Classical and Piano Covers of Popular Songs
June 25, 2011 9:06 PM   Subscribe

What are some good classical covers of popular songs?

I'd like to find some piano or string [or even orchestral] covers of rock songs and other popular songs. A lot of the ones I've found so far are undesirable because of a "heavy" sound or because the tempo is too fast (see note about my job below).

A friend turned me on to Scott D. Davis., whose album Rockfluence - Solo Piano has some of my favorite piano covers. I've also found some usable covers done by the Vitamin String Quartet.

I'm mainly looking for cover versions that are more mellow, because I'd like to play them at work, where only low to mid-tempo classical is allowed. A good example of this is the Bruno Mars song Grenade, covered by the Piano Tribute Players
posted by mtphoto to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Aston, who do lots of gorgeous covers of pop songs. Love their version of Katy Perry's "E.T."
posted by pised at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2011

You must check out Vitamin String Quartet. They have done hundreds and hundreds of covers of popular songs/albums.
posted by Syllables at 9:31 PM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Alarm Will Sound covered a lot of Aphex Twin, some of which sounded fairly classical in the first place.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:38 PM on June 25, 2011

A million times yes on the Vitamin String Quartet. As a random example, check out Are You Gonna Be My Girl, which is not a song I liked very much until I heard their cover and felt like they had somehow peeled the cover off a musically awesome piece and make it their own at the same time.
posted by ORthey at 10:10 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Christopher O'Riley has done several albums of piano covers of Radiohead songs (example: Karma Police, although my favorite is paranoid android), and he also has an album with Nick Drake covers.
posted by gemmy at 10:14 PM on June 25, 2011

Deep Blue Orchestra covers Misirlou

Smooth Criminal covered by 2 Cellos

I kind of think this sort of thing is exactly as silly as Wendy Carlos' Switched On Bach. But it is kind of amazing to hear mostly acoustic renditions of pop tunes that were heavily produced in the studio. Though 2Cellos clearly makes use of studio production.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:15 PM on June 25, 2011

All of these covers sound cool and the videos look great. I probably should have mentioned that my boss (the store owner) does not like Rock music, and almost all of these have percussion.

Part's of Katy Perry's "E.T." may be usable, but the percussion is definitely audible in many parts of the song. Smooth Criminal is awesome, but very very uptempo.

If only this tribute to Smooth Criminal did not have the percussion, I could probably use it.
posted by mtphoto at 10:31 PM on June 25, 2011

Try the Kronos Quartet cover of Marquee Moon (sorry no Youtube, I just found this). No percussion here. Check out some other Kronos Quartet covers too, they've done some great stuff.
posted by N-stoff at 10:52 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm almost thinking about hiring some young music nerd to just record piano versions of various songs. Maybe Elance would be good for this if I can't find someone locally...
posted by mtphoto at 10:59 PM on June 25, 2011

Try Fourplay String Quartet from Sydney.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:07 PM on June 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Bad Plus have done a lot of piano trio covers of popular songs; while more in the jazz idiom than classical, may work for your purposes.
posted by solarion at 11:18 PM on June 25, 2011

Not sure if the tracks fit your criteria but the music of Maxence Cyrin (Youtube) is excellent.
posted by episodic at 12:26 AM on June 26, 2011

Bach Meets the Beatles
posted by doctor_negative at 2:33 AM on June 26, 2011

Doctor_negative kind of beat me to it. The one I grew up listening to is The Baroque Beatles Book.
Peter Breiner's Beatles arrangements are ok too.

Also check out these Pink Floyd covers by the London Philharmonic.

You can also work your way through this list of symphonic rock covers.
posted by Paris Elk at 3:13 AM on June 26, 2011

I was recently intrigued by the Harp Twins, found on the blue.
posted by knile at 4:21 AM on June 26, 2011

Also, Brad Mehldau is known for his Radiohead piano covers.
posted by knile at 4:22 AM on June 26, 2011

These two albums from The Ultra-Lounge Series might have some stuff.
On The Rocks Part 1
On The Rocks Part 2
posted by Flood at 5:52 AM on June 26, 2011

Seconding the Balanescu Quartet, which is what I thought of at once.
posted by immlass at 6:37 AM on June 26, 2011

vkgoeswild has a youtube channel with a very large number of awesome piano versions of a variety of popularish songs. She also provides pdfs with the sheet music on her website.
posted by palbo at 7:24 AM on June 26, 2011

Apocalyptica -- 4 cellists do Metallica. Their version of "Nothing Else Matters" is beautiful.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2011

The Lady Gaga Fugue (previously)
posted by lovedbymarylane at 9:37 AM on June 26, 2011

A few random possibilities:
Secret Cello Society
The Entertainers: Andrej Kurti & Viktor Uzur
posted by Ky at 1:19 PM on June 26, 2011

I've always found this orchestral arrangement album of pieces by The Doors kinda interesting. It's Nigel Kennedy with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and while much of it is pretty uptempo, there are a couple of slower tracks on there, like this rendition of The Unknown Soldier and their treatment of Love Street.

Of course, if he's familiar with rock music and also really hates it, this may be a no go, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 4:30 PM on June 26, 2011

I asked a similar question previously, you can check out some great recommendations there.
posted by pleasebekind at 10:42 PM on June 26, 2011

Maybe a bit too fast, but Turtle Island Quartet covers "Crossroads"
posted by klarck at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2011

Strung Out on OK Computer is a tribute album using a string quartet.
Seconding Christopher O'Riley.
posted by anotherkate at 3:20 AM on June 30, 2011

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