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What counts as 'classical music'?

What does the term 'classical music' really mean? Does being played by an orchestra make music classical? What about film music? Crossover artists? Game music? With Tom Service.

As the BBC year-long season "Our Classical Century" launches, what do we actually mean by the term "classical music"?
By its narrowest definition it's essentially mid-18th to early 19th century music and yet it's usually used to mean much much more. So how is classical music defined these days? Is it a walled garden of a very distinct style, or can it embrace all sorts of things? Does being played by an orchestra make something classical? Is film music classical? Are crossover artists classical? Is game music classical? Questions, and possibly some answers, with Tom Service, plus thoughts from composer Max Richter and writer Charlotte Higgins.

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Billy Ocean

    When the Going Gets Tough

    • SONY TV/COLUMBIA.
    • SONYTVCD-37.
  • Metallica

    Master of Puppets

    • Mercury Records Limited.
    • T0700170677.
  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

    Spanish Flea

    • A & M.
    • 397-165-2.
  • Björk

    It's Oh So Quiet

    • ONE LITTLE INDIAN.
    • 182TP-7CD.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Serenade in G major K.525 (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik)

    Performer: Hagen String Quartet.
    • DG.
    • 4776253.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 5 in C minor Op.67

    Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Performer: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 4778643.
  • Aqua

    Barbie Girl

    • UNIVERSAL.
    • UMD-80413.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 40 in G minor K.550

    Conductor: Claudio Abbado. Performer: Orchestra Mozart.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 477 9792.
  • Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton

    Islands In The Stream

    • BMG.
    • ND-90307.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Concerto in E minor Op.64 for violin and orchestra

    Performer: James Ehnes. Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy. Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra.
    • ONYX.
    • ONYX4060.
  • Ruthie Henshall

    I Don't Know How to Love Him (Jesus Christ Superstar)

    • VIRGIN/EMI.
    • VTDCD-779.
  • Maurice Jarre

    Le Chanson de Lara

    Performer: Andrea Bocelli. Performer: Studio choir and orchestra.
    • Sugar.
    • 48118861.
  • Ludovico Einaudi

    Le Onde

    • BMG.
    • 1-1.
  • The City of Prague Philharmonic , Nic Raine

    Harry Potter and the Philosphers stone: Hedwigs Theme

  • Max Richter

    Sketchbook

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic.
    • BBC Worldwide Music.
    • BBCLJ-30022.
  • Claude Debussy

    Syrinx for flute solo

    Performer: Juliette Hurel.
    • naive v 4925.
    • naive v 4925.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Sonata in E flat major K.282 for piano

    Performer: Mitsuko Uchida.
    • PHILIPS.
    • 422719 2.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Quartet in E flat major Op.20`1 for strings

    Performer: Chiaroscuro.
    • BIS.
    • BIS 2158.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony no. 41 in C major K.551 (Jupiter)

    Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Performer: English Baroque Soloists.
    • PHILIPS.
    • 426-315-2.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Sonata quasi una fantasia in C sharp minor Op.27`2 (Moonlight) for piano (Piano sonata no.14)

    Performer: Llŷr Williams.
  • Ed Sheeran

    Your Song

    Performer: Rita Ora.
    • UNIVERSAL.
    • 283064EQ.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg concerto no. 3 in G major BWV.1048

    Performer: Jordi Savall. Performer: Le Concert des Nations.
    • Alia Vox.
    • AVSA 9871 A+B.
  • Ensemble For Medieval Music

    O vis eternitatis - antiphon

    • Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.
    • 05472773202.
  • Judith Weir

    Concerto for piano and orchestra

    Performer: The Schubert Ensemble. Performer: William Howard.
    • NMCCD090.
    • NMCCD090.
  • William Walton

    Facade - an entertainment for reciter and chamber ensemble vers. definitive

    Performer: Edith Sitwell. Performer: Frederick Prausnitz.
    • Sony SMK46685.
    • Sony SMK46685.
  • Grandmaster Flash & Furious Five

    Grandmaster Flash & Furious Five - The message

    • Not on Label - None.
    • 0000000.
  • Max Richter

    Iconography

    Performer: Max Richter (1966).
    • Fat Cat.
    • 130-701.

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