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Beethoven went through copyists quickly.

The title is a lie. There was no foisting, the music isn’t ancient, and she is defenseful.

Lemme start over.

My daughter Delaney (16) has a huge music listening range, and lately she’s been adding classical to that. When I offered to make a summer listening list, she was all in.

It wasn’t a list of the “greatest” music she needed — just a sampler, enough to maybe pique her interest in going further. I set a hard limit of five listening hours and started choosing my team. Picture Bach and Copland in gym shorts shuffling their feet, Ravel confidently looking at his impeccable nails, and Salieri thinking, “Not last, please just not last.”

Some fish leapt right into the boat. No list of mine is going to leave out Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta — even a top five, maybe even three. Same with the Stravinsky Octet. And I knew there’d be a feckton of Chopin, though I wasn’t sure yet which.

Some old flames didn’t get an invite to the wedding. Bach’s Goldberg Variations is a planetary treasure, but a big part of that is how it develops over the course of an hour. “Nobody gets a damn hour” seemed like a reasonable ground rule, so Goldberg was out. I surprised myself by including zero symphonies but three piano concertos, what? And I made an executive decision not to include film music, the modern descendant of the classical tradition. I’ll do a separate list of film scores someday.

With the help of friends, the list grew to 52, then I whittled, ending up with 36 pieces by 24 composers spanning 900 years and 4.75 listening hoursHappy to hear how your own list would differ, but thanks in advance for refraining from “WUT?! None of the mid-period ocarina sonatas of Mamflamheim?!?” as well as any use of the word “unconscionable.” kthxbi

Here’s the list, and here are recordings on a single page. The order is intentionally odd. I’ll blog through the list over the course of the summer, and I’d love to have you join me for that.


1. CHOPIN Nocturne in B-flat Minor, op. 9 no. 1
2. SCARLATTI Sonata in D Minor K141
3. HILDEGARD O virtus sapientiae
4. BACH “Air” from Third Orchestral Suite in D
5. CHOPIN Impromptu No 4 in C-sharp Minor
6. REICH “Slow” from Sextet
7. DELIBES “Flower Duet” from Lakmé
8. RAVEL “Prelude” from Le Tombeau de Couperin (piano)
9. RAVEL “Alborada del Gracioso” from Miroirs (orchestra)
10. BOULANGER Vieille Priére Bouddhique
11. DEBUSSY Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
12. GINASTERA “Dance of the Arrogant Cowboy” from Danzas Argentinas
13. MOZART “Lachrimosa” from Requiem Mass
14. REICH Electric Counterpoint
15. JOSQUIN madrigal “El Grillo” (The Cricket)
16. COPLAND Appalachian Spring Suite
17. CHOPIN Nocturne in D-flat Major, op 27 no. 2
18. PUCCINI “Nessum Dorma” from Turandot
19. WHITACRE Lux Aurumque
20. HOLST from The Planets suite: Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune
21. MOZART “Adagio” from Serenade No 10
22. STRAVINSKY Octet for Wind Instruments, three mvts
23. PART Fratres for strings and percussion
24. COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man
25. TOWER Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
26. CHOPIN “Minute” Waltz in D-flat major op. 64 no. 1
27. MOZART Piano Concerto No 21, mvt. 2
28. RAVEL Piano Concerto in G Major, three mvts
29. BACH Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, mvt. 1
30. JOSQUIN De profundis clamavi
31. BARBER Adagio for Strings
31. STAVELEY-TAYLOR “Take Me Home”
32. BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor “Moonlight”, mvt 1
33. REICH Piano Phase
34. BACH “Prelude” from Cello Suite No 1 in G
35. BARTOK Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, mvts 1 and 2
36. RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, mvt 1

The recordings on one page…and as a YouTube playlist. (Thanks to Marcus Monkeyman!)


Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...