Classical pieces make it to The Star’s 100 saddest songs list

Just saw The Star’s 100 saddest songs list via and was pleased to find that several pieces of classical music has made the list. Tomasino Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor and Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament”  were perhaps not terribly surprising additions to the list, but I was glad that Dido made it as far as to the top 20 of the list, and I was so pleased to see Dowland’s “In Darkness let me Dwell” take the list’s bronze medal for sadness. I was also impressed that Arvo Pärt’s “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten” was included – I’m not even sure I would have thought of that one, but it’s really apt, I think. And it doesn’t get much sadder than “Der Leiermann”, so kudos to The Star for commemorating Schubert, too. Every lied from Winterreise might well have been included, but of course they would have taken up too much space, and I do think the ole’ hurdy-gurdy man is a good representative.

Not so sure about Chopin’s prelude no. 4 in E-minor, though. I’ve heard it described as “sad” before, but I really think it’s more sensual and/or languid than it is sad. Fact: when I was a teenager I once had a make-out session to this very piece and it worked just fine . Also, let’s not forget that this was the very piece to which Tori Spelling did a striptease in the movie Co-ed Call Girl.
(Come to think of it, do let’s forget about it. Let’s forget that scene ever happened.)

Anyway, I thought I’d make a few extra suggestions for classical contributions to the list of saddest songs:

“Ack! Istomilas ya gorem” from Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame
I’ve talked about this one before, but it remains one of the saddest arias ever to me:

“Se pietà di me non senti” from Händel: Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Such a rush of sadness in the strings in this one, and such an eloquent tristesse in the soprano voice:

“Ella giammai m’amo” from Verdi: Don Carlos
It’s starting to border on the ridiculous how many times I’ve written about this aria, but there it is: When it comes to sadness there is just no way around King Philip alone in his chamber, dreading death and mourning his loveless marriage:

“Flow my Tears” by John Dowland
Because we were not done with John Dowland just yet. And because Andreas Scholl rocks:

Funeral March from Wagner: Götterdämmerung
I’ll admit that this one isn’t just sad. It’s also grandiose. It’s also intimidating and frightening. It’s also hopeful in some places, stirring as it does with the memory of the fallen hero. But the sadness immanent in the piece is definitely sufficient to earn this piece a place on the list. Besides, it heralds the ending of an entire world, so as far as sadness goes it doesn’t get much more in-your-face-ish than this:

Coventry Carol
It’s a lullaby for a baby doomed to be murdered. ‘Nuff said.

Now let’s hear your favorite sad classical pieces! Or non-classical, I’m not picky.

4 responses to “Classical pieces make it to The Star’s 100 saddest songs list

  1. I think my favourite sad classical pieces would be the 1st 2 movements of Respighi’s Concerto Gregoriano, his undoutbed masterpiece

    The slow movement to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G

    The 6th movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet op 131, i think for me this really sums up something deep inside us all, like Beethoven just bared his soul

    The slow movement to Beethoven’s Hammerklavier, Gould playing if you can get past the slight humming :)

    The slow movement to Vaughan Williams 2nd Symphony, a haunting majestic beauty

  2. Thanks for a great post! My favorite sad classical piece is the tenor aria “Una furtiva lagrima ” from Donizetti opera “L’elisir d’amore“. With Pavarotti, of course! Greetings from

  3. Pingback: Sad Pavarotti, very sad indeed « Odd Pavarotti Blog

  4. Thank you so much for your excellent contributions!
    Philosphy of Music, I’m especially enthralled by the Respighi movement. Absolutely haunting.

    “Una furtiva lagrima” is an interesting choice. I used it myself once as an example of a piece of music that puts me in a gloomy mood (here:, but of course Nemorimo is actually kind of happy here, having found proof that Adina loves him after all. I think that’s a nice twist to the whole “Saddest Songs” idea: A song doesn’t need to have been written as a sad piece of music in order to be experienced and enjoyed as such.


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