The most glorious classical driving playlist to accompany your commute

23 July 2021, 14:21 | Updated: 4 January 2024, 16:35

Great classical music to accompany your commute (even if your drive isn’t quite as lovely as this)
Great classical music to accompany your commute (even if your drive isn’t quite as lovely as this). Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

We handpick the most uplifting, expansive and beautiful music ever written, to accompany your long or regular drives.

Nothing improves a long drive or regular commute like a fine soundtrack.

Great music helps hours spent in the car feel glorious, uplifting and epic. We’d go as far as saying these drives become events in their own right, nay something to look forward to, with the right music.

And whether it’s a fine opera aria you can belt along to at the top of your lungs, or a violin concerto that has the energy to keep you going mile after mile, we recommend keeping the musical selections upbeat.

Here’s our suggestion for a playlist of the very finest classical music to keep you company on your next glorious commute.

Listen to Margherita Taylor on Classic FM for the perfect afternoon relaxation >

  1. Aaron Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

    Start your road trip with the most magnificent brass fanfare from the father of 20th Century American music, Aaron Copland.

    Copland’s short piece for brass and percussion conveys expansiveness, hopeful horizons and forward-propelling strength that’s perfect for getting any drive off to the right start.

    Read more: The 15 most famous tunes in classical music

    Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man - National Symphony Orchestra

  2. Clara Schumann: Scherzo No. 2 in C minor

    Keep the energy at the right level with this fiery Scherzo from 19th century great, Clara Schumann.

    Schumann’s piano work dashes and dances across the keys, and has the level of speed that we hope your journey has got to at this point. The minor key also keeps the energy up while also inviting a sense of existential awe during your ongoing journey.

    Isata Kanneh-Mason | Clara Schumann‘s Scherzo No.2 in C Minor | Classic FM Session

  3. Antonio Vivaldi: ‘Summer’ from the Four Seasons

    The third concerto from Vivaldi’s enduringly popular set of four violin concertos, the Four Seasons, contains an energetic third movement ‘storm’ and, although we don’t want anyone’s journey hampered by a bad break in the weather, we recommend this for its sheer vigour.

    With ‘Summer’ from the Four Seasons blasting, we guarantee that you will feel enlivened, and energised, ready to take on anything in this glorious drive of yours.

    Mari Samuelsen: Vivaldi - "Summer" from Four Seasons

  4. Philip Glass: Violin Concerto (second movement)

    Sticking with heroic violin concertos for a minute, and minimalist composer Philip Glass violin concerto will pick up from the Vivaldi in terms of bombast, but it will take the mood around a corner into more reflective drive time.

    The second movement from this concerto is heart wrenchingly beautiful and spacious, but with a power that lends itself to any positive journey.

    Philip Glass Violin Concerto Movement II

  5. Gustav Holst: ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets

    English composer Gustav Holst gifted us seven wonderful and distinct orchestral pieces when he composed The Planets, an astrological representation in music of the seven planets of our solar system visible from Earth at the time the piece was written (1914).

    ‘Jupiter’, dubbed by Holst as ‘the Bringer of Jollity’ by Holst is a brilliant, glittering orchestral piece that transforms into a dignified, swelling melody with an inspiring mood. The melody is also known for being set into the patriotic hymn, ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’.

    Holst The Planets – Jupiter | YORK2 On Holst’s Broadwood | Classic FM Sessions

  6. Edward Elgar: Enigma Variations

    Let the countryside expand out around you as you stick on Elgar’s enduringly beloved Enigma Variations.

    This set of fourteen ravishing orchestral variations following an original theme will make for a reflective, uplifting drive.

    Edward Elgar - Enigma Variations (Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Jacek Kaspszyk)

  7. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Deep River

    Keep the mood reflective and heartening with English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s poignant and beautiful arrangement of the spiritual song, ‘Deep River’.

    The swelling melody and wonderful harmonies of this work evoke landscape, tradition and an opportunity for deep contemplation.

    Read more: 10 of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s all-time best pieces of music

    Traditional: Deep River (Arr. Coleridge-Taylor, Kanneh-Mason)

  8. Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

    After a moment of rumination on your journey, pick the mood back up with Vaughan Williams’ beloved orchestral piece, The Lark Ascending.

    Often voted to the top of the Classic FM Hall of Fame, the Lark is an orchestral tone poem with a solo violin part that sets George Meredith’s poem about the flight of an English songbird over a meadow landscape. Sublime.

    London Mozart Players & Tasmin Little perform ‘The Lark Ascending’ | LMP Live! | Classic FM

  9. Léo Delibes: ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakmé

    From the lark’s song to that of Delibes’ duetting soprano and mezzo in the opera Lakmé... we think it’s about time for the ‘Flower Duet’.

    Made synonymous with travel by British Airways’ TV commercials, the wonderful aria takes flight with an incredibly uplifting melody. A magnificent piece of music for moving to, you’ll feel you can take on anything calmly and serenely with this one.

    Delibes: Lakmé - Duo des fleurs (Flower Duet), Sabine Devieilhe & Marianne Crebassa

  10. Antonin Dvořák: Slavonic Dance Op. 72 No. 2

    Czech Romantic composer Dvořák’s second Slavonic Dance from the Op. 72 collection sways and swells with stunning melodies.

    Its phrases carry you, and the music seems to positively will any journey to go swimmingly. This piece is a treat for any driver with a few more miles left to go.

    Antonin Dvorák - Slavonic Dance op 72, Nr. 2, Berliner Philharmoniker, Silvesterkonzert 2018

  11. Giacomo Puccini: ‘Nessun dorma’ from Turandot

    Channel your inner Pavarotti, wind down the window and blast the powerful operatic number, ‘Nessun dorma’, to get the blood flowing again.

    The invigorating tenor aria became a signature piece for Italy’s most famous opera singer, the aforementioned Pavarotti, and since he performed it at the FiFA World Cup in 1990 it has become synonymous with football and sporting events.

    Warning: questionable-but-triumphant singalong may occur.

    Luciano Pavarotti sings "Nessun dorma" from Turandot (The Three Tenors in Concert 1994)

  12. Florence Price: The Oak

    American composer Florence Price’s orchestral work The Oak is powerful and evocative.

    Tremolando, scalic strings work busily under steadfast brass, while woodwind glimmers add sparkle and energy in this energetic piece.

    Florence Price was a prolific composer of orchestral music, chamber pieces and songs who made history as the first Black female composer to have a work performed by a major US symphony orchestra, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony in E minor.

    Anthony Parnther Conducts The Oak by Florence Price

  13. Ludwig van Beethoven: ‘Ode to Joy’ from Symphony No. 9

    As you’re completing that final mile or two, opt for classical music’s most vast and joyous symphonic movement: ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s ‘Choral’ Symphony No. 9.

    The magnificent piece of music will finish your journey on a high, and put you in an uplifted, inspired mood, ready to take on the world once you get to your destination. There’s nothing else quite like it.

    Read more: This absolutely epic Beethoven ‘Ode to Joy’ flashmob is still the greatest

    Flashmob Flash Mob - Ode an die Freude ( Ode to Joy ) Beethoven Symphony No.9 classical music

And if you’re in need of the company of a presenter with your music selection, join our very own Margherita Taylor on your next drive. Margherita has all the finest music, news and information to accompany your commute every weekday evening from 4–7pm.

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