Classical Music For Funerals: 10 Of The Best (2024)

Classical Music For Funerals: 10 Of The Best (1)

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Choosing music for your loved one’s funeral can be an important and meaningful part of planning the service. While some people opt for funeral hymns, others for pop ballads for funerals, classical funeral music remains a popular choice for Brits in 2022.

Here are 10 beautiful, moving pieces of classical music for funerals.

1. Nimrod (from Enigma Variations) – Edward Elgar

Enigma Variations are 14 musical compositions in honour of Elgar’s dearest friends and family. Variation IX, also known as Nimrod, is dedicated to Augustus J. Jaeger, who helped the composer through his darkest periods of self-doubt and depression. Nimrod is a favourite piece for funeral music and is always played at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

Listen to Nimrod by Elgar

2. The Lark Ascending – Vaughan Williams

Featuring one of classical music’s most beautiful violin parts, The Lark Ascending was inspired by the George Meredith poem of the same name. Expressing the rise and fall of a bird’s flight, it consistently ranks at the top of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame polls, as well as the BBC’s ranking of the nation’s favourite Desert Island Discs.

Listen to The Lark Ascending by Williams

3. Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel

Canon in D was composed sometime between 1680 and 1706 by German composer Pachelbel. After its initial success, Canon in D went out of fashion and was only really rediscovered in the 1960s, after which it won its place as a favourite for weddings and funerals, thanks to its powerful crescendos and beautiful harmonies.

Listen to Canon in D by Pachelbel

4. Adagietto (from Symphony no. 5) – Gustav Mahler

The fourth movement of Mahler’s fifth symphony, known as Adagietto, is thought to be a love song dedicated to his wife, Alma. He also left to his wife a short poem: “How much I love you, you my sun, I cannot tell you that with words. I can only lament to you my longing and my love, my bliss!” Played only by the string section and a solo harp, this is a slow, wistful, yet incredibly stirring piece of music.

Listen to Adagietto by Mahler

5. Lacrimosa (from Requiem) – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Lacrimosa (meaning “weeping”) is a dramatic and mournful choral piece with religious lyrics sung in Latin. Part of Mozart’s astounding unfinished masterpiece Requiem, the legendary composer had only written the first eight bars of Lacrimosa at the time of his death. It was completed by the Austrian composer Franz Xaver Süssmayr.

Listen to Lacrimosa by Mozart

6. Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

Arguably one of the most heartbreaking pieces of modern classical music, Adagio for Strings was played at the funerals of Albert Einstein and Princess Grace of Monaco. It was also broadcast to mark the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Princess Diana. It featured in the 1986 film Platoon, and has been featured in innumerable films and TV shows since. As such, it has become synonymous with grief and mourning.

Listen to Adagio for Strings by Barber

7. Adagio Lamentoso (from Symphony No. 6) – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s final symphony was first performed in St. Petersburg just nine days before his death. It has since been speculated that Tchaikovsky took his own life and that Symphony No. 6 was his last farewell to the world. The final movement of the symphony, Adagio Lamentoso, is as mournful as it is beautiful, whether or not you believe the theories about its composer’s death.

Listen to Adagio Lamentoso by Tchaikovsky

8. Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten – Arvo Pärt

This orchestral elegy was written by Pärt, an Estonian composer, in memory of the great Benjamin Britten. It is performed only by the strings section and a solitary chiming bell. Significantly, the piece is written to begin and end with long periods of silence. Pärt’s biographer, Paul Hillier, noted that: “How we live depends on our relationship with death: How we make music depends on our relationship to silence.”

Listen to Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten by Pärt

9. Ave Maria – Franz Schubert

One of the most popular pieces of classical music for funerals, Schubert’s version of Ave Maria has been performed by countless artists over the years. The tenor Luigi Vena performed Ave Maria at John F. Kennedy’s funeral and the song remains a popular choice for funerals. Although religious in content, both Christians and non-Christians have a connection to this moving melody.

Listen to Ave Maria by Schubert

10. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff

With soaring strings and twinkling piano melodies, this concerto is at once uplifting and heart-rending. Often praised as one of the best piano concertos ever written, this piece marked Rachmaninoff’s recovery from a long period of writer’s block and depression. It has repeatedly claimed Classic FM’s No.1 favourite song in the last 20 years.

Listen to Piano Concerto No. 2 by Rachmaninoff

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Classical Music For Funerals: 10 Of The Best (2024)


What is the classical song always played at funerals? ›

Adagio in G Minor

A very beautiful and soothing composition, Albinoni's Adagio has become one of the most popular classical pieces to be played at funerals.

What is a good entrance song for a funeral? ›

Music for Funerals Entrance. The entrance music sets the tone for the ceremony, evoking emotions of reverence and respect. Popular choices often include classical pieces like "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber or "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.

What is a cheerful song to end a funeral? ›

1: What a Wonderful World– Louis Armstrong

One song particularly embodies what a “happy funeral song” sounds like to most people.

What classical music was played at Princess Diana's funeral? ›

10) Song for Athene – John Tavener

Performed at the funeral of Princess Diana, this beautiful choral arrangement is now regularly sung or played at funerals.

What is a beautiful funeral song? ›

Ave Maria, Celine Dion

The melody is equally beautiful and heartbreaking, touching the heart of each and every listener. Ave Maria is one of the most popular prayer songs, but it's perfect for any kind of funeral service.

What's a good song for someone who passed away? ›

Paul McCartney - Here Today. Celine Dion - My Heart Will Go On. Faith Hill - You're Still Here. Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day.

What is the number one funeral song? ›

The most requested song for a traditional funeral service is “Amazing Grace,” a Christian folk hymn written by English poet John Newton. Many find the message of forgiveness and redemption a beautiful