8 incredible fist-pump moments in classical music
23 April 2015, 22:37
The notes, the chords and the cadences that make you reach for the sky in ecstatic life-making jubilation. These are those moments. And they feel so good.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 finale
After the struggle, darkness and drama of the famous C minor opening, the second movement and the darkly menacing Scherzo, things are looking very bleak in Beethoven's 5th. Will it all end in desolation and tears? The humanity! We're doomed! And then the Allegro hits and we're released into C major in full fist-pumping glory. (it all begins at 24 minutes, by the way)
Denn es wird die Posaune schallen from Brahms' Requiem
Fancy the Brahms Requiem as a dull, quite serious affair? Think again. Check out how the composer blows everything up for the world's final trump, with Baritone, Choir, brass and panicky strings scurry around as if they're consumed by apocalyptic fire. The choir then pumps out some fantastic lines. We challenge you to listen and not think that the end of the world is upon us. It's just so epic, you've got to clench that fist, as if it's the last time.
Puccini's Nessun dorma
Naturally, verismo operas tend to have more fist-pumping than a Wayne Rooney hat-trick. If we had to pick one? Well, it's a classic. A great build-up, cracking top F-sharps, epic top B and even a recapitulation of the main theme for when you repeatedly punch the air (careful if you're listening in public).
Sibelius's Fifth Symphony
This guy knew how to do tension and atmosphere – a flurry of strings, a gentle rallentando, an exquisite harmonic climax. Like everything the composer touched it's never overstated, just musical and elegant. For the more discerning fist-pumper.
Bach's Chaconne for solo violin
This one is maybe more jaw-dropping than fist-pumping. When he wrote his solo violin sonata no. 2, Bach was clearly in the mood for the ridiculous. He ended with this movement (essentially a theme and variations) which is so enormous in length and so incredibly virtuosic that for many decades it was considered unplayable. There are many points where it sounds like there's a quartet of strings playing – and one comes with the entrance of yet another counter-melody at 9:33. As you listen, remember it's only one violin (we know it's hard).
Credo from Byrd's Mass for Four Voices
Alright, we're getting pretty geeky here. Just hear us out. Smack bang in the middle of this Renaissance masterpiece there's a very special moment. In the Credo it's all flowing polyphonic lines - it sounds great, but the text is not that discernible. But then the words "Et unam, sanctam, cathólicam" ("I believe in a holy Catholic and Apostolic church") - it really jumps out at you...
This line is set in a homophonic, or chordal style of writing - and then they resound strongly and clearly. Byrd was a Catholic living in a Protestant country - and though there was lots of danger and persecution around him, he still wanted to send a message. And that's certainly worth a fist-pump or two.
Khachaturian's Adagio from Spartacus
Huge rallentando - massive explosion. We all know it, and what could feel better than the moment it hits? Expect punching into the air with the cymbal crash at 5'19". Ah, it feels so good.
What can you say, everything leads to one cadance in the Austrian great's second symphony. And it's amazing. If you don't have the full 90 minutes to experince it all, here's the best bit, from a number of maestros showing their fist-pumping skills (and if you are able to clear your diary, you're welcome)