How are you going to spend New Years? New Year’s Eve recovery? Finding it hard to give up that festive glass of champagne when you’ve just decided to quit alcohol? Or are you going for a long walk with family and friends? Do something new that you’ve never done before? Organize an aperitif for the New Year? Or binge on this box? Whatever you choose, these 20 pieces of music are guaranteed to lift your spirits, fill you with hope and optimism – and give you the right start to the year ahead. Scroll down to check out our selection of the best classical music for the New Year.
Best Classical Music for the New Year: Top 20 Songs
20: Arne: “The scintillating sun” by Morning
What better way to start the day than this beautiful greeting to the “sun shimmering as it begins to rise and paint the sky”! This is the fifth of six short cantatas by Thomas Arne (composer, of course, of Rule, Britannia!) composed in 1755 and using lines of Comus by John Milton.
19: CPE Bach: ‘Magnificat Anima Mea’ by Magnificat in D major
The opening choir of this magnificent decor of the Magnificat in D major Wq 215 / H.772 composed in 1749 could have been placed at number one or anywhere else in the top twenty, it’s such an invigorating piece. But why not start the New Year as you intend to continue!
18: Graubünden: Toccata in f
Here is an underrated composer with an exuberant toccata that deserves to be heard much more often, the kind of piece that will fill you with optimism and put a spring in your step. Jules Grison (1842-96) studied with Étienne Robert (1816-96), the organist of the cathedral of Reims, and succeeded him at the age of 21, a position he held until his death. Hear him in this stunning performance by the late Jane Parker-Smith.
17: Stanley: Trumpet chord in D, Op. 6 n ° 5
Stanley (1712-1786), blinded by an accident at the age of two, was one of the greatest organists of his time, a friend of Handel and master of the king’s music orchestra. Among his 30 organ volunteers, published in the 1740s and 1950s, this one exploits the trumpet playing and is a big favorite at weddings.
16: Elgar: Scene 6 (finale) from Caractacus
Not one of the ElgarThis six-scene cantata – first performed in 1898 – tells the story of a British chieftain who fought off invading Roman invaders. Eventually defeated at the British camp on the Malvern Hills, Caractacus was taken to Rome for trial but so impressed Emperor Claudius that he was pardoned. The final scene is one of the composer’s most catchy patriotic choirs. To play at full volume!
15: J Strauss II: Champagne Polka
Champagne on New Year’s Day? Yes please! And we have to have music by Johann Strauss without which no New Year’s Day would be complete. This polka, subtitled “A Musical Joke”, with bursts of corks, was written in 1858 for Strauss’ successful tour of Russia and is one of the best pieces of classical music for the New Year. reference to a popular tavern song by János Fusz called ‘Mir is’ Alles Ans’ -‘ What do I Care ‘.
14: Dove: Ring the wild bells
Tennyson’s poem Ring the wild bells, written in 1850 (the same year he was appointed Poet Laureate), has been set to music by many composers. This one is by British composer Jonathan Dove CBE (born 1959) written in 2000 and who quickly became a favorite choral element. He uses the first, second, third, fifth and seventh stanzas for the seventh and last movement of his Passage of the year cycle of songs written for double choir and piano.
13: Puccini: Turandot (final)
This grand opera, composed in the last year of Puccini‘s life (1924), is best known for the tenor solo from act 3’Nessun Dorma‘(“None sleeps”) made famous around the world by Luciano Pavarotti. But go ahead to the end of the opera (act 3, scene 2) and you’ll find this overwhelming choral version of the same theme. “Diecimila anni al nostro Imperatore! Is guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine.
12: J Strauss I: Mars Radetzky
It is the piece that always closes the New Year’s concert in Vienna accompanied by the audience applauding (roughly) in time. It is by far the best known of all the compositions by the father of Johann Strauss II, a march written to celebrate the victory over the Italians by the Austrian general Count Joseph Radetzky von Radetz (1766-1858), and one of the best classical music pieces to celebrate the new year.
11: Haydn: “In the beginning” (from Creation)
The second number of this vast and sprawling choral work (1796-1798) begins with a solemn bass solo from the opening words of the Book of Genesis which, together with excerpts from the lost paradise, provided Haydn with the text. The subject of the oratorio is that of chaos resolving in order, darkness turning into light. After the bass solo, the choir enters for the magical moment where they sing “And there was light!”
