The most calming pieces of classical music
22 May 2018, 11:08
Classical music can be a powerful tool for relieving everyday stress, helping you sleep and supporting your mental health. We think these are the best pieces of classical music to make your day more calming.
1. Berlin Song by Einaudi
The gentle, lyrical pianism of this Italian composer-pianist is an instant late-night winner and the perfect way to ease the stresses of the day. Our weekday Smooth Classics presenter Margherita Taylor says: "Anything by Einaudi transports me to another world, where I can dream to my heart's content."
2. Air on a G string by J.S. Bach
This perfectly poised piece comes from Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. It features one of the Baroque composer's finest melodies over a slowly pulsing accompaniment. As with all of Bach's music, you can listen to each line of the music as a melody of its own. For a moment of musical meditation put this piece on at night, close your eyes and follow the notes of the bass line – and marvel at its beautiful melody.
3. Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Grieg
Evocative, rich and lyrical, the Norwegian composer's music is always very special – and his only piano concerto is one of the finest pieces ever written for the instrument. Our Full Works Concert presenter Jane Jones says this work is "healing, calming and reassuring all in one go. The moment the piano finally comes in after the orchestra in the second movement is one of the most moving in all of classical music with its sensation of utter relief."
4. Gymnopédie No. 1 by Erik Satie
Erik Satie was a bit of an eccentric in life, but wrote some of the early 20th century's most sublime and visionary music. In his Gymnopédies, there's a wonderful sense of musical distillation: the melodies are beautifully simple; nothing is rushed, and everything feels just as it should be. It's almost impossible to hear them and not feel relaxed afterwards.
5. 'Romeo & Juliet' by Craig Armstrong
Classic FM Requests presenter Anne-Marie Minhall says: "If there’s been a stressful journey home (pretty much the norm), I like to travel to a different place and listen to something like Craig Armstrong's big screen music from Romeo & Juliet or Nigel Hess's Piano Concerto played by Lang Lang. Piano music rules at home; sometimes nothing else will do whilst pondering over a crossword."
6. 'Clair de lune' by Claude Debussy
This beautiful piece from his Suite Bergamasque is Debussy's musical description of moonlight. The French impressionist composer was a master of pianistic colour, gentle melody and subtlety. There's a wonderful hint of jazzy harmony in there too.
There's much to discover in Debussy's other piano music, but this is the perfect piece for relaxing. Find a cosy corner, listen and imagine that glistening light of the moon.
7. Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Pärt
In Pärt's masterpiece Spiegel im Spiegel, a simple arpeggio on the piano is combined with a slow-moving melody line from the cello. The simplicity and stillness of the result is just divine. The title translates as 'mirror in the mirror', referring to a state of infinity. Hypnotically slow, the sparse accompaniment from the piano evokes a gentle drip of water or the tolling of a distant bell. We think this exquisite, other-worldly music provides the perfect soundtrack to lull you into a deep state of relaxation.
8. Wiegenlied by Johannes Brahms
This is surely the most famous lullaby in the world, and you can't help but sing 'Go to sleep, go to sleep' along with it. It's a beautiful Brahms tune (he wrote such lovely melodies). Here's one of the world's greatest cellists to play it for you...