Main content

Extreme Classical!

What are the most extreme pieces of classical music ever written? And is today's shock-of-the-new tomorrow's old hat?

What are the most extreme pieces of classical music ever written? And is today's shock-of-the-new tomorrow's old-hat?

Tom Service looks some of the longest, the most apocalyptic, the weirdest and the most expensive music ever written - what were the composers up to, exactly? And where do we go from here?

Available now

30 minutes

Music Played

  • John Cage

    ASLSP for piano or organ

    Performer: Gery Verkade.
    • MODE.
  • Alexander Scriabin

    Mysterium

    Performer: Ostankino Radio Chorus. Performer: Russian State Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Igor Golovchin.
    • Triton.
  • Richard Strauss

    4 Letzte Lieder for voice and orchestra (AV.150), no.3; Beim Schlafengehen

    Performer: Jessye Norman. Performer: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Performer: Kurt Masur.
    • Philips.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen

    Helikopter-Streichquartett

    Performer: Arditti Quartet.
    • Montaigne.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    The Art of Fugue

    Performer: Rachel Podger. Performer: Brecon Baroque.
    • Channel Classics.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 40 (K.550) in G minor, 4th movement; Allegro assai

    Performer: English Baroque Soloists. Performer: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Philips.
  • Johannes Brahms

    Piano Concerto No. 1 In D Minor, Op.15

    Performer: Paul Lewis. Performer: Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Daniel Harding.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 3 (Op.55) in E flat major "Eroica", 1st movement; Allegro con brio

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • DG.
  • Richard Wagner

    Tristan und Isolde - Prelude

    Performer: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Daniel Barenboim.
    • Teldec.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Symphony No. 7 in E major - 3rd movement: Scherzo

    Performer: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Performer: Andris Nelsons.
    • DG.
  • Hector Berlioz

    Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 - 5th movement: Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat

    Performer: Anima Eterna. Performer: Jos van Immerseel.
    • Zig Zag Territories.
  • Giuseppe Verdi

    Nabucco - Va, pensiero, sull'ali (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves)

    Performer: Santa Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra. Performer: Carlo Rizzi.
    • Teldec.
  • Arnold Schoenberg

    5 Orchestral Pieces, Op.16

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Robert Craft.
    • Koch International Classics.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    The Rite of Spring: - Sacrificial dance (The Chosen One)

    Performer: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Gustavo Dudamel.
    • DG.
  • Dobrinka Tabakova

    Concerto for cello and orchestra - 3rd movement: Radiant

    Performer: Kristina Blaumane. Performer: Lietuvos kamerinis orkestras. Performer: Maxim Rysanov.
    • ECM.
  • Franz Liszt

    Etudes d'execution transcendante for piano, S.139 - No.5 in B flat: Feux-follets

    Performer: Nikolai Lugansky.
    • Naïve.
  • Brian Ferneyhough

    Trittico per G.S.

    Performer: Stefano Scodanibbio.
    • Montaigne.
  • Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji

    Opus Clavicembalisticum

    Performer: Fantasia. Performer: John Ogdon.
    • Altarus.
  • John Luther Adams

    Inuksuit

    Performer: Various Artists.
    • Cantaloupe.

Broadcast

  • Sun 2 Dec 2018 17:00

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Why do we call it 'classical' music?

Tom Service poses a very simple question (with a not-so-simple answer).

Six of the world's most extreme voices

Six of the world's most extreme voices

From babies to Mongolian throat singers: whose voice is the most extreme of all?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How did the number 12 revolutionise music?

How Schoenberg opened a new cosmos for composers and listeners to explore.

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Why are we all addicted to bass?

Bass is everywhere, but why do we enjoy it? Join Tom Service on a journey of discovery.

Watch the animations

Watch the animations

Join Tom Service on a musical journey through beginnings, repetition and bass lines.

When does noise become music?

When does noise become music?

We like to think we can separate “noise” from “music”, but is it that simple?

Podcast