General Question

Rarebear's avatar

What, in your opinion, is the most brilliant piece of music ever written? Defend your choice.

Asked by Rarebear (25154points) August 30th, 2010

I’m not looking for your favorite. Just the most brilliant in your opinion. My entry is the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony #5. You all know it; it opens with the G-G-G-Eb motif. What Beethoven did was take that simple four note motif and build an entire symphonic movement around it. It travels far afield from the original four notes, but you hear the rhythm of three 1/8 G notes and the Eb half note over and over in different harmonic tones.

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45 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

beans beans the magical fruit the more you eat the more you toot…. or anything from bugs bunny cartoons or star wars… I think like rise of the Valkyries is best because it gets a rise out of me and gives me a psychotic high when I listen to it.

ipso's avatar

I think Beethoven’s 9th is widely considered to be the most renown.

Or various of Bach’s fugues because of their intellectual complexity of construction.

Or Paganini for virtuoso chops.

Rarebear's avatar

@talljasperman Okay, you’ve established what you like, but what about Wagner’s opera makes it particularly brilliant?

@ipso I would argue that the 9th symphony is the most complex and interesting of the symphonies—especially when viewed on a whole. But I don’t think it matches the simplistic brilliance of the first movement of the 5th.

Randy's avatar

I find a lot of stiff by the band Sigur Rós to be brilliant because in a lot of their songs, they use a “language” known as Hopelandic or Vonlenska. The band has commented and said that it’s basically a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music. Vonlenska focuses on the sounds of language and thus has no meaning, grammar or distinct words. It’s just sounds. No one can actually understand the lyrics but everyone can “get” the songs. It’s great.

I want to mainly focus on the song Sæglópur. Near the end, Jón Þór Birgisson begins to use the Icelandic language near the end. The music is a beautiful, simple piece. It’s one of the greatest pieces ever written in my own personal opinion.

DominicX's avatar

Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection” by Gustav Mahler.

This piece of music is so much more than a symphony. Not only does it tell a story that applies to all of mankind, its range of expression is so wide and it is so great in depth and length, that this symphony is a universe of its own. You can get lost in this symphony. It isn’t something you can just casually listen to. If you’re going to listen to it, you’re going to set aside 90 minutes and just take it all in, from start to finish.

The fact that this music, all 90 minutes of it, the wide range of emotion and expression, the perfect fit to the story…all of this came from one man. How can that not be brilliant?

This only comes from hearing it on CD! I’m going to see it live this May and I know it will be amazing.

Rarebear's avatar

@DominicX GA. I’m going to go out and get it based upon your review. Thanks! Do you have a particular recording of it you like?

Rarebear's avatar

@Randy Thanks. I hadn’t hear of them. I listen to a lot of music whose language I don’t understand—for example one of my favorite bands is Vaartina, who sing in Finnish. So this will be interesting.

DominicX's avatar


Yes. The recording with Gilbert Kaplan and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is the first one I got and my personal favorite:

The recording by Michael Tilson Thomas with the San Francisco Symphony is also great. If you listen to it, tell me what you think of it!

bob_'s avatar

For some reason, I’ve always liked La Marseillaise.

Since it’s a subject opinion, my liking it suffices as a defense, thank you.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

For pure force and emotion, the Carmina Burana has to be the best written piece of music. However I think Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos 2 and 3 are among the most complex yet aesthetically beautiful pieces ever written. I also love Mozart’s Requiem, but I don’t know it well enough to comment on where it stands.

DominicX's avatar


The fact that Carmina Burana as a whole is relatively simple (musically, it is fairly simple) but is so emotional and effective is part of the reason I like it so much. Orff’s music can be that way often.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DominicX I don’t know his other music. Is there any you would recommend?

DominicX's avatar


The problem is that once people get a taste of Carmina Burana, they expect his other music to be that way. Carmina Burana is part of a triology of works based on Latin and Greek poetry called Trinofi. The other parts of Trionfi are “Catulli Carmina” (based on the poetry of Catullus) and “Trionfo di Afrodite” (based on the poetry of Catullus and Sappho). I would recommend those two, but they are much more abstract and “out there” than Carmina Burana. Still very Orff-like, though. I definitely enjoyed them.

Catulli Carmina sample:

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DominicX Thanks, I’ll check them out.

zen_'s avatar

This one: based on my experience, if you sing it – even in part, even off-key – you will put a smile on a girl’s lips – make her laugh and she’s yours.


talljasperman's avatar

@Rarebear the feeling of battle and flow of passion

john65pennington's avatar

White Christmas. my only defense is that its the number one Christmas song…...ever.

