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The Top 5 Appearances of Classical Music in Movies

Classical music has always had a prominent roll in Hollywood, making appearances in some of the most iconic movie moments in history. Here are PianoCub's top 5 classical music appearances in a Hollywood film:


5. Eyes Wide Shut – Musica Ricercata: II. Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale by György Ligeti

Using only the pitches of E-sharp, F-sharp, and G, Ligeti [link] crafts a spooky, unrelenting, and subtly disturbing short movement from his Musica Ricervata that perfectly sets the mood in Eyes Wide Shut. The protagonist Dr. Bill Harford is paranoid that he is being followed and the constant repeating half-steps of Ligeti's music heightens the fear in the scene. 


4. Manhattan – Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

In Woody Allen's 1979 black-and-white film Manahttan George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue accompanies the opening narration. The shots of the bustling borough of Manhattan are perfectly captured by the jazz-influenced, hyper-American music of George Gershwin.


3. Platoon – Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber

In one of the most heart breaking and gut wrenching moments in cinematic history, Willem Dafoe’s character Sergeant Elias K. Grodin stretches his arms towards the sky as he falls in slow motion to the ground, shot down by Vietnamese forces and abandoned by his American platoon. Accompanied by Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, this scene forever changed the way audiences listen to this masterpiece by Barber.


2. The Shawshank Redemption – “Sull'aria...che soave zeffiretto” from Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In the 1994 drama, The Shawshank Redemption, the protagonist Andy Dufresne is left alone in the prison warden’s office and is examining a recent delivery of LPs. As an act of rebellion he proceeds to broadcast the "Letter Duet” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro to his fellow inmates over the prison's PA system. As fellow inmate, Red, says, “Those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.”


1. The Shining – Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta by Bela Bartók

At the heart of one of the scariest thrillers of all time is the music from the slow movement of Bela Bartók's Music for String Percussion and Celesta. The iconic sound of the glissando strings, lonely woodblock, and warping timpani immediately gives you goosebumps as the terrifying events unfold at the Overlook Hotel.



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