Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Classical music is neither dead nor elitist

Five fun facts that will blow your musical mind.


Published: 20 Mar 2017

Pen 2

Updated: 5 Feb 2020

Time taken : >15mins

If you think classical music is boring or for the elite, think again. Where would Jaws, Star Wars or Studio Ghibli animated films be without it? That’s because no other genre offers as much range of rhythms and harmonies as classical does, as compared to popular music for example, which usually has a simple melody filled with repetitive verses and choruses.

In fact, classical music has evolved over the last few centuries and is still very much alive today. As we celebrate Beethoven's 250th birthday this year, here are five fun facts that will blow your musical mind.

1. Musicians everywhere have always been known to “borrow” melodies or chord progressions from one another every now and then.

Here are some famous songs we bet you didn’t know were lifted from classical music pieces:



Borrowed from

Bad Romance by Lady Gaga


Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier

Old Money by Lana Del Ray


The famous theme song of 1968 film Romeo & Juliet, written by Nino Rota

Will You Be There by Michael Jackson


Beethoven’s Symphony 9 in D minor (Op. 125), opening

All By Myself by Eric Carmen


Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

Catch A Falling Star by Perry Como

Easy listening / big band

Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture

I Can by Nas

Hip hop

Beethoven’s Für Elise

C U When U Get There by Coolio

Hip hop

Pachelbel’s Canon in D

Exit Music for A Film by Radiohead


Chopin’s Prelude No. 4 in E Minor

Adagio for Strings by DJ Tiësto


Samuel Barber’s piece of the same name

Lacrymosa by Evanescence

Alternative metal

Mozart’s Lacrimosa

2. Franz Schubert is often credited as the godfather of the modern four-minute pop song

Most of us are quite aware that pop songs are formulaic in that there is a simple sequence of chords and verses that are repeated throughout a song. This structure was actually “discovered” in the 18th century, and was refined by Schubert, who wanted to write music that could be enjoyed instantly.

3. Adele and Schubert have a lot in common

Award-winning composer Howard Goodall, who studied musical connections between classical composers and pop stars, noted that there were striking similarities between Adele’s and Schubert’s music. “Strip away the cultural differences, the clothes and anything that dates them, and there is a strong connection,” Goodall said. “The musical shape, the architecture of it, the kind of chords, the way the accompaniment works and the voice sits on it, even the subject matter, are remarkably similar.”

4. Minimalist composer Steve Reich probably had a large part to play in the way we experience contemporary music today

Before electronic music even came about, there was Steve Reich, who revolutionised classical music and whose 1965 landmark debut It’s Gonna Rain introduced the musical concept known as phasing. Regarded as one of the most influential composers of the last five decades, the creator of “pulse” and “phase” music—who performed here at Esplanade in 2016—played a huge, albeit indirect role in the way contemporary music has evolved. His influence on music legends from Kraftwerk to David Bowie, Brian Eno and Radiohead has been greatly talked about, and his reach even extends into hip hop, electro and techno.

5. Video game fans are saving classical music

If classical music in general seems to appeal to an older audience, video game music is the rising star of the genre that is speaking to an unexpected group of young listeners. According to an article by The Independent, music composed for video games is now ranked alongside Beethoven and Mozart. In fact, fans of cult games such as Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts etc. are more than enthusiastic about orchestral game music concerts.

Interested in classical music? Check out Cool Classics, our free performances theme for Feb 2020.

You have 3 out of 3 articles left this month. Create a free Esplanade&Me account or sign in to continue. SIGN UP / LOG IN