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Sad Classical Music?

Posted: Sat May 14, 2005 4:00 pm
by shuai
Anyone have any suggestions for sad classical music?
I'm making a flash animation that needs sad music.

Posted: Sat May 14, 2005 5:55 pm
by Ralph
Is there "sad music" or is there music that some respond to with sadness?

I would assume any dirge would satisfy your needs.

oh my goodness!

Posted: Sun May 15, 2005 5:56 am
Dear Shuai, you have almost 2000 years of music to choose from. Requiems, Passions of the Christ, Lamentos .....There's sad music for strings, brass ensembles,full orchestras with wailing sopranos and three choruses, recorderquartets, trumpet and organ. Even a full opera like Britten’s Peter Grimes is profoundly sad.
I don’t know exactly what the music has to accompany, but here are a few examples:
Requiems : Verdi, Fauré, Frank Martin,Britten’s War Requiem
Almost any slow movemet from a Bach violin sonata, Bach’s doubleconcerto for oboe and violin
Or try Arthur Honegger’s second symphony for strings.

Posted: Sun May 15, 2005 6:02 am
by Michel
Sad is a bit of a crass term. Could you be more specific? Then our suggestions can be more pertinent.

Posted: Sun May 15, 2005 7:57 am
by MaestroDJS
Sad is also a relative term. The first time I heard Symphony Da Pacem Domine by Australian composer Ross Edwards, it struck me as very sad and depressing. Then after several hearings it gradually evolved into a surprisingly positive and uplifting listening experience. The symphony takes its name from the Gregorian chant "Da Pacem, Domine" which means "Give Peace, Lord". This music gradually coalesces out of the mists above a constant rhythmic pulse. Edwards described it as a "massive orchestral chant of quiet intensity into which my subjective feelings of grief and foreboding about some of the great threats to humanity -- war, pestilence and environmental devastation -- have been subsumed into the broader context of ritual." Despite its slow and lengthy pace, it has impressive forward momentum.

The same might be true of Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrful Songs" by Henryk Górecki. It's a rather depressing work at first, but becomes more uplifting as one gets to know it better.


David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3

Coordinator, Classical Music SIG (Special Interest Group) of American Mensa

Life and Afterlife: Four Elegies for Soprano and Orchestra ... reid=57666

Posted: Sun May 15, 2005 9:56 am
by Michael
Try the Albinoni Adagio

Posted: Sun May 15, 2005 1:13 pm
by rach
Mozart's quintet in g minor

Posted: Mon May 16, 2005 6:10 am
by pizza
Probably the most depressing work I know is Panufnik's Tragic Overture. :cry:

An introduction to Panufnik’s music by Calum MacDonald

One of Andrzej Panufnik’s earliest surviving works, the Tragic Overture (destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising, but reconstructed from memory soon afterwards) illustrates, in an extreme form, the central paradox of this composer’s distinctive art. The entire work is generated from a single tight 4-note chromatic cell, ceaselessly permuted, inverted, augmented, and articulated by a remarkable rhythmic drive to produce an indivisible and remorseless musical argument. The formal patterning is intricate to the point of abstraction; yet the emotional impact of this truly ‘tragic’ score is immense, and could hardly have been achieved without the obsessive concentration of its musical raw material.

Over five succeeding decades, Panufnik developed and refined a wholly original approach to composition. A germinal cell of three or four notes gives rise to each piece’s unique harmonic and melodic content. Projected into the sphere of form along with metre, tempo, timbre and dynamics, it also gives rise to its overall structure. Often these structures – some of which additionally make play with number symbolism – lend themselves to expression in diagram form; the interlocking symmetries of Autumn Music and Universal Prayer, the tantric interpenetrations of Triangles, the clockface circle of fifths of the Miniature Studies, the ascending spheres of Sinfonia di Sfere, the efflorescent ‘cosmic tree’ of Arbor Cosmica. The approach may resemble (and to a limited extent is) a form of serialism; but its spiritual orientation, and its reinterpretation of traditional harmonic function, are vastly different from the Schoenbergian 12-note method. They suggest, rather, parallels with Renaissance philosophical doctrines of microcosm and macrocosm. Panufnik’s diagrams evoke the ‘mystical geometry’ practised by certain 16th-century Hermetic magicians, some of whom flourished at Kraków in his native Poland: talismanic symbols not of mathematics but mathesis, a deeply religious ‘higher science’ of the soul that used the forms of geometry to express human truths.