10: Handel: Music for the royal fireworks
King George II commissioned Handel to write a suite of celebratory music to be played outdoors as part of a huge entertainment event in Green Park, London on April 27, 1749. The fireworks did not fail. was a complete success – a Catherine wheel set the specially constructed Temple of Peace on fire and caused utter panic – but the music was a triumph.
9: Waldteufel: The skaters’ waltz
Émile Waldteufel (1837-1915) – a French composer, despite his German sounding name – spent much of his life in Paris, gaining worldwide fame for his dance music. No doubt inspired by the fact that the Seine freezes regularly in the late 1870s and early 1880s, The ice skaters (The skaters’ waltz) is his best-known work, although it did not achieve international success until the 1920s.
8: JS Bach: “Osanna in Excelsis” by Mass in B minor
The Mass in B minor, one of the greatest of all choral works, has never been heard in Bachlifetime. In fact, he did not receive his creation until 1834 (in Berlin), 84 years after his death. Composed between 1733 and 1738, it is a tribute to Bach’s deep faith that, as a Protestant, he should have been used as the backdrop for a Catholic ritual. Osanna’s impressive chorus opens part four.
7: Mozart: Concerto for two pianos (final), K365
This exuberant work was composed in 1779 for Mozart and her sister Nannerl “for home use”. Externally, the last movement is a bubbling joyous frolic, but there are many difficult moments to overcome in the performance that Mozart must have included with a nod and a wink.
6: Coats: London Suite
Let me take you to London – to Knightsbridge, Covent Garden and beyond – for the New Years Sale! Eric Coates wrote this three-movement suite in 1932 and it has become one of the most popular British light musical pieces ever written. Its later London Suite depicts Oxford Street, Langham Place and Mayfair.
5: Brahms: Violin Concerto
Brahms composed only one violin concerto and in doing so produced one of the great masterpieces for the instrument, “a song for violin on a symphonic scale,” as said a writer. Every famous violinist has the work in his repertoire. The first to perform there was Brahms’ friend and advisor Joseph Joachim, who gave the first performance on New Years Day 1879.
4: Fletcher: Ring the wild bells
Here is another setting of Ring, wild bells, from In memory by Alfred Lord Tennyson. It is by Percy Fletcher (1879-1932), a British composer known for his brass band and military music. And it’s one of the most effective, especially in this dizzying performance by the Black Dyke Mills Band, the Huddersfield Choral Society under Roy Newsome.
3: Hummel: Trumpet Concerto
Hummel, a pupil of Mozart and Albrechtsberger, also studied for some time with Haydn. In 1803 he wrote this Trumpet Concerto for the same virtuoso, Anton Weidlnger, for whom Haydn had already written his trumpet concerto. Hummel succeeded Haydn as Kapellmesiter at the court of Einstadt on New Years Day 1804, the day Weidlinger gave the first performance of this brilliant work.
2: J Strauss II: The blue danube
Every New Year’s collection must include this, the most famous waltz ever written, still the penultimate piece performed in the popular New Year’s concert at the Vienna Musikverein. An der schönen, blauen Donau (to give it its title), one of the best classical pieces to celebrate the New Year, was originally a choral work written for the Vienna Men’s Singing Society in 1867. Today in its purely orchestral form , this is the second hymn.
1: Tomlinson: Fantasy on Auld Lang Syne
Robert Burns’ poem and New Years Eve are as inseparable as Rolls and Royce, Gilbert and Sullivan or Marks and Spencer. Burns wrote it in 1788, although it is based on an old Scottish folk song. The music? It’s less simple. Its original composer remains a moot point with various protesting claimants. There is no puzzle, however, as to the origins of this witty 20-minute melody-using fantasy. It was composed in 1976 by Ernest Tomlinson (1924-2015), born in Lancashire, one of the greatest light music composers in the country. It is, musically speaking, a quodlibet – that is, a composition that combines several different melodies in counterpoint, usually in a light manner. It is said that Tomlinson includes in the score no less than 152 references to other popular and classical works! How many can you spot?