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Top 3 Most Magical Musical Moments

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I'm just curious...

I've seen a lot of posts in a lot of forums about everyone's favorite this or that, but I'd like to hear some folks' favorite moments in music of all time. There are no "rules" here; just post a link to your top 3 favorite musical moments with a time marking indicating where that moment starts (and ends, as some awesome moments don't necessarily occur at the end of a piece). (BTW you can paste a YouTube link at the very second you want by pausing the video, right-clicking and selecting 'Copy video URL at current time.' Then paste the link on your post!) Here, I'll start. 🙂

Moment #3: Debussy's La Mer. This orchestral suite is a gorgeous musical representation of the sea, but I'm particularly fond of the rocking, lilting moments of the last movement, "Dialogue du vent et de la mer" (dialogue of the wind and the sea). You can actually hear the waves crashing and wind blowing; and the crescendo at the end... well, it will drown you in emotion. This performance conducted by Boulez is pretty darn good. And just so we're clear, Debussy wrote this in 1905—long before the advent of filmscore.

Moment #2: Rachmaninoff's 4th piano concerto. Very different from his other 3 piano concerti, but refreshingly Rachmaninoff nonetheless. The whole piece is rife with harmonies that will blow your mind, but the final few minutes are some of the best. I love the tension that builds up towards the end, and the final (and surprising) release to G major. The piece tends to avoid the major home key until the absolute very end, making that final release especially sweet. Ah, my soul!

Favorite moment: finale to Sibelius' 5th symphony (revised edition). All of his symphonies are phenomenal, and a couple are extra-phenomenal. This is one of them. There is so much freaking tension and release here, so much dynamic build, so much movement... my emotions can never take it without spilling over. The final few minutes of the piece are breathtaking, and this performance conducted by the indomitable Leonard Bernstein is... divine. Just divine. I mean, do you know how hard it is to coordinate those last 5 notes, with all that space in between? Beautifully executed here.


So, all of my moments were orchestral (and finales), but that doesn't mean yours have to be! I'm looking forward to hearing what moves the rest of you... and I'm sure I'll discover some pieces I've never heard before!

Happy posting!

Edit: my poor brain automatically assumed everyone would have a top 3 favorite moments, but feel free to post as few or as many as you like.

Edited by Tónskáld
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1. Gershwin's Piano Concerto, 1st movement, starting 7:30. The beautiful E major section comes out of nowhere, and when it climaxes with a major 7th suspension on the ii chord nothing else matters.

2. Shostakovich Symphony 15, end, 42:52: I love this whole piece, but the end is so completely different, yet totally not at all (in reference to the first movement), that it's ironically one of the most conclusive pieces, even including his 5th and 7th symphonies.

3. Kapustin Piano Concerto No. 2, mvt. 3, 2:03, everyone should hear this whole piece, but I guess I just love contrast that isn't really a contrast at all, because in the middle of all of this toccata-esque piano play, there's this great little section of swing, while the piano sticks with themes from the whole piece in the same style. It's short, but a fantastic little moment.


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@Monarcheon: loved your choices, as well! The Gershwin concerto is a favorite of mine, as is just about everything that prodigy composed. I hadn't heard Shostakovich's 15th... it was refreshingly percussionistic and sounded extremely modern. I guess it technically is, since it was written in 1971.

But the Kapustin piece... where has that been all my life? I love the sound of big brass and swing—I was hoping to one day write a classical piece in that style. Looks like someone beat me to it. 😉 Seriously, though, I freaking loved that piece. Thanks for sharing!

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  • 5 weeks later...

This is difficult to answer, as there are many individual moments that appeal to me deeply for different reasons.  But at this point of time, I'd rank the most enduring moments as follows:

No. 3:  Retransition passage in the slow movement of Shostakovich Piano Concerto, Op. 102

This movement beautifully captures musical simplicity, which to me is among the most difficult styles in which to write effectively.  Too often, composers who aim for this style write music which is actually simplistic.  There is no depth or substance to it beneath the surface.  Not so in Shostakovich's work.  His subtle contrast of major and minor throughout is what appeals to me the most, and specifically the transformation of the piano's initial melody from peaceful major (1:15) to deeply painful, lonely minor (4:20), followed by a profoundly hopeful return to major at 4:55 never fails to move me.

No. 2:  Opening of the slow movement of Barber's Violin Concerto, Op. 14.

Barber is my favourite composer of the 20th century, as he was courageous enough to resist those (as best he was able) who pressured him incessantly to stop writing the music that spoke to him - that is music of earlier times.  It was difficult to choose a favourite from this master, particularly because I find the opening of his Piano Concerto to be equally stunning, but the transcendentally beautiful oboe solo at the very beginning of his violin concerto slow movement won the day in the end.  With most melodies, the poignancy is lost somewhat with repeated hearings.  You can never capture the bliss that you felt on initial exposure, even if the work still moves you.  That is why this particular movement made my list.  I have probably heard the opening oboe solo a hundred times, and to this day it moves me as though I had never heard it before.  Few composers have a gift for melody like this.