Panufnik’s music is intensely human and direct in its emotional effect. Sometimes the elaborate patterning intensifies that effect. Sometimes it performs a very necessary function of objectification and balance: tumultuous feeling is disciplined into sculptural forms or evocations of hieratic ritual. Sometimes the works become subjects for contemplation rather than immediate involvement. The feelings themselves arose from sources both religious and personal – sometimes autobiographical, as in the childhood memory of thrumming telephone wires, and the secret messages encoded in their ‘music’, that inspired the Second String Quartet.

These concerns united in Panufnik’s lifelong identification with his native country: its musical culture (Old Polish Suite, Hommage à Chopin), its folk traditions (Third Quartet) with their melodies and dances (Sinfonia Rustica), its landscapes, its religious history (Sinfonia Sacra, Song to the Virgin Mary), its agonies in war (Tragic Overture, Sinfonia Elegiaca) and its political turmoil since (Nocturne, Katyn Epitaph, Sinfonia Votiva and Bassoon Concerto).

By no paradox at all, this identification with what was precious in one country led naturally towards a consciously international outlook. Some works seek to address the shared existential predicament of humanity in general – Universal Prayer, A Procession for Peace, and the Ninth Symphony, Sinfonia della Speranza. The vast self-reflecting palindrome of this latter work is the monumental climax of Panufnik’s concern with ordered symmetry as a symbol of his humane idealism. Afterwards, his last music started to move in new directions. The unexpected harmonic toughness of the chamber orchestra piece on which, with no incongruity, he bestowed the title Harmony and the rhapsodic bravura of the Tenth Symphony signalled a new formal freedom and boldness of expression in his late seventies, and they will perhaps come to be seen as among the most original of his achievements.

Calum MacDonald

Posted: Mon May 16, 2005 6:27 am
by karlhenning
When all hope is gone,
Crass songs say so much ....

Posted: Mon May 16, 2005 10:59 pm
by daycart
The Brahms Op. 117 Intermezzi :(

Posted: Mon May 16, 2005 11:29 pm
by Corlyss_D
leadboiler wrote:Try the Albinoni Adagio
Even if it weren't written by Albinoni.

Posted: Tue May 17, 2005 6:15 am
by Ralph
Brahms's Tragic Overture makes me very happy. :)

Posted: Tue May 17, 2005 6:20 am
by karlhenning
Come to think of it, Ralph ... I wonder if Thoreau would have said, "When I hear music, I fear no danger," if he had known the Shostakovich Fourth ....

Posted: Tue May 17, 2005 7:13 am
by Corlyss_D
daycart wrote:The Brahms Op. 117 Intermezzi :(
Oh, excellent choice, D.

Posted: Sat May 21, 2005 9:15 am
by david54706
I'm new to the Classical Music Guide Forums, but I must say I'm surprised no one has mentioned the obvious: Samuel Barber's "Adagio", which was popularized by the film "Platoon". It can literally send you out looking for a bottle of Zoloft to start your day.

Another good candidate would be the Adagio theme from Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", especially in the Jazz interpretation by Miles Davis in his landmark "Sketches of Spain" album.

Most Adagio pieces or movements (certainly including Albioni's, as previously mentioned) seem to evoke sadness just by their "slowest of all" tempo. :wink:

barber & albinoni

Posted: Mon May 23, 2005 2:42 am
Please, please, don't ever mention those adagios again! Both works should be banned for at least 25 years!
I can hardly believe that you mention these old, stale, smelly warhorses (corpses!)again and again.They deserve a good rest now.And believe me : even Barber and Albinoni wrote other works that deserve attention!
I'm sure you can be curious : there is a whole world of (if necessary slow, reverential) music waiting for you . Wake up and discover!!!! Composers in Finland, Turkey, Romania,Venezuela,Latvia and Hawaii wrote lovely music especially for you! Even 200 years ago.
Buy and read a book on music, go to a concert,listen to the radio, sing in the shower,try to make up your own adagio with a banjo or a violin....Hum,shout, whistle !!!

