czech composer Julius Fučík, Entry of the Gladiators is famous for its plodding bass line and comedic chromatic lines. It was arranged for Wind Band under a new name, Thunder and Blazers, in 1901 and has since become universally associated with clowns at the circus, and was performed at the BBC Proms in 2007. 

The one with just a cello: Bach's Suite No. 1 in G major BMW 1007

This one again appears in countless films and is possibly the most iconic work for solo cello ever written. It is typical of Bach's style featuring inventive harmonies and intricate counterpoint. 

The theme from The Apprentice: The Dance of The Knights 

The Dance of the Nights is from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet and was originally called The Montagues and Capulets, and is most well-known today as the title music for BBC's The Apprentice. Originally Prokofiev re-wrote the end of Shakespeare's timeless tragedy to finish with a happy ending, but this unsurprisingly did not last, and Prokofiev returned to the original ending when ballet companies refused to stage his original performance. 

The one you learnt in childhood piano lessons: Beethoven's Ode to Joy 

The melody for Ode to Joy is instantly recognisable, and was originally in the fourth and final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. This work as a whole is a landmark one, which marked a huge turning point in the history of the symphony, with its huge length, massive orchestra, and groundbreaking use of a choir, in a call for universal brotherhood.

The one that makes you think about space: Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, 2nd movement 

Despite its connotations with space after Neil Armstrong took a recording of the symphony on the Apollo 11 mission in 1696, New World originally referred to America, where Dvořák has just moved to, and stayed for two and a half years. This movement is the second of four movements, although all movements of this work are used frequently in films and TV, and is performed regularly, including in Symphony hall this week!

The one that just sounds really chill: Satie's Trois Gymnopédies 

These are three short pieces written by French pianist and composer Eric Satie in 1888. They are incredibly atmospheric and tranquil, marking a move away from the epic symphonies and huge orchestras brought into fashion by Beethoven earlier in the century. 

The one you that sounds like a victorious procession: Verdi's Triumphal March 

The Triumphal March is from Verdi's opera Aida which tells the story of the Ethiopian princess Aida who has been captured by the Egyptians, but has fallen in love with the Egyptian soldier Radames. A dramatic love triangle follows, ending with Radames and Aida entombed together, refusing to live without one another. 

The terrifying one: Carl Orff's O Fortuna 

Based off a poem to Fortuna, the Roman Goddess of fortune, O Fortuna is a huge task to sing and a joy to hear. The piece features a massive orchestra and chorus, acting as the first movement of a monumental work called Carmina Burana lasting 25 movements.