Prepare your ears for absolute filth.
Cascading scales, step aside. Chords, take a back seat. It's time to celebrate a few single notes that make the most beautiful music... well, beautiful.
A Bruckner pedal point, that basically turns an orchestra into an organ
This sustained note, in the timpani and double basses sets up one of the most extraordinary moments in orchestral music. Listen as all the other instruments modulate into other keys, building the most incredible tension. Here it is, all explained by musicologist Richard Atkinson (and there's lots more great musical analysis on his YouTube channel )
A beautiful, sustained Bb in Bach's Prelude in B-flat minor BWV867
Everyone loves the tonic, don't they? A point of resolution at the end of the piece. You might not think there's anything particularly remarkable about a B flat at the end of a Bach prelude in that key, but it's what he does underneath that makes this sustained tonic a winner. After Bach's exquisite, searching figures, he hits that resolving note with an arresting Picardy third. But the parts below maintain that 'searching' motif below that B flat, pushing up to an excruciating flat 7. But our B flat stays strong and eventually everything resolves back into an immensely satisfying major chord. Sublime.
The sonorous depths of the E flat in Das Rheingold
An agonising 9th in Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
The celestial violin A harmonic that opens Mahler's Symphony No. 1. 'Titan'
A top B in Zoltan Kodály's Missa Brevis
A humble, haunting A flat in Saint Saëns’ Organ Symphony
Imagine having the bravado to make the organ the star of your symphony and then not even use it for the first 10 minutes. Well, Saint Saëns certainly makes the wait worthwhile - a single A flat emerges out of the gloom and completely changes the restless atmosphere into something truly tranquil and gorgeous.