Albinoni, Barber... Schubert!

Posted: Mon May 23, 2005 1:01 pm
by MartinPh
...actually, the Albinoni Adagio wasn't even written by Albinoni; it dates from 1945 and was composed by one Remo Giazotti!

We (my string quartet) spent some time on the Barber adagio in its original string quartet form a while ago - that did make me very sad, though it wasn't necessarily because of the music. :oops:

A piece that I find terrifically beautiful but cannot listen to without getting utterly depressed, is Schubert's Unfinished. It seems, for me sad music works best when, unlike, say, Tchaikovsky or Shostakovich, a composer is not going out of his way to be tragic.

Another such subtly wistful piece that really gets to me is "Canto Ostinato" by Simeon ten Holt, a minimalist work for multiple piano's - I wonder if that is familiar to some listeners outside the Netherlands...

Albinoni e tutti quanti ..;and in Brussels...

Posted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:43 am
Hi Martin , I'm glad you mention Schubert . The Unfinished is indeed a superb work that remains moving yet strong....Do you know that wonderful
Notturno in Es, D 897 for pianotrio?
Simeon Ten Holt ,alas, does not write music I - really- like....Although I do try to keep up with the most recent developments in music , for sheer pleasure I come back to anonymous troubadours, Purcell, Buxtehude, Bach,Telemann,Brahms, Puccini, Verdi, Strawinsky,Poulenc, Varèse, Honegger,Milhaud ,Britten, Martinu...Mathijs Vermeulen is also one of my alltime favorites especially symphonies 2,3 and 4 are incredibly impressive -strong and deeply moving.
Greetings from Belgium.
PS : at the Queen Elisabeth Competition( all the competitors have to play an interesting work by Mexican composer ... Javier TORRES MALDONADO [Mexico / Italië] OBSCURO ETIAMTUM LUMINE ...
One can follow the concerts online.

Re: Albinoni, Barber... Schubert!

Posted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:47 am
by karlhenning
MartinPh wrote:... It seems, for me sad music works best when, unlike, say, Tchaikovsky or Shostakovich, a composer is not going out of his way to be tragic.
This may be a matter of temperament. I find the tragic elements in Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich powerful. I should say simply that tragedy finds different means of musical expression, in Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky & Shostakovich.


Re: Albinoni, Barber... Schubert!

Posted: Tue May 24, 2005 7:48 am
by karlhenning
MartinPh wrote:Another such subtly wistful piece that really gets to me is "Canto Ostinato" by Simeon ten Holt, a minimalist work for multiple piano's - I wonder if that is familiar to some listeners outside the Netherlands...
Don't know it ... how many pianos?

What's Louis Andriessen working on these days?


Posted: Tue May 24, 2005 11:51 am
by MartinPh
Don't know it ... how many pianos?

What's Louis Andriessen working on these days?
2, 3 or 4 piano's. Also, depending on the number of repeats played, the piece can last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.

I wonder, too, what Andriessen is up to. The last new work I heard from him was "Trilogie van de Laatste Dag" (Trilogyof the final day), and that's years ago.

Posted: Tue May 24, 2005 12:08 pm
by lmpower
If you have tears prepare to shed them for the slow movement of Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata. Rach had a good idea with the Mozart G minor quintet. That was Wolfgang's most tragic piece, as he responded to the Dying Leopold.

Posted: Wed May 25, 2005 9:42 pm
by brownswan
Haydn String Quartet in D major, op.71 no.2, III Adagio cantabile; Bach, Aria that begins and ends the Goldberg Variations; Schubert, Quintet in C, II Adagio; Mahler, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen; Shostakovich, String Quartet No.15 op. 144 -- pretty much the whole thing.

