Classical Music Beyond the Concert Stage: Ten Classical Pieces Used in Commercials

Ten Classical Pieces Used in Commercials and Advertisement

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Have you ever heard any advertisement music on the radio and TV that sounds familiar to you? A lot of them are excerpts or adaptations from classical music. I am going to share with you ten pieces that have been used in advertisements from all over the world.

William Tell Overture

Guillaume Tell

Guillaume Tell ©

Composed by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), William Tell Overture is frequently used in advertisements and commercials. It was the last opera that Rossini wrote and perhaps one of the most popular among his 39 operas. It is the overture to the opera Guillaume Tell, and it consists of four continuous movements. The last part of the overture was particularly popular. It was taken as the theme music in a TV drama The Lone Ranger and since then it is always associated with horse-riding. Hong Kong Jockey Club used this theme for quite some years but recently, this theme is featured in a commercial which is unrelated to horse-riding:

Ride Of The Valkyries

One of the best-known pieces by Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Ride Of The Valkyries is the opening of Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the second opera of the Ring Cycle. The story of this opera is based on a Norse mythology, and the title character, Valkyrie Brünnhilde, carries some supernatural power. In the opera, “The Ride Of The Valkyries” plays when the Valkyries, warrior maidens ride back from a battle.

But here is one of the commercials with the use of this theme:

The Flower Duet

The Flower Duet is a piece in the first act of Léo Delibes‘ opera Lakmé (1883). It is a duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano, and it is sung by Lakmé and her servant Mallika when they are getting some flowers by a river.

This duet is a popular concert piece, and it has been used frequently in advertisements and films.

Here are two different advertisements using this work:

Well…can you associate this music with donuts?

Léo Delibes (1836-1891) was a French Romantic composer. His best-known works include this opera and his ballets Coppélia (1870) and Sylvia (1876).

Queen of the Night Aria

It is not difficult to find Mozart’s works on TV commercials. This work, Queen of the Night aria, is one of the most famous arias of all time. It is an aria in the second act of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte).

Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra © Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Also Sprach Zarathustra

Another popular repertoire used in TV commercials and TV dramas and films is Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). This tone poem has nine sections and is based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Each section is named after the title of the selected chapter of the book. While Zarathustra’s philosophical journey in the novel inspired Strauss creating this influential work, this commercial doesn’t seem very philosophical at all:

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana

Composed by Italian composer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), Cavalleria Rusticana is considered one of his masterpieces and classic verismo operas. Mascagni wrote this piece for a competition held by Milanese music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno in 1888. He spent less than two months; he submitted it on the last day of the competition’s deadline, and he won! This opera is based on Giovanna Verga’s novel about a passionate love tragedy. The sentimental melody suits this commercial very well:

Overture from La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie)

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) wrote this two-act opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) based on an 1815 comedy La Pie Voleuse by JMT Badouin d’Aubigny and Louis-Charles Caigniez. The story is about discovering a magpie that had been stealing a silver spoon and hiding it in its nest. This overture has been used quite often for television and radio advertisements, including this award-winning one:

The first page of the oldest surviving copy of Johann Pachelbel's "Canon and Gigue in D major."

The first page of the oldest surviving copy of Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon and Gigue in D major.”

Canon in D

The popularity of Canon in D has made its frequent use in tv commercials no surprise. Written by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706), this piece is part of his Canon and Gigue for three violins and basso continuo. It was written in D major, but it has been transposed to different keys for various occasions. Let’s watch how this music is used in this Thai’s commercial:

Poster for the premiere of Georges Bizet's Carmen

Poster for the premiere of Georges Bizet’s Carmen

L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) from Carmen

Nicknamed Habanera, L’amour est un oiseau rebelle belongs to the first act of Bizet’s opéra comique Carmen (1875). Georges Bizet (1838-1875) actually did not compose the tune of this aria, but he adapted it from “El Arreglito ou la Promesse de marriage” by the Spanish musician Sebastián Iradier. However, Bizet rewrote it and made it one of the most recognizable arias of all time. The tune has been adapted in popular songs, films, and tv commercials such as this one:

Second Movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7

Perhaps not used as frequently in commercials as other Beethoven’s works, the second movement of the Seventh Symphony was the most popular movement during its premiere where the audience requested for an encore. The Seventh Symphony was written in four movements between 1811 and 1812 when Beethoven was treating in Teplice, a famous Bohemian spa town in the Czech Republic. The spa house that Beethoven had stayed was one of the oldest spa houses there and is currently named after him.

Classical music has a timeless popularity. It can produce a wide range of emotions and atmospheres that make it perfect for use in all kinds of medias such as video games, movies, tv dramas, podcasts…you name it! While some classical compositions contain their own stories, the imagination is the only true limit to the stories this music can tell.

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