Classical Countdown

Counting Down Listener Favorites on December 30 and December 31

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Continuing a favorite holiday tradition, WQXR is celebrating the final hours of 2009 with the results of the Classical Countdown.

Throughout the month of December, we asked listeners to vote for 50 favorite pieces of classical music. More than 1,100 of you took our survey and many of you wrote in with suggestions of your own.

Beginning at 9AM on December 30 and continuing until midnight on December 31, we will count down this list, saving the most popular piece for last.

The Countdown will necessitate two changes in our regular programming. Symphony Hall and Exploring Music will be preempted on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings. However, the McGraw Hill Young Artists Showcase and the New York Philharmonic will be broadcast at their regular times.

Here is the full list:

1. Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

2. Dvorak: New World Symphony

3. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto

4. Beethoven: Concerto for Piano No. 5 in E-flat

5. Beethoven: Symphony No. 6

6. Mozart: Symphony No. 41 "Jupiter"

7. Beethoven: Symphony No. 7

8. Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue

9. Barber: Adagio for Strings

10. Beethoven: Symphony No. 3

11. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

12. Rachmaninoff: Concerto for Piano No. 2 in C-minor

13. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B-minor

14. Rimsky-Korsikov: Scheherezade Op. 35

15. Mozart: Requiem in D-minor

16. Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini

17. Schubert: Trout Quintet

18. Copland: Appalacian Spring

19. Beethoven: Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 61

20. Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

21. Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet

22. Tchaikovsky: Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 35

23. Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G Minor

24. Smetana: The Moldau

25. Dvorak: Cello Concerto

26. Berlioz: Symphony Fantastique

27. Mahler: Symphony No. 2

28. Elgar: Enigma Variations

29. Wagner: Gotterdammerung: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey

30. Vaughan Williams: Variations on a theme by Thomas Tallis

31. Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B-minor

32. Mahler: Symphony No. 1

33. Vivaldi: Four Seasons

34. Saint-Saens: Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78

35. Pachelbel: Canon and Gigue in D Major

36. Bach: Goldberg Variations

37. Stravinsky: The Rites of Spring

38. Brahms: Violin Concerto

39. Faure: Requiem

40. Orff: Carmina Burana

41. Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5

42. Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

43. Rachmaninoff: Concerto for Piano No. 3

44. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

45. Puccini: Madame Butterfly

46. Chopin: Polonaise in A flat, "Heroic"

47. Debussy: La Mer

48. Brahms: Symphony No. 4

49. Brahms: Concerto for Piano No. 2

50. Elgar: Concerto for Cello in E Minor, Op. 85

Click here for more details on the pieces being played today and here for more information of what was played yesterday during the first day of the Countdown.

More in:

Comments [46]

Dennis Todd

I think my children will live.

Mar. 06 2011 05:48 AM
Catherine J Sidoti from Brooklyn, NY

Beethoven's Archduke Trio should have been somewhere in there, I guess not many may have thought about it. There is really too much music to say which are the finest 50 out of millions of pieces of classical music. It is clear that Beethoven is really an all time favorite and Symphony 9 seems to always get first dibs. I truly believe that Beethoven gives people hope and that is what is heard in his Archduke Trio that despite that period of time he was almost completely deaf and it is clearly understood in the 3rd movement, the fourth movement is filled with hope and his music is truly important for all of us to be filled with hope in a failing economy, climate change, the world at war and the increasing cost of everyday living. Music is always something comforting for all of us and we are fortunate to be able to hear recordings of great music when the more medoicre music is always being piped into the present day people's Ipods. Beethoven's 9th is a mammoth piece that truly gives the message of brotherhood and sisterhood for that matter for all and we need to be reminded of it. Perhaps WQXR listeners know that already. Happy New Year to All...

Dec. 31 2010 10:41 PM
David Granger from Nutley

Is it possible to get the past years' classical countdown lists for comparison?

Jan. 01 2010 10:29 PM
john mccormick from princeton,nj

mahler ranking has slipped this year vs. recent years. makes no sense to me. all listeners listed as respondents have not mentioned the great genious!!

Jan. 01 2010 10:46 AM
BachWagner from NYC

I always never understood how both Handel and Wagner always seem under represented? I think Water Music, Alexander's Feast, Semele, or Israel In Egypt is almost as notable as Messiah.