Sad music

Posted: Thu May 26, 2005 2:17 am
by RebLem
Shostakovich--Symphony # 15, esp the last movement which very quietly reprises some of the playful music of the first movement over a funeral dirge. The whole symphony is a meditation on a man's whole life and death. Also, his String Quartet #15. Oh, the 8th Symphony is very sad, too.

Richard Strauss's Metamorphosen for 23 strings is a profoundly sad piece when played correctly, though most conductors seem to have no idea how the piece should go. Strauss lived in the Munich hills and througout the war wrote a whole bunch of little happy carefree pieces, many of them for small wind ensembles, like The Happy Workshop. And then, toward the end of the war, the Munich Opera House was bombed to smithereens and the reality of the war finally really came home to him. The best version to me is one conducted by Otto Klemperer on a difficult to obtain 2 CD set along with Wagner's Siegfried Idyll and The Mahler 9th--EMI 67036-2. I had been trying to find it at Tower in Chicago where I used to live and on ArkivMusic for a long time without success, and then one day I just found it serendipitously browsing through the bins at Borders here in Albuquerque and grabbed onto it immediately. I had had the LP version for many years, but wanted the CD version.

I see in the thread someone went through a whole group of Britten's works--they are all good recommendations, but it missed one of the saddest of all--the opera Billy Budd.

Schoenberg--Verklarte Nacht and a short piece called A Survivor of Warsaw certainly qualify as sad music.

Finally, I would suggest Vaughan Williams 7th Symphony "Antarctica" containing music abstracted from his music for the film Scott of the Antarctic.

Posted: Thu May 26, 2005 6:15 pm
by MahlerSnob
I'm very surprised to see that Mahler hasn't been mentioned yet, although I guess he was bipolar enough that it's difficult to find a lengthy stretch of music that is just sad, without any other connotations.
Some suggestions:
Any of Kindertotenlieder.
The slow movement of the Symphony #6 (second or third movement, depending on who you ask)
The final movement of Symphony #9 (even if it does end in minor)
The other obvious, and surprisingly neglected, choice would be the second movement of Beethoven 7.

Posted: Sat May 28, 2005 3:58 am
by MartinPh
Interesting, to see people mention pieces that I personally do not find sad at all. Mahler VI/3 and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht I find positively uplifting. And I yet have to discover the first glimpse of true emotion in any of Britten's works - his Violin Concerto may be the one exception.

At times I tend to think that music is the best language humans ever developed for communicating emotions - but at other times it seems to speak very differently to different listeners, and I'm tempted to agree with Stravinsky that music isn't able to express anything whatsoever...

Posted: Sat May 28, 2005 4:52 am
by Teresa B
I'm a fan of Mozart's piano concertos, and I love the Andante from no 23, K488.

Also, the Brahms Intermezzi--Opus 117 as already mentioned, particularly no 2. And Opus 119 no 6. Desolation at its most exquisite .

All the best,


Posted: Sun May 29, 2005 12:43 pm
by david54706
I completely forgot - and no one else has mentioned - the hauntingly beautiful "Meditation" from the opera "Thais" by French composer Jules Massenet. It is very moving and certainly very sad. It is scored for solo violin, harp, and orchestra and nearly always brings tears to my eyes and cheeks. In the end, it is uplifting because the reformed Alexandrian courtesan Thais is converted to Christianity and eagerly accepts a chaste religious life. But before the uplifting moment when Thais appears in her newly adopted religious garb, when the monk Athanael is praying, it is overwhelmingly sad.

Off the subject, I would like to have access to Symbols (a la MS Word) so I could correctly spell foreign words like "Meditation", which is French and has an acute accent over the "e". "Thais" also has an accent over the "i" and Athanael over the "e". In a group such as The Classical Music Guide wouldn't that make more sense than Emoticons, which are "cute" but are hardly ever used in serious discussions of music. How about it Corlyss and Lance?

Posted: Mon May 30, 2005 8:15 am
by DavidRoss
The Adagio 3rd movement of Elgar's Cello Concerto--especially as played by Paul Tortelier with Sir Adrian Boult on the old Angel recording--rarely fails to evoke a deep sadness in me that verges on nostalgia and weltschmerz.