Hospital-appropriate classical?
January 22, 2017 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions for pleasant, soothing classical music I can play at a hospital.

I'm an amateur classical pianist, and I'm going to start playing piano at a hospital. The music therapist at the hospital has asked for a set list, and sent me these tips:

"For your 30-50 minute set, think about songs that fit the description relaxing and/or uplifting. Many classical songs have to much tension or too many loud/fast/busy sections to fit this description... we are looking for songs that add music to the environment with the intention of helping patients/families/staff slow down, take a breath, find peace or joy. That is the ultimate goal."

I've tended towards playing tragic and obscure music, and have avoided "pleasant" music (until now!), so this is a new challenge for me. Going through my books, I've come up with this list:

- Debussy (Claire de Lune, Arabesque)
- Schumann (Traumerei)
- Mendelssohn (Songs Without Words, 1)
- Liszt (Consolation 3)
- Tchaikovsky (The Seasons, April)
- Chopin (Waltz in Aflat Minor)

I'm struggling to come up with more, even though I have a lot of books. Each composer I think of doesn't quite fit the mood I'm looking for -- I find Philip Glass soothing but a touch sinister, Chopin is often too brilliant or elegiac.

Would love any and all suggestions; the hits, or lesser-known pieces, if they are pleasant and/or uplifting.

Thank you!
posted by fishhouses to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would have a dig through Apple Music. I often have this on listening to classical music throughout the day, and there are a number of pretty good playlists on there arranged in similar styles for when you're not feeling the need for dramatic finales. "Bach for Breakfast", for example, and heaps and heaps of "relaxing" compilations. You could start from those and pick out the ones you prefer.
posted by tillsbury at 10:37 AM on January 22, 2017

I think of the Bach Preludes as soothing and interesting without too much tension. Pieces like BMV 1007. There's just a little build up from time to time but a quick release. There's a lot of early music that's similar, I'm partial to Scarlatti.

I can't think of specific examples off the top of my head, but many of the Mozart moderate level complexity piano pieces fit that space in my mind.
posted by Candleman at 10:56 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

When my father was in hospice, we pretty much had The Goldberg Variarions on loop. Some of them are a little dancey, I guess (all Baroque music is, of course), but not in a way that's too much, and of course there are a lot of slower and more contemplative pieces too.
posted by holborne at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding Bach preludes, and maybe some of the Gymnopedies by Erik Satie? I've always found those so calming to play myself.
posted by augustimagination at 11:17 AM on January 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thirding Bach (and the Satie). Some Beethoven sonatas, or at least movements should work.
posted by Dashy at 11:25 AM on January 22, 2017

Handel's Keyboard suites.

Slower sections of Hadyn's and Mozart's sonatas (oodles to choose from). I'm a big fan of Hadyn's later adagios. (e.g) as great chill out practicing.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Third on the Erik Satie-Gymnopedies
posted by haikuku at 11:31 AM on January 22, 2017

If you want something more modern than the popular Bach suggestions, maybe Debussy?
posted by Candleman at 11:37 AM on January 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Mozart K 283 is nice and might work if you don't play it too fast.

Mignon and the Chorale to Niels Gade from Schumann's Album for the Young?

I really like the Brahms Intermezzi; pick the major key ones (117.1, 118.2).

People are going to love the C major prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier because it is on every "relaxing classics" CD.

Chopin Etude 10.3 -- the chaotic middle section resolves in a hopeful way (and in the same breath, Fur Elise)
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:10 PM on January 22, 2017

I have no suggestions but want to thank you for undertaking this work. Several years ago, when my husband was having a medical problem, it meant a lot to me that a high school student sat in the hospital corridor to play her viola for us. I held it together through everything else, but that brought me to tears.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:24 PM on January 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

There is some material on the borderline between classical/ambient/new-age, such as Ludovico Einaudi, Yann Tiersen, or Max Richter, that might be appropriate. There are books of their piano pieces readily available.
posted by Jabberwocky at 12:42 PM on January 22, 2017

+1 for the Satie, and I'll throw in the Aria from Bach's Goldberg Variations.
posted by ldenneau at 12:57 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing Satie, and Lizst's Consolation No. 3. Also the Moonlight Sonata, the Elvira Madigan concerto, and maybe Saint-Saens's The Swan if you can find a piano arrangement.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:07 PM on January 22, 2017

Faure Pavane!
posted by procrastinator_general at 1:14 PM on January 22, 2017

Is Arvo Pärt too modern? For me, his music is very soothing
posted by mumimor at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2017

I couldn't say which individual pieces would be best, but a trawl through Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words and Grieg's Lyric Pieces should be useful.
posted by in278s at 1:48 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

A rag by Scott Joplin (never play them fast, says the composer!) might go well in such a classical program.
posted by in278s at 1:51 PM on January 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I find Yiruma - River Flows in You very calming and he may have other songs that fit your brief.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2017

Best answer: I thought of Grieg, too. Also maybe some pieces from Janacek's Overgrown Path. Or maybe something from a Spanish composer, like Granados. Or the slow movements from Scarlatti keyboard sonatas.
posted by bertran at 3:37 PM on January 22, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your answers thus far -- I'm looking through my Grieg and Joplin books at the moment for some good pieces. Really appreciate the thoughtful suggestions.
posted by fishhouses at 5:39 PM on January 22, 2017

The Baroque period might be a good place to look. Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Purcell, Albinoni, etc.

I used to have the soundtrack from the movie Kramer vs Kramer on a well-worn cassette tape, and to this day it still makes me really happy. Maybe skip the andante pieces.

Brandenburg Concertos would also be good.

Maybe I missed out on the "too fast" vs "soothing" requirement, but even though a lot of these are fast, I find them very uplifting.
posted by CathyG at 9:09 AM on January 23, 2017

The first thing I thought of was "To a Wild Rose" from Edward MacDowell's Woodland Sketches Op. 51 I think some of the others might work as well.
posted by Smearcase at 2:05 PM on January 23, 2017

Best answer: Nthing Bach. It will be familiar to a lot of people.

Don't hesitate to pull out just one movement from a larger piece:
Bach Partita No 4 - Allemande
Beethoven Pathetique Sonata, 2nd mvmt

Some other possibilities:
Couperin - Les Barricades Misterieuses
La Folia (there are MANY different versions)
Scriabin Etude Op 8 No 4
Scriabin Etude Op 8 No 8
Carreno - Mi Teresita
Brahms Lullaby for when you're done :)

Some transcriptions of Baroque orchestra music (like the Brandenburg concertos) are tough to sightread/play because the instruments' parts end up written as multiple melody lines per hand or big chords in both hands all the way through. Stuff written for keyboard in the first place might be easier to learn and and will probably sound better on a piano that isn't perfectly in tune.

You can always bust out Pachelbel's Canon, Fur Elise, or pretty things from your old piano lesson books if you went through lessons with books.

Agreed with tillsbury that classical compilations for studying/candlelight/in the kitchen etc are a great source for pieces without the busy or thundering or terribly sad parts.

You probably know, but IMSLP is a great resource for public domain sheet music.

Thank you for doing this.
posted by a moisturizing whip at 5:01 PM on January 24, 2017

Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet has a waltz section that is beautiful and sootying, and many kids and adults will recognize it as the song "I Know You, I Walked with You Once Upon a Dream" from the Sleeping Beauty Disney movie.
posted by CathyG at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2017

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