Wagner is more of a political thing, he is not popular with a certain group of people that happen to own the NY TImes. But he is now considered by many to be a top 5 composer, I guess Lohengrin, Pasifal, Triston and Isolde are not liked much. There are also greater moments in the Ring Cycle than are never going to make the top 50.

Jan. 01 2010 05:52 AM
Ettore G. from NYC

It's 12:31 am of 1/1/10 and the countdown list wasn't completed on your website yet, when I'm sure you had it on hand at least a day before the end. Will you have it the 50
pieces of music listed by 1/2/10??? I plan to keep it for my records. Thanks. Happy
New Year to all at the radio station.

Jan. 01 2010 12:36 AM
e.c. from queens

My personal short list would include (in alphabetical order):

Bach cello suites: H. Schiff
Bartok music for string, percussion and celesta: CSO, Reiner
Beethoven piano trio #7: Stern, Rose, Istomin
Debussy nocturnes: Concertgebouw, Haitink
Messiaen quatuor por la fin du temps: Tashi
Mozart string quintets (K.515, 516, 593): Griller Quartet, Primrose
Puccini: "Vissi d'arte" from Tosca: Callas, de Sabata, Teatro alla scala orchestra
Stravinsky: Le sacre du printemps: Minneapolis Orchestra, Dorati

As to other posters--just keep making your opinions known and hopefully the programmers at WNYC will take note and make some adjustments.

Jan. 01 2010 12:27 AM
Michael Meltzer

Bonney? Hampson? Rattle? Vienna Phil?
Not to be believed! CONGRATULATIONS!!

Dec. 31 2009 11:23 PM

Well, it's 11:00 and here comes the 9th, the #1 favorite.

Still my favorite too.

Thank you.

Dec. 31 2009 11:04 PM

Thanks for your efforts. Not everything has been perfect, but it is clear you are trying.

I am so very grateful for your continuing work to provide good classical music to your listeners. I am enjoying your "favorites" list now.

Obviously, not everyone's favorites will make it, and the Beethoven 9th is inevitably coming (we are at #2 [Dvorak 5th/9th], and haven't heard #1 yet -- what a lark if it isn't the 9th after all! Probably will be, though. Well, I'll be humming it too, so OK then.)

For all your growing pains in your new form, you are doing a very creditable job. Thank you.

Dec. 31 2009 10:34 PM

Does anyone have any idea WHY the DMCA prohibits the posting of playlists in advance?

Dec. 31 2009 07:20 PM

Alternatives to Kleiber's 5th? In spite of some negative reviews, Kurt Masur and the NY Philharmonic is one of my favourite...

Dec. 31 2009 04:13 PM
Daniel Rutkowski from New

Aren't there other great recordings of Beethoven's 5th other than Kleiber's?

Dec. 31 2009 03:41 PM

The play lists are sorely missed. I also am listening less and frustrated more, when trying to find out the identification of something I hear while driving.

So far, my overall impression of the new radio station format/choices is very disappointing.

Dec. 31 2009 03:25 PM
A greenberg from Brooklyn, NY

I'd like to add to the list of people who are requesting the daily play list be put back.

Dec. 31 2009 03:20 PM
Harriet J. Brown from Bayside, NY

How did I miss nombers 23, 24, 25 and 26?

When I heard Bob Sherman, I thought that it was over for the day and would resume the next morning. So, when were those pieces played?

By the way, I am very surprised that there seem to be no opera singing, at all, in this count down..

Dec. 31 2009 02:51 PM
Laura from Queens

That's an excellent point -- I'm also curious to know why you can play full-length instrumental works but not full-length vocal works. Many people have complained about it here, so surely it's not some misguided notion that people while people don't mind listening to violins for 45 minutes, most listeners don't like to hear singing for 45 minutes?

As a (former professional) singer myself, this really is rather troublesome. Would love to hear the station's response to this.

Dec. 31 2009 01:22 PM
Chuck from Clark, NJ

Papa always gets short shrift, but he didn't get a single place on the ballot this year. That is embarrassing.

Dec. 31 2009 01:17 PM
Peter O'Malley

You did it again!! I'm sure that everyone who voted for the Mozart "Requiem" naively thought they would actually hear it, but, no! We can't play a full length work with people singing!!! "Scheherezade", (the instrumental one), though I don't begrudge it, as it is a childhood favorite of mine, will get a full airing, because there is no singing.

Plus ca change . . .

