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What's the Longest Piece of Classical Music?

Have you ever wondered what the longest piece of classical music ever written is? Throughout history, composers have experimented with elements of time and scope in their compositions.

Here are 5 of the longest pieces of classical music ever written.


5. Philip Glass – Einstein on the Beach

Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach is a four act, five hour-long experimental opera that is a portrait of the life of Albert Einstein. The opera is so long that the audience is permitted to enter and leave as desired. Einstein on the Beach is a collaboration between Philip Glass and theatrical director, Robert Wilson and it doesn’t present the story in a traditional narrative. Instead, each scene is a vignette that portrays a moment from Einstein's life and his transformative ideas.


4. Morton Feldman – String Quartet No. 2

Experimental American composer, Morton Feldman continuously explored time and space in his music. Clocking in at approximately 6 hours long, his longest work is his String Quartet No. 2 from 1983. The piece's score is 124 pages long with a slow tempo marking of 63-66 beats per minute. Feldman idiosyncratically sets the bars, so one page may last as little as about half a minute or as long as seven minutes.


3. Richard Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen

Often called The Ring Cycle, Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic German operas -- Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. The entire cycle lasts approximately 15 hours long and Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about twenty-six years, from 1848 to 1874.


2. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Licht

Licht is a cycle of seven operas written by German experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The opera, composed between 1977 and 2003, is subtitled The Seven Days of the Week as each opera is named for a day of the week. The entire opera consists of 29 hours of music and Stockhausen described the work as an "eternal spiral" because "there is neither end nor beginning to the week." Perhaps the most famous moment from the opera cycle comes from the third scene in Wednesday in which a string quartet is separated into four helicopters that hover over the concert hall to perform the work. The section is aptly titled Helikopter-Streichquartett (Helicopter String Quartet).


1. John Cage – Organ2/ASLSP

At a whopping 639 years long, the longest piece of music in the world is

Organ2/ASLSP by John Cage. The piece is currently being performed on the organ at Halberstadt, Germany’s medieval St. Buchardi Church. The performance began on 5 September 2001 and began with a lengthy

17-month-long rest! In total the performance of the piece will conclude in the year 2640!



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