Ben_Dover's avatar

Most of the solos by Keith Emerson…Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)

The Rainbow Connection by The Carpenters. I think things that are the most beautiful are also the most simple, understated, and elegant, and Paul Williams wrote a lot of good music, including this number which showcases his talent for melody and subtle nuance in music. And of course it’s sung by the late Karen Carpenter, who I think was one of the best female singers of her generation.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Ben_Dover's avatar

@zen_ Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Try This

jazmina88's avatar

The emotion of Sibelius Finlandia has sprung into my heart this morning. simple prayerfulness

Which brings Bernstein’s Mass in there as well.

phoebusg's avatar

Chopin: Ballads & Scherzos.

But since you said one: Ballade 1 (though it’s not the only one)

Why? It makes my hair stand from the first 2 notes – but maybe it’s personal. It manages spaces(silence) brilliantly. It has many themes woven well. Rhythms. Change, but not too much so it’s noise. And it’s a bitch to play on the piano—but yes I think it’s brilliant.

Seek's avatar


You can literally sing anything to the tune of Greensleeves.

Just try it.

“Do AN-droids DREAM, of e-LEC-tric Sheep?”

Rarebear's avatar

@DominicX I’m a big fan of the San Francisco Symphony and MTT. I have their recordings of the Firebird and Rite of Spring and I love them.

@Seek_Kolinahr AWESOME!!! totally off topic, but you might be interested in a book by John Scalzi called Androids Dream. The book starts off with an assassination by fart

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
MeinTeil's avatar

‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails.

The masterpiece of masterpieces.

Rarebear's avatar

@MeinTeil What about it makes a masterpiece in your opinion?

Nullo's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr That is the beauty of the Common Meter.
Other notable tunes in Common Meter include Amazing Grace, House of the Rising Sun and the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. You can, of course, apply the words of any of them to the melodies of any of the others. Lots of hymns in there, too, which can make for some amusing slip-ups.

Seek's avatar

I was totally going to mention Gilligan’s Island. Used to piss off my Sunday School teacher to no end when I’d sing Amazing Grace to the Gilligan’s Island theme.

Nullo's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Isn’t it fun? Try it with The Beverly Hillbillies.

Rarebear's avatar

@Nullo and @Seek_Kolinahr Try Gilligans Island to Amazing Grace.

Nullo's avatar

@Rarebear I’ve tried that. I’m not sure what to do with the 2x “A three-hour tour.” Suggestions?

Rarebear's avatar

@Nullo Well, it’s not exact…

Seek's avatar

You simply repeat the last line of the verse.

uh-Mazing grace how sweet the sound
that Saved a wretch like mee…
I ONce was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see
Was blind but now I see….

CMaz's avatar

Debussy – Clair de lune

It just does it to me.

Rarebear's avatar

@ChazMaz Funny how music affect people differently. I can’t stand that piece, but I’m not a Debussy fan—way too ornamental for me. But then, of course, I’m trying to learn Debussy on the piano right now so I have a very special kind of hatred.

@DominicX I found a 5 dollar itunes download of Mahler #2. It’s good, I agree.

Nullo's avatar

@ChazMaz Doesn’t that kind of piano-playing sound a bit melancholy?

I think that my favorite piece of classical has got to be Dvorjak’s 9th Symphony, 4th Movement. Peppy, with a hint of daring-do alternating with the sort of cheerful quiet that you get on a hike, all with subtle undertones of dramatic purposefulness. I first heard it – specifically the bits with the trumpets – as BGM in a documentary about Nazis, and was so impressed that I spent the rest of the movie trying to remember it.
But then, there’s a lot of classical out there that I haven’t heard.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
CMaz's avatar

Melancholy, true. But Debussy get me. :-)

MeinTeil's avatar

Go to defend ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails:

First of all “Closer” is by ‘Nine Inch Nails’.

as it this wasnt enough, ‘Closer’ is “Nine Inch Nails” ultimate expression.

For those that have not been paying attention: In a number of years, quietly as grunge and other stupid movements grew, Quality and talented Industrial bands developed and became greater than ever.

the most obvious result is NIN’s ‘Closer’.

Seek's avatar

Closer is the ultimate expression… of what? Please complete your sentence, @MeinTeil

ipso's avatar

I think this John Williams’s interpretation of Isaac Albeniz’s Asturias is transcendent.

Impossible metronomic tempo; virtually flawless.



Rarebear's avatar

@ipso I hadn’t heard of that, thanks!

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