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26 August 2015, 22:46 | Updated: 16 December 2016, 16:09
From Vaughan Williams to video games, when you've counted almost three million votes over two decades, some interesting trends start to emerge. Listen to the Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame countdown from 9am-9pm on 28-31 August.
Aaron Copland said that listening to Vaughan Williams's music is like "staring at a cow". You might have thought the same when the Classic FM Hall of Fame began in 1996. But Vaughan Williams has well and truly captured our hearts since then. It took 12 years for The Lark Ascending to reach the top spot for the first time. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis hovered around the 30s, 40s and 50s in the early days, before reaching No.3 in 2008. But Vaughan Williams's 5 Variants of Dives and Lazarus has had the most spectacular rise: it first entered at No.208 in 2000, rising to 39 in 2014.
He may have only been No.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame for one year – with the Clarinet Concerto in his 250th anniversary year of 2006 – but Mozart is tops every time when it comes to what matters: the number of works in the chart. He has no fewer than 20 compositions in the Ultimate Hall of Fame.
You don’t have to be more than 150 years old to be a classical composing superstar. The Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar (b.1946) has stayed in the Classic FM Hall of Fame since it first appeared in 2000. And a good number of contemporary composers became immediate favourites after we first played them, including Karl Jenkins, Einaudi, Arvo Pärt, Marquez and John Rutter.
It took a jeans commercial (above) to first get Handel’s Sarabande into the Hall of Fame in 2003. Karl Jenkins’s Palladio was first heard in a commercial for DeBeers’ diamonds and Saint-Säens must be thanking TV’s supernatural detective Jonathan Creek for the steady rise of Danse Macabre in the Classic FM Hall of Fame over the years.
Music from Final Fantasy VII at #16 on the Classic FM hall of Fame? What?— James Heathcote (@Heathcote121) April 9, 2012
Nothing has generated more controversy over 20 years of the Classic FM Hall of Fame than the arrival of videogame music into the chart in 2012. No piece from the genre has been more popular than Uematsu’s Final Fantasy which made it as high as No.3 in 2013. Jeremy Soule’s Elder Scrolls and Grant Kirkhope’s Viva Piñata – inspired by Elgar and Vaughan Williams – have also captured our imagination, and made us realise that these composers are really something special.
It's commonly thought that most 20th century classical music is really difficult to play and even harder to listen to. But loads of works composed between 1900 and 1999 are up there amongst our all-time favourite pieces: think The Lark Ascending, Barber’s Adagio and Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Even Stravinsky’s challenging The Rite of Spring is a Hall of Fame favourite.