Classical music is often portrait by the general public as slow, dragged out and boring. To say it lightly, this of course isn't true. The diversity is enormous and there is something for everyone. This list highlights a side that may surprise most of the general public and although opinions may be divided, these are some of the generally agreed on most exciting pieces in classical music.
Composers like Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Niccolò Paganini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Johann Strauss II and Eugène Ysaÿe are only some of the names that come to mind when talking about exciting classical pieces. To give you a clear picture of what I'm talking about specifically, here is an overview.
1. Dvořák - New World Symphony (Symphony 9), 4th movement
It may seem familiar to you. The 4th part of this symphony is known for its relationship with the theme song of the movie Jaws. Furthermore, it starts with an overwhelming beginning as a recurring motif which makes you excited to listen to it for the full 50 minutes. Many different instruments are playing solo parts which gives the individual players and instruments the opportunity to prove themselves.
2. Rossini - William Tell Overture Final
You had to be living under a rock not to recognize the melody. Whether you're a classical music enthousiast or not, it's one of the few pieces that have succeeded in being very recognized by the general public. It's full of life and energy, iconic for an end of an overture which makes it very fitting to the tradition. The intensity is well-deserving of an honorable number two spot in the list.
3. Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2 (excerpt)
Although this was recorded during a rehearsal, this excerpt from Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 is a true piece of art. It is iconic for the creativity and the difficult nature with which Franz Liszt composed his pieces, which gives the master pianist, Evgeny Kissin the opportunity to show off his outstanding musical abilities. The fast tempo combined with the use of the higher register of the piano makes this a very exciting piece.
4. Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
Not to include this outstanding piece would be a great shame. It is one of the most popular pieces composed by Franz Liszt and you're very likely to already know it. Liszt is known for writing some of the most challenging and demanding pieces in the world and it gets showcased perfectly by this excellent performance by a pianist who has pretty much made his excellent cadenza the norm: Marc-André Hamelin.
5. Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra
You may get Star Wars vibes from it. It's iconic for the very obvious use of the timpani where it really has a chance to show off what it can do and really makes all the difference to the opening. Although it slows down a bit, the tension stays sensible throughout this symphony.
6. Vivaldi - Winter, The Four Seasons
One of the founders of classical music how we know it today. The Four Seasons is the best known of Vivaldi's works and you're bound to know this piece by now. It's not uncommon to hear it being referred to as 'symphonic metal' or 'rock from the 17th century' and it generally describes much of Vivaldi's most famous works. It's famous for the building tension in the beginning, after which the renowned theme starts playing.
7. Chopin - Etude Op. 10, No. 4
Chopin is one of those composers that really knows how to make things difficult for the pianist. The outcome may vary but the results never disappoint. As seen with this etude. Although your ears may not be able to fully catch up with the pace and trickery of this piece, one thing is clear: it deserves a spot on this list.
8. Ysaÿe - Sonata No 3 in D minor, Ballade Op. 27
Technically, a very difficult piece to play. A brutal emotion of anger is expressed in a very passionate way with a great amount of virtuosity. Although many of us won't be strangers to the explosiveness of some of the Ysaÿe sonatas, this one makes many of these look amateurish. If you're looking for something exciting, you generally can't go wrong with Ysaÿe.
9. Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Initially, I thought of just putting the 3th movement on this spot but there really is no excuse for it to not be in its full form here. Part of what makes this piece so appealing is the continuous energy displayed throughout this whole performance. Although it may be debatable if it's due to Itzhak Perlman's amazing abilities, or the artistry with which Tchaikovsky wrote this concerto, its place on this list is certainly not.
10. Stravinsky - Rite of Spring
Although every group of instrument gets its own moment of shine, the real magic in this piece is in the harmonies. It's difficult to put a story with this level of complexity into music, but Stravinsky wasn't afraid to give it a try. As a true workout for everyone in the orchestra, this piece deserves a spot on this list without a doubt.