No. 1:  Brahms Violin Sonata, Op. 108; first movement, development and coda

Brahms is my favourite composer in an overall sense.  He mixed a great talent for melody with the formal sophistication and ingenuity of Beethoven.  For me, this means that his sonata-allegro movements are captivating throughout.  The lyricism of the exposition and recapitulation are balanced with the formal sophistication of the development.  And of all his developments, the one that has always stood out to me as stunningly brilliant is that of the third violin sonata (2:25 in my clip).  It is basically a giant dominant preparation over which a series a magical harmonies slide about.  In a sense, functional harmony is entirely suspended in this section, but without losing a sense of direction and evolution.  And as in the Shostakovich, the conflict between major and minor/dim7 sonorities is highly appealing to me.

The coda, beginning at 6:55, is equally spectacular.  Returning to the development material's magical harmony and ending with dropping open fifths that give a sense of multiple instruments, it concludes inconclusively in D major, which will carry forward into the slow movement (a stunning movement in its own right). 

In spite of finding countless moments of great beauty, in all the music I've heard in my life I've never found another development or coda like this.  This particular combination of pedal point harmony, major-minor conflict, and formal sensitivity produces an entirely original effect.

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@pianist_1981 Thank you for sharing these indeed beautiful moments! I'm a fan of Barber, as well, especially his violin concerto, so I completely empathize with you there! I was familiar with your other moments but hadn't really taken the time to listen to them in depth as you described until now. I'm glad I did—such moving passages for sure!

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There are many moments for me, too many, in fact, for me to remember, but I'll list a few of them. In my eyes they're all equally beautiful, so I wont give them any ranks.

-Philipp Scharwenka: Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 118, mvt. 2: recapitulation and coda.

Scharwenka's Piano Quintet is a masterpiece in its own right, but that section in the second movement has to be the most beautiful one in the entire piece. All the section really does is repeat the first subject in a different orchestration, and then blend the first and second subjects in the coda in a sort of condensed format, with the strings muted. But what makes the section in that movement so gorgeous is how it's orchestrated. I can't explain it in words, it's just so beautiful. Honestly, I'd recommend checking out the whole piece, but especially the second movement.

-Richard Wagner: Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde: grand climax.

For me, this piece is beautiful beyond words. Everything is paced so carefully, the orchestration choices are phenomenal, and then the peak, after the perfect pace, gives me goosebumps. Also, those special harmonies unique to that opera are just incredible. I wont say much more, because I'm sure most of you know that piece very well. I'll just close this by saying that it has to be one of my favorite pieces.

-Toivo Kuula: Piano Trio in A major, Op. 7, mvt. 3: entire movement, but especially G-sharp minor (middle?) section.

This rarely-played piece is, in my opinion, one of the greatest works in the entire piano trio repertoire. Unfortunately, it's extreme length (50 minutes) prevents the work from being performed as often as it deserves. The whole piece is fantastic, but my favorite movement from the work has to be the 3rd movement. This movement is one of the most tragic pieces I've ever heard. The key is in F minor, and begins rather mysteriously, with octaves in the piano, followed by the violin and cello playing a poignant melody in unison. After this comes the main theme, a very romantic and passionate melody. The theme gets played around briefly, before being transited into a section in G-sharp minor, with descending scales in the right hand of the piano, while the strings play a tragic variation of the theme, all fortissimo. The opening of this section closes with dark chords in the piano, followed by a section with lighter chords in the piano, while the strings continue with another variation of the theme. After some time, the piece repeats, the same exact musical format, just with the keys flipped, and slightly condensed. After the peak plays in F minor, the piece ends with a coda very similar to the opening of the piece, just with the orchestration reversed, the piano having the haunting melody, and the strings playing the mysterious octaves. The piece ends with a slower version of the main theme, combined with the old melody at the same time, before the piano ends by playing the octaves (which are on C instead F, giving movement a haunting close).

Edited by Theodore Servin
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I'm going to give some non-classical examples, in no particular order. Since I'm old, jaded and the childlike sense of wonder has been beat out of me long ago by the woes of modernity.

Anyway, here's a few that still give those "chills of wonder" from time to time. I'll start all clips at the relevant spot.

1. When this Duduk solo ends and that woman begins singing over that guitar and ethereal pad.


2. When sh it gets real in Mairead Nesbitt's violin solo


3. The masquerade ball...and that haunting, distant, singing.




Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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@AngelCityOutlaw I'm glad you branched out... it got me to thinking! So I'm not just a classical music fan—here is a moment in popular music that stops my beating heart! The quiet, almost mournful "I wish all my words were unsaid," followed by the soul-lifting "In the summer when the rains begin"... Guys and gals, it doesn't get much better than this (in my humble opinion). The whole song is a gem, but I started the time at the last couple of minutes. Enjoy!


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