No. 1: O Fortuna from Carmina Burana, by Carl Orff
- By far the most inquired about classical work, O Fortuna is played in hundreds of movies, television programs, commercials, and other forms of media. Many who have heard this famous piece can hum the melody and often describe it as haunting, foreboding, and big. O Fortuna is the opening movement to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a work for large orchestra, choir, and solo vocalists.
- Hear O Fortuna in the movies Cheaper by the Dozen, Natural Born Killers, and The Bachelor.
No. 2: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor, by Franz Liszt
- When I heard this piece for what I thought was the first time, I was surprised by how familiar it was. After listening to it several more times, it suddenly hit me… I heard it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon 15 years ago (Rhapsody Rabbit, 1946). He was performing the piece in front of a large audience amongst many distractions. I don’t think cartoons are made like that anymore.
- Hear Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor in the movies Delirious, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Shine.
No. 3: Sous le dôme épais (Flower Duet) from Lakme, by Delibes
- Already well known, Delibes’s Flower Duet was made ever-increasingly popular by British Airway’s use of the work in a fairly recent advertising campaign. This classic piece features a duet between a coloratura soprano and and a mezzo-soprano.
- Hear Delibes’s Flower Duet in the movies The American President, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Meet the Parents.
No. 4: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
- Almost anyone can recognize Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Like, Orff's O Fortuna, Rhapsody in Blue is featured in many movies and television shows. Some consider it strictly jazz while others say it's classical, when in all actuality, it's a perfect combination of both. Here's an interesting fact, when Gershwin was commissioned to write the piece, he wrote it so speedily he didn't have time to compose the part for piano. At its first performance, Gershwin improvised the piano part. Later, it was finally composed.
- Hear Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in the movies Fantasia 2000 and Manhattan.
No. 5: Dies Irae from Verdi’s Requiem
- A great “power” song, people all over the world, even those who dislike classical music, appreciate this work. Verdi’s Dies Irae is arguably the most well known and recognizable movement of the work. Although, many classical music lovers can tell you the name and composer of the piece, the great majority of the world cannot. Its heart pounding rhythms and driving melodies are truly awe inspiring.
- Hear Verdi’s Dies Irae in the movies Battle Royale and Water Drops on Burning Rocks.