Dec. 31 2009 01:11 PM
Alejandro Nolasco from Bronx, NY

Schubert (along with Schumann) represents the highest point in Romantic music, both for the music he composed and for the life he led (how brief and tragic!). Listening to the Trout Quintet on a snowy New York new year's eve is the perfect preamble to an evening of listening to great music surrounded by loved ones to welcome the new year. I am immensely grateful that you included this wonderful piece (which was not in your original survey) and will listen to the rest of your Classical Countdown 2009 with the hope of perhaps listening to Schubert's An die Musik (isn't this what this is all about?!) or maybe a selection from Schumann's Dichterliebe or Heine Lieder. I realize these are not as popular or well known and you might not play them tonight, but I feel a certain boyisn and puerile joy at the thought of soon listening to Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis (a longtime favorite of mine) or my dearest An die Freude. Either way, my dear WQXR, ich danke dir daf├╝r, ich danke dir.

Dec. 31 2009 12:59 PM
Dan Leeman from Ottawa, ON, Canada

I shall not be listening to the countdown
this New Years Eve because it contains
all the same old, same old, same old.
I see only one American composer listed:
John Adams...I like 20th/21st Century
music. Love it! And I am an Old Geezer
(proudly 84!) Music is an adventure!
Come explore new worlds with me!

Dec. 31 2009 12:27 PM
Laura from Queens

@Lew Kampel: No, DMCA was enacted in 1998. But when the station changed owners, the terms of its licenses changed. Stations that were already posting playlists on the Internet before DMCA went into effect were grandfathered in, with the caveat that they had to post the playlists the way they were when DMCA went into effect. However, WNYC didn't own WQXR in the 1990s so they aren't grandfathered in.

Not saying that there aren't a lot of problems with the DMCA -- there are -- but again, it's not the station's fault. WQXR isn't going to start posting advance playlists no matter how much noise people make about it, and it's getting awfully tiresome to read the same request over and over and over again.

Dec. 31 2009 11:57 AM
Lew Kampel from New York

Re: Advanced play list, what changed? When WQXR was on the old frequency, such a list was available. One could look through the days schedule and try to arrange time to hear favorites. Did the DMCA just get enacted?

Dec. 31 2009 11:30 AM
Laura from Queens

To everyone asking for the list in advance: the reason for not posting an advance list has been stated on this site many, many times. WQXR is legally precluded from doing so because of the constraints of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). So you can keep stating and re-stating 600 times that you'd like them to post advance lists, and I'm sure they'd like to, but no matter how many times you repeat yourself, they're not going to do it. This isn't because they're all incompetent and don't care about the listeners, or because they don't know how to run a radio station, or any of the other reasons I've seen propounded here. It's because it's actually unlawful for them to do it. So could you all please stop asking?

As for the countdown, yes, it skews a bit toward the old chestnuts, but I'm happy to see that during the overnight hours, there were broadcasts of "Short Ride in a Fast Machine," "Le Roi S'Amuse," Arvo Part's "Symphony No. 3," and Ernest Bloch's "Schelomo," among other lesser-heard works. There's room for everything, folks.

Dec. 31 2009 10:48 AM

Why Can't hear or know what I am listening to at this moment, 10:02 AM Thursday
Every station post the name of the current piece of music, not wqxr Why?

Dec. 31 2009 10:45 AM

The first half of the Classical Countdown is posted above; we'll post the rest after it's played.

In order to facilitate constructive conversations surrounding the intended topic of the blog, we encourage users to email Listener Services ( or post on the Listener Services blog ( with more general concerns about the station.

Dec. 31 2009 10:42 AM
Michael Meltzer

The Pachelbel Canon is elevator music that brides-to-be ask organists to play at their weddings. If in the voting it has truly beaten out the Brahms 4th, Sibelius 2nd, Tchaikovsky 5th, Faure Requiem, Goldberg Variations & Rite (not Rites) of Spring, you have truly lost much too much of your classical music audience!
Are you going to do something about that, or rebuild your station around the Pachelbel Canon?

Dec. 31 2009 08:22 AM
Rosemary E. Lloyd from Elberon, NJ

Hi! could you please Email m e a copy of the Classical Countdown? It's hard to get yoru station in my house though it comes in fine in my car. I love the countdown; I've followed it for years. I didn't vote this year because I couldn't find the list. Just as an FYI: My favorite symphony is Schubert's #8. My favorite concerto is Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto #2. And my favorite soloist is Artur Rubinstein. My favorite composers are Mozart, Sibelius, Delius, Holst and Debussy.
Congrats on your turnover to a public radio station; I hope there won't be TOO many pledge breaks though I know they're necessary.

