Classical music's most famous nicknames explained

The stories behind the Moonlight Sonata, Raindrop Prelude and 15 other favourites.

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If you've ever pondered the origins of the most famous nicknames in classical music — Mahler's Resurrection, Schubert's Trout Quintet, Dvorák's New World Symphony and other warhorses with catchy monikers — explore the pages that follow to unravel the mysteries of how these works were christened and why the names stuck. Each piece is illustrated with footage of the world's finest performers in concert: let Daniel Barenboim, Claudio Abbado, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Jacqueline Du Pré, Glenn Gould and other legends be your guide.

Excerpts from the following works feature in the 2-CD collection What's in a Name, out now on ABC Classics.


Beethoven Pastoral Symphony
Chopin Raindrop Prelude
Schubert Unfinished Symphony
Tchaikovsky Pathétique Symphony
Haydn Clock Symphony
Bach Air on the G-String
Mozart Jupiter Symphony
Haydn Surprise Symphony
Dvorák New World Symphony
Beethoven Eroica Symphony
Haydn Farewell Symphony
Górecki Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
Beethoven Moonlight Sonata
Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony
Schubert Trout Quintet
Beethoven Emperor Concerto
Mahler Resurrection Symphony

‘Pastoral’ Symphony

Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 68

The composer himself gave this work its title: Pastoral Symphony, or, Recollections of Country Life. Nature was immensely important to Beethoven, and he spent a great deal of time walking alone in the woods; it is no coincidence that in expressing his despair at his failing hearing, he thought first of the sounds of the countryside: "What humiliation when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the far distance, and I heard nothing; or when others heard a shepherd singing, and again I heard nothing." Beethoven wrote those anguished words in 1802, in Heiligenstadt, then a peaceful rural village not far from Vienna (it has since been swallowed up by the city’s sprawling suburbs). This symphony, too, was composed in the tranquil surrounds of Heiligenstadt, six years later.

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Classical music's most famous nicknames explained
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