The piano is a beautiful instrument capable of playing a wide array of sounds, from staccato to grandiose. In fact, the full name pianoforte literally means “soft-loud,” hinting to a composer’s freedom to create a diverse range of emotions and volumes on the instrument. When the piano came around, it unlocked a level of harmony and dynamics traditionally reserved for orchestras.
Certain famous classical piano songs have stood the test of time, making their way into our modern lives and providing the soundtrack for countless classic movie scenes and tv shows. The five best classical piano songs below are just a few of the most beloved songs that nearly everyone will recognize.
5 Popular Classical Piano Songs
1. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Moonlight Sonata”
There is no classical composer whose music better expresses emotions than Beethoven. As one of the earliest Romantic Era musicians, Beethoven wove a complex emotional landscape into each one of his pieces. As such, his music is heartfelt, brooding, and full of feeling.
As many know, his music is even more amazing upon realizing that he lost his hearing in early adulthood. One of the most famous things about Beethoven is that he was completely deaf by the time he wrote many of his famous classical piano pieces. However, some recent research suggests Beethoven could actually hear some of his final symphonies, although in a very faint way. Whether he heard them or not, these pieces are true treasures.
Beethoven’s expressive spirit is exemplified in the famous “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, No. 2” (nicknamed the “Moonlight Sonata”).
The first movement, marked Adagio sostenuto, is the most recognizable, with its smoothly moving triplet motive in the right hand and the heavy, pedantic melody in the low bass line.
True to the adopted name of the piece, the tune offers a beautiful mental image of a melancholy moonlit night.
2. Claude Debussy – “Clair de Lune”
French composer Debussy is the epitome of the Impressionist style of music. His piano pieces are soft, light, and dreamy, suggesting seascapes and tranquil natural settings.
“Clair de Lune” (which translates to “light of the moon”) is actually the third movement from his larger piano composition “Suite bergamasque.”
This is one of the most famous classical piano songs, as it has been used in countless movies and television shows to depict a soft and dreamlike state. The pianist uses the higher end of the keyboard and a certain lightness of the fingers to musically imitate the soft moonlight and the twinkling of the stars. Learning this piece on the piano will help you develop a sensitive sense of dynamics and touch.
SEE ALSO: 8 Best Piano Apps
3. Frederic Chopin – “March Funèbre”
Whenever movies and television shows need music that instantly makes people think of morbid settings, they often turn to the second movement of Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2,” aptly marked “Marche Funèbre” (“funeral march”).
This recognizable melody is slow and heavy. It mimics the feeling of marching slowly through a street while carrying a casket. “Marche Funèbre” is certainly one of the best classical piano songs for creating a dark and oppressive feeling. But don’t let it get you down! Playing and listening to this piece is a rich and beautiful experience.
4. Ludwig van Beethoven – “Für Elise”
Beethoven’s piano music is so universally well-known and beloved that he deserves a second mention in this list! The full name of this piece is “Bagatelle in A Minor” but most people will recognize it under the name “Für Elise.”
This is one of the best classical piano songs because of its beautiful and lyrical melody. It’s also one of the standard piano pieces for beginner piano students to learn. The right and left hands play constant eighth-note lines that weave in and out of each other to create a smooth texture. Practicing this tune is a great way to develop your finger independence.
5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – “Rondo alla Turca”
Everybody knows the name Mozart and recognizes him as one of the greatest composers and pianists in all of music history.
However, not everyone knows that he was a child prodigy, composing music and touring all of Europe at the age of five! He lived during a time when Eastern influence, especially from Turkey, was incredibly trendy in Western Europe.
All of these elements combine beautifully in the third movement of his “Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331,” marked Rondo alla turca (“Rondo in the Turkish style”). The music is fast, energetic, playful, and rhythmic.
SEE ALSO: Intro to Reading Piano Notes
These five famous classical piano songs are just the beginning when it comes to the wonderfully expansive repertoire of piano music that is out there. Pianists truly have the world at their fingertips when they play, and you can experience this freedom for yourself when you practice these classical piano pieces.
The first step in learning how to play these beautiful piano pieces is to sign up for piano lessons or online classes. An experienced teacher can help guide you through the process of developing the skills you need to perform these famous classical piano songs with mastery. With every lesson, you’ll learn more about how to express this lovely music through the piano. Whether you’re a seasoned classical music lover or this is your first foray into the genre, we hope you have a wonderful time playing these pieces!
Do you have another favorite classical piano piece that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Daniel Kruczynski