Dec. 31 2009 08:01 AM
Michael Meltzer

If you indeed cap off the list with the Beethoven ninth, PLEASE spare us the maudlin meanderings of WQXR's usual second rate conductor-choice for this masterpiece. It would be refreshing to hear once again the 1952 Toscanini, even if it is monaural, for real depth and real power, not to mention Eileen Farrell, Jan Peerce, the Robert Shaw Chorale.

Dec. 30 2009 11:15 PM
Howard Levine from Long Island

Please email me a list of the countdown results if you don't put it up on the website.
Also, I can't believe we could not choose our favorites except by checking off what you listed. I LOVE Mendelssohn's Violin Cto (and symphonies). Finally, how can you be so unresponsive regarding daily playlists? How much hard-earned $$ must I donate to get them?

Dec. 30 2009 10:14 PM
Mary from Poughkeepsie, NY

I am with all those above who would appreciate a countdown list. I think I have them from the last 20 years or so.

Dec. 30 2009 10:14 PM

Sorry to disappoint Frederick above, but I for one, do not miss David Dubal.
I also would *love* to see the countdown posted. I was disappointed not to find it.

Dec. 30 2009 09:44 PM

like many others, I would appreciate a countdown list. It has always been helpful in the past. Thanks!

Dec. 30 2009 08:50 PM

Please email me the countdown list. Thanks. BTW, I believe your 50 countdown list does represent most popular tastes. Most of my favorites were on your list. Thanks again for bringing classical music to NYC and for truly enriching our lives.

Dec. 30 2009 07:39 PM
John F. Mignone from East Meadow, N.Y.

I also would like the playlist for the entire day posted. I enjoyed looking ahead to see when a special piece was being broadcast and then tuning in to it.
If you aren't posting the countdown list please email it to me. By the way, thanks for being on the air!

Dec. 30 2009 07:19 PM

Would greatly appreciate receiving a copy of the countdown list via email. Additionally, please consider not only posting it for all listeners, but resume the practice of posting the daily playlists, as well. Thank you.

Dec. 30 2009 07:09 PM
Cissy Rebich from Newark, NJ

I think it's a very poor decision not to post the playlist for the entire day. The result of that decision is that your patrons will miss hearing selections that they really like because there is no notice.
Please reconsider, and if you can email the countdown list to me, I'd appreciate it.

Dec. 30 2009 04:35 PM
Bob from Arizona

I would appreciate a countdown list.

Dec. 30 2009 04:33 PM
Gerald Greenberg from Bronx NY

Please e-mail me a copy of the
Coountdown list.

Dec. 30 2009 04:18 PM
Chuck from 07066

I don't listen nearly as much since the daily playlists disappeared. I read the explanation, but that doesn't motivate me to start listening more often.

"The question that he frames in all but words/Is what to make of a diminished QXR."

Dec. 30 2009 03:55 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

I see that the old commercial radio station bias against vocal music holds true for the classical countdown, public station version. I just heard the shortest possible excerpts from "Carmina Burana" and Faure's "Requiem" as grudging acknowledgments of those pieces' standing in this little game. Earlier, a short snippet covered for all of "Madama Butterfly" The Brahms violin concerto is, of course, being played in full as I write this. Those who entered the three pieces mentioned meant the entire work, not just a brief excerpt. Come on QXR: what happened to that business about mor tim for the music?

Dec. 30 2009 02:43 PM
joyce miller; MD

please e-mail your countdown list to me-----thank you, dr. miller

Dec. 30 2009 02:05 PM
rey lo from ct

Like to get the countdown list for future reference, too. Thanks.

Dec. 30 2009 01:46 PM

Disappointing that no Copland was listed as a choice, and that we were limited only to the 50 choices given.

Dec. 30 2009 12:41 PM
Barbara Hoyt from Long Island, NY

will the countdown list be available? I like to print it our for future reference. Thank you.
B. Hoyt

Dec. 30 2009 11:54 AM
Bruce Witzel from Scotch Plains, NJ

Wish you still published upcoming music to be played that day. I listened to you a lot more when you did, and let others know what was coming up. I previously expressed this via email (and was answered).

WHERE are Brahms' other 3 symphonies, and Dvorak's cello concerto in the countdown list? Amazing.

Dec. 30 2009 11:24 AM

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