Classical music meets the world of children through imagination. Coming from a time when recorded music didn’t exist, classical pieces were written, arranged and performed so as to stir emotions, inspire creativity and allude to the imaginary. Funnily enough, this is exactly the combination that kids are drawn to when it comes to listening to music.
Whether you want to make an introduction to the world of classical music during class or simply let your kids enjoy an hour of great music by important composers like Beethoven, Vivaldi, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, this selection of classical pieces will create pure euphoria.
The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky)
The Nutcracker Ballet is a story set to music written by Tchaikovsky. Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the music goes scene by scene, involving children, fairies, toy soldiers, mice, and lively dancing. Although not originally accepted well, the ballet has gained popularity, especially around Christmas time.
Children will love the movement and variety of instruments used in the pieces. For instance, the Dance of the Reed Flutes, has several flutes playing in harmony and it is a very fun and lively piece. Many of the beautiful orchestral pieces will make children want to get up and dance!
Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saens)
This is a short 25-minute composition with fourteen movements, with each representing a different animal. When Saint-Saëns composed it, he wrote it with a small group of just eleven instruments in mind, but today it is played with a full orchestra and a glockenspiel or xylopohone.
Children will love the lion, hens and roosters, wild donkeys, big tortoises, slow elephant, kangaroos, fish in the aquarium, graceful swan, and others! The piece is quite humorous at times, and it is delightful to listen with your imagination!
Peter and the Wolf (Prokovief)
Peter and the Wolf is a symphonic story written for children in 1936, with a narrator speaking throughout the entire time. Various instruments in the orchestra represent a character in the story. The flute represents the bird, the oboe represents the duck, the clarinet represents the cat, and so on. Each instrument has a theme that is particular to the character played throughout the story.
Children will love listening to what happens to Peter out in the meadow when he spots a wolf. The anticipation builds as the listener finds out if Peter gets eaten by the wolf or if the hunters and Grandfather capture the wolf in the end.
Rondo Alla Turca (Mozart)
Mozart wrote many pieces that are known for repetition in the music and development of a musical pattern. When children listen to Rondo Alla Turca they will hear various patterns as they listen to the very fast, rousing melody with supporting chordal patterns, played by the solo piano.
Für Elise (Beethoven)
Beginning piano students love to play Für Elise for its beautiful melody and simple patterns, including bouncing back and forth between octaves toward the middle of the piece. It was supposedly written for a lover of Beethoven, but her name may have been Therese, not Elise.
Piano students and teachers everywhere are familiar with the now famous melody of Für Elise.
The Moldau (Smetana)
This piece has haunting and compelling melodies. It was written to describe the movement of the Vltava River in the Czech Republic. It is the second movement of a larger work called My Country and each section of the work is a symphonic poem telling a story. Children can take their imagination to the mountains and the river in the Bohemian forest and enjoy the feeling of being right there among the trees and water!
Spring from The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)
Vivaldi wrote Spring as the first part of a concerto with the other parts being called Summer, Autumn, and Winter. Written in bright sounding E major, the piece is played by a solo violin accompanied by string orchestra.
It uses the ritornello form, and the melody keeps returning several times in the music. Children love predictable melodies, and this one bounces along like the newness and freshness of springtime.
In the Hall of the Mountain King & Morning (from Peer Gynt / Grieg)
In the Hall of the Mountain King, from the play Peer Gynt, tells of a boy falling in love, running away to the mountains, being captured by trolls, and then taken to the mountain king. There is so much action in the music and the drama intensifies when the musicians slowly increase speed until it sounds like the boy is running at top speed away from the trolls and the mountain king. Again, there is much repetition in the music, with a very loud and dramatic ending.
Morning Suite by Grieg is a very calm and melodic piece, depicting the sunrise coming up in the morning. The solo instruments are flute and oboe, and the piece is short but perfect to help calm children when they need peace and rest.
Carmen – Overture (Bizet)
This overture has a rousing introductory theme and will get kids moving in no time at all! It is from the popular French opera Carmen, and it has a melody that is memorable and sing-able. Carmen is a love story about a headstrong Spanish lady in the 19th century, and it will be remembered as a classic melody for years.
Flight of the Bumblebee (Korsakov)
Known for its extremely quick melody line, the Flight of the Bumblebee is fun because of its intensity of movement during the entire piece. The melody line goes up and back down numerous times, and children will enjoy mimicking the fast melody and rhythm.
Thinking about how a Bumblebee sound and how quickly they fly around makes this piece fun for the imagination as well.
Popular Classical Music for Kids – Spotify Playlist
Follow this playlist on Spotify and listen to the pieces of this article.
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