Classical Music 101- 14 Essential First Pieces for Kids

Would you like to introduce your children to classical music but you’re not sure where to start? We’ve put together a Spotify playlist of 14 essential pieces of classical music to spark curiosity and inspire your little ones. Read on below to find out more about each piece on the list.

Ludwig van Beethoven- Symphony No. 5: Movement 1

Likely the best-known piece of orchestra music of all time, it begins with perhaps the four most important notes ever written.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart- Eine kleine Nacktmusik: Movement 1

The title of this piece actually translates to “A Little Serenade” and not “A Little Night Music” as people often say. Many people consider it to be Mozart’s most popular work. 

Ludwig van Beethoven – Für Elise 

Fur Elise is a piano classic, loved and performed by beginner musicians of all ages. This piece wasn’t discovered until 40 years after Beethoven’s death and no one actually knows who Elise is, the person the piece is named in honor of. 

Edvard Grieg – Peer Gynt Suite: In the Hall of the Mountain King

This piece is used regularly in movies and TV shows, including the popular kids’ movie Trolls.

Ludwig van Beethoven- Symphony No. 9: Movement 4 

The Ode to Joy theme found in this music is another bit of Beethoven magic that has permeated popular culture. Though most people only know the melody, you’ll be impressive if you’ve listened to the full movement it came from. 

Dvořák- Symphony No 9 ‘New World’: Movement 2

There are just a few famous solos for the English Horn (so few that you may not even know what the English Horn is), but this movement contains the most famous of them all. Dvořák’s New World Symphony was written when he was the director of a music school in New York City, in honor of the “new world” he was living in.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake: Swan Theme

There are many of classical and orchestral music dedicated to swans. This piece is both one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous pieces of music as well as one of his most important ballet works. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Symphony No. 40 in G minor: Movement 1

Mozart wrote 41 symphonies (or more, depending on who you ask) and Symphonies 40 and 41 are the best known of them all. It is frequently performed and recorded, and it had a great influence on following composers. 

Johann Pachelbel – Canon in D Major

Though it’s one of classical music’s most famous works now, it was literally completely forgotten about for over 200 years until it slowly gained familiarity and popularity in the 1900’s. It has a very simple chord progression that has actually greatly influenced pop music in the past few decades. In 2002, music producer Pete Waterman said it is “almost the godfather of pop music because we’ve all used that in our own ways for the past 30 years.” 

Antonio VivaldiThe Four Seasons: Spring

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a perfect example of a flawless violin concerto as well as one of the earliest forms of program music, music that describes a scene or story. All four movements of this piece are well-known and important works. 

Igor Stravinsky- The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring was a groundbreaking ballet when it premiered in 1913. People found it so shocking they literally rioted in the concert hall and the police were called to calm things down. It totally shook up and permanently changed the classical music that was composed after. 

Gioacchino Rossini- William Tell Overture

Performed at children’s concerts, national celebrations, and in TV shows and movies around the world, Rossini really hit it out of the park with his William Tell Overture. From the beautiful cello opening, to the horse-galloping section at the end, it’s a piece that has remained as a favorite for decades.

Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky- Violin Concerto in D major: Movement 1

There are so many amazing violin concerti, but this one really takes the cake. The first movement is so difficult that it’s common for people to break the “no-clapping-between-movements” concert hall rule and give a big hearty applause before the soloist moves on to the next movement. 

Johann Sebastian Bach- Toccata and Fugue in D minor 

Much of “classical” music in the past was written for organ, because well respected composers were often hired full-time by churches and religious organizations that had large organs in their buildings. Toccata means “to touch” and is a musical form that is meant to show off the skill of the player and a fugue is a technique where melodies are repeated over and over again different voices (think of singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) in a round.

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