Stephen Mangan shares his favourite pieces of classical music

9 February 2024, 17:12

Stephen Mangan shares his favourite classical music
Stephen Mangan presents Sundays 4pm-7pm on Classic FM. Picture: Classic FM
Classic FM

By Classic FM

Comedian, actor, and Classic FM presenter Stephen Mangan reveals the classical music closest to his heart, from epic choral masterpieces to relaxing solo piano works.

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The new host of late Sunday afternoons on Classic FM, Stephen Mangan has been a huge fan of classical music since his teenage years, after a chance encounter with Mozart’s Requiem left him awestruck.

Embarking on a journey of musical discovery from then on, Stephen has since been introduced to the wonders of choral music, Estonian minimalism via Arvo Pärt, Ravel’s piano concertos and much more.

Now occupying a brand new 4pm–7pm show on Classic FM on Sundays, Stephen shares his love of all things classical music as the weekend wraps up, plus a healthy dose of his good-humour and conversation.

Here’s a flavour of Stephen’s great musical loves, as he selects his ten favourite pieces of all time...

Listen to Stephen Mangan on Global Player, the official Classic FM app >

  1. Ravel – Piano Concerto in G major

    Ravel is Stephen’s first pick, with a Piano Concerto that was three years in the making. Inspired by jazz and folk music from the Basque Country in northern Spain, the pensive second movement is a particular favourite.

    Piano music has a special place in my heart,” says Stephen.

    “The second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto never fails to move me. Sublime.”

    Martha Argerich: Ravel - Piano Concerto in G Major | Nobel Prize Concert 2009

  2. Debussy – Prelude No.6, ‘Des pas sur la neige’

    From the first book of Debussy’s meditative Préludes, Stephen chooses ‘Des pas sur la neige’, or ‘Footprints in the snow’.

    Stephen says: “There’s something for every mood in Debussy’s Préludes and compiling this list in deep mid-winter, this feels like an appropriate choice.

    “I could easily have picked several other preludes from either book.”

    Read more: 10 of Claude Debussy’s greatest pieces of music

    Debussy: Préludes / Book 1, L. 117 - VI. Des pas sur la neige

  3. Mozart – Requiem in D minor: Introit and Requiem

    Hold onto your hats – things are about to get epic.

    “My route into classical music was through singing in a choir at school,” Stephen says.

    Mozart’s Requiem was the most memorable piece we tackled and it’s been a part of my life ever since. The opening manages to be triumphant, stately, severe and, occasionally, utterly terrifying.”

    Read more: 10 epic pieces of classical music that will make you feel tiny in comparison

    Mozart : Requiem (Orchestre national de France / James Gaffigan)

  4. Arvo Pärt – Summa

    Described by its composer as “strict and enigmatic”, Arvo Pärt’s string arrangement of his own piece, Summa is enchantingly hypnotic.

    “Originally a choral work, I prefer this in its string quartet form,” says Stephen. “It’s a mesmeric, disorientating, enigmatic piece of music.”

    Arvo Pärt - Summa

  5. J.S. Bach – Goldberg Variations

    A cornerstone of the classical music repertoire, Bach’s Goldberg Variations hold a special place in Stephen’s heart. In particular, Glenn Gould’s renowned 1981 recording with its distinguished precision, slightly creaking chair, and audible singing under his breath.

    Stephen says: “The rhythmic precision in Bach’s piano music, so spare and clean, and the way Glenn Gould plays the Aria and the variations: we are machines, but machines of delicacy and subtlety, capable of complex ideas and deep emotion.”

    Glenn Gould - The Goldberg Variations (Johann Sebastian Bach)

  6. Elgar – Cello Concerto

    “There’s a sad beauty in this late-stage Elgar that I respond to,” says Stephen, who is also a big fan of the composer’s violin concerto, written nine years earlier.

    “As an actor, the disastrous first performance of the cello concerto reassures that you can survive a terrible opening night and eventually triumph!”

    Read more: This vocal arrangement of Elgar’s Nimrod is an utterly sublime moment of music

    Jacqueline du Pre & Daniel Barenboim - Elgar Cello Concerto

  7. Bach – St Matthew Passion

    “I know, another mass,” says Stephen. “It must be the former Catholic altar boy in me.”

    “It doesn’t get more dramatic or more beautiful than this,” he says of the two-and-a-half-hour choral epic. “Don’t make me choose one part over another.”

    Bach - St Matthew Passion BWV 244 - Van Veldhoven | Netherlands Bach Society

  8. Berg – Violin Concerto

    Stephen describes the first movement of Berg’s sombre violin concerto as “a study in grief.

    “Heart-rending and occasionally violent. I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to this, I find it tempestuous and disturbing but sometimes that’s what you’re after!”

    Berg: Violinkonzert ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Frank Peter Zimmermann ∙ Alain Altinoglu

  9. Chopin – Nocturne in F sharp minor, Op.48 No.2

    “After the Berg, I need to calm down. So here’s some Chopin – and it has to be one of his nocturnes,” Stephen says.

    The tranquil solo piano piece is soothing, uplifting, and altogether beautiful.

    Read more: Blind 13-year-old pianist’s stunning Chopin nocturne performance leaves Lang Lang speechless

    Arthur Rubinstein - Chopin Nocturne Op. 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor

  10. Rachmaninov – Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor

    With its soaring cello melodies and beautifully rich sound, Rachmaninov’s “passionate and melodic” Cello Sonata makes its way into Stephen’s Top 10.

    “I have to have some Rachmaninov on this list so this squeezes in,” he says.

    Lugansky . Capuçon - Rachmaninoff, Sonata for Cello and Piano

Listen to Stephen Mangan on Classic FM, every Sunday afternoon from 4pm–7pm, via Global Player.