Ask Aureus • Blog

March 2022

Songs That Were Inspired by Classical Music

Great music is here to stay, and classical music that remains familiar tunes to all of us are those that have stood the test of time. In fact, there are many cases of classical music being the inspiration behind contemporary tunes we enjoy today. Here are some modern-day hits which have borrowed ideas from musical masterpieces that came before them.

Frank Sinatra – Full Moon and Empty Arms

Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2

Rachmaninoff’s most famous piano concerto is known to have inspired many later works of music. One of which is this 20th century classic which mirrors the dramatic flair and sense of longing in Rachmaninoff’s original piece. Written by Buddy Kaye and Ted Mossman, it is Frank Sinatra’s 1945 recording which received the most recognition.

Eric Carmen – All By Myself

Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 2, 2nd Movement

The verse in this 70s pop hit which later became popularised by Celine Dion was also based on Rachmaninoff’s highly-praised concerto. Besides the verse, the track is also heavily infused with classical music elements like the string orchestra in the background. There is even a middle segment where the limelight is shone on an extensive and elaborate piano break.

Eric Carmen – Never Gonna Fall in Love Again

Rachmaninoff – Symphony No. 2, 3rd Movement

Being a classically trained musician, it comes as no surprise that Eric Carmen has found inspiration from classical music for more than one of his works. In fact, he was revealed to be a big fan of Rachmaninoff! He once again sampled another beautiful piece written by the Russian composer in this one. It is, however, refreshing to have the dreamy theme of this grand symphony take up a brand new upbeat character in the bittersweet pop tune.

Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling in Love

Martini – Plaisir d’Amour

For such a well-known love song that has been covered by many famous singers, it is rather hard to imagine it not being an original piece of music. The English pop classic originally sung by Elvis Presley actually came from a passionate classical French love song written in 1784 by Martini, with lyrics by the poet de Florian. Unlike the original classical piece which sings about the grief of lost love, Presley’s modern adaptation is a romantic love confession.

Billy Joel – This Night

Beethoven – Pathétique Sonata, 2nd Movement

The Pathétique Sonata is one of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, and its second movement holds a beautiful melody that tugs at your heartstrings. With the singing quality of the melody line, it is no wonder that this classical piece would turn out to be a catchy song. Billy Joel brings new life to this familiar tune with his poignant lyrics in This Night.

The Beatles – Because

Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata

Upon listening to this Beatles song, the eerie, unsettling feeling it gives off might start to ring a bell or two. Well, that is because lead vocalist John Lennon was actually inspired to write this song after listening to his then-wife Yoko Ono play the chords of the Moonlight Sonata backwards!

Phil Collins – A Groovy Kind of Love

Clementi – Sonatina Op. 36 No. 5, 3rd Movement

A Groovy Kind of Love is a pop song originally written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager, with Phil Collin’s 1988 version being one of the more successful ones. It is interesting to hear the lively classical piece by Clementi transformed into a moody modern love song. No one would have imagined that the running scales in a Sonatina could turn into a convincing verse for a pop hit!

Maroon 5 – Memories

Pachelbel – Canon in D

In writing this Maroon 5 title that honours the people we have lost, lead singer Adam Levine incorporated elements from the famous Canon in D. It is a rather fitting choice as the Pachelbel piece is often played at sombre occasions like wedding ceremonies and funerals. Besides borrowing the harmonic sequence of Canon in D, Levine also cleverly reimagined the melody to create the chorus of this heartfelt ballad.

These popular tunes will never sound the same again after you have heard the classical pieces they were based on! It is almost inevitable that inspiration should come from a great piece of work created before. Who knows, the hit song of 2022 could be the spark for some other musical creation in years to come!

Can’t choose between pop and classical music? You won’t have to if you take up music lessons at Aureus Academy! We fully encourage our students to explore any and every genre they take interest in with our individually tailored music lessons! Our teachers are experienced in crafting the ideal curriculum to suit your learning style and musical interests. Want to find out more about music lessons at Aureus? Sign up for a free trial lesson now!

Xin Min

Xin Min is a content writer at Aureus Group with a passion for all things related to music and the arts. Being in touch with music from a young age, she has grown to enjoy a wide range of musical genres from classical to jazz and musical theatre, and hopes to share the endless charms of music through her writing. When she is not busy typing away in front of a screen, she can be found running her fingers across her piano keys.