5 Astonishing Pieces Of Classical Music That Slaps!

Classical Music That Slaps
Classical Music That Slaps

Just in case you are not up to speed with the term slaps, it refers to a song or piece of music that is amazing, fabulous, and excellent.

Classical Music That Slaps

1. ‘Waltz No.2’ by Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich was one of the most important composers to emerge from Stalin’s Russia in the 20th Century. His collection of scores is impressive ranging from symphonic works to scores for film. 

This piece does not, strictly speaking, come from The Second Jazz Suite, but actually ‘Suite for Variety Orchestra’.

This work was lost during the ravages of the Second World War, but later rediscovered in a piano score, and parts of it were then reconstructed and orchestrated. The second waltz heralds from this eight-movement suite.

Although it is not certain, the rough date for this score is 1958. Shostakovich’s orchestration here is colourful and engaging including alto and tenor saxophones that were not commonly found in a symphony orchestra at the time.

The waltz has an alluring immediacy. Somehow Shostakovich manages to conjure both the mystery of an imaginary ballroom and the majesty of the dance.

It has been one of the most popular pieces to spring from the composer’s pen, used to great effect in the 1999 film called ‘Eyes Wide Shut’.

2. Symphony No. 5; Op.67, by Ludwig van Beethoven

Perhaps this is at the top of well-known classical pieces but impossible to omit from classical music that slaps. This symphony alongside the sixth symphony, pastorale, was miraculously completed in the same year; 1808.

It is the four-note motif that begins the symphony that has embedded itself in the collective consciousness. Some commentators have likened this motif to the hand of Fate knocking at the door, and maybe this is why it has such a powerful impact on audiences.

The entire symphony comprises four movements with the outer ones in sonata form. The second movement brings calm after the stormy opening and the initial motif undergoes an equally significant transformation.

The third movement Beethoven casts as a scherzo (joke), but this section has a gravity to it that is not light-hearted in the way many scherzos are. It makes use of the four-note motif again serving almost as a prelude to the blistering Finale.

Pace and energy just abound in this finale. Even in the coda section Beethoven continues to ramp up the intensity before the final chords sound out.

3. ‘Dance Macabre’ (Op. 40), by Camille Saint-Saens

This is the dance of Death. It is one of the most popular pieces of classical music written by French composer, Camille Saint-Saens. It was composed in 1874. The idea of Death dancing is not a new one.

Here Death rises on Halloween, represented by the violin, and invites his ghoulish friends to join him in dance at the stroke of midnight. The violin Saint-Saens gives the interval of an augmented fourth, or ‘Devil’s Interval’, that sounds the same no matter which way up you play it.

Immediately, the mischief is about to begin. You can hear the bell tolling twelve times, at the start of the piece, played on the harp, to indicate the witching hour is upon them.

In the first performances of this piece, the audience understandably found it disturbing. Not only is the Devil dominant in the score, but Death and all the unpleasant dwellers from the underworld arrive throughout the piece.

Saint-Saens’s orchestration is highly evocative, especially his use of the xylophone that represents rattling bones.

4. Fantasie-Impromptu Op. 66, by Frederick Chopin

Chopin had left clear instructions for none of his works to be published after his death. Composed in 1834, this work was not in print during Chopin’s lifetime and thankfully did get published in 1855 despite the composer’s wishes.

It is a good thing it was published as it has become the ambition of most pianists to play this work and a firm favourite with audiences across the globe. It is written in the key of C# minor set at the formidable tempo of Allegro agitato.

The agitato is aptly chosen as the piece never settles from the restlessness of the opening. In part, this is because of the pace of the music but the cross-rhythms between the hands certainly contribute to this feeling.

If you glance at the score, you can see the right-hand plays flowing, rising semi-quavers whilst the left-hand triplet quavers, a ratio of 4:3. A central section in the tonic major brings forward the sound of the Chopin Nocturnes, melodic, pensive, and sonorously rich.

A Presto section follows and we are forced from the realms of dreams back to the turmoil of the opening. The coda section leaves us in a kind of limbo, still unsettled and uncertain.

5. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; BWV. 565 by JS Bach

With its overtones of Gothic horror, this piece of organ music has become etched on the minds of thousands as one synonymous with vampires, villains, and all that is good and bad about horror movies.

There is a grandeur and terrifying splendour about the sound of an organ that is magnified by Bach’s music. Perhaps it is the sheer power of the instrument, the dark sonority of D minor, or the absolute strength of the opening mordent and descending scale.

It is challenging to be certain what precisely it is that has made this piece such an iconic one. Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’ has contributed to its fame in the orchestral transcription ably conceived by Stokowski.

Bach is unlikely to ever have imagined such enduring popularity for this composition that in all probability he wrote quickly and dismissed. Despite scholarly research, we still do not know exactly when the piece was composed nor for what it was written.

Speculation circulates around a date between 1730 and 1740, but this remains a source of debate. Characteristic of the North German style of the time, the faced-paced, improvisatory toccata, is followed by a four-voice fugue.

Bach makes this complex form flow effortlessly through the narrative and the piece concludes with a coda that echoes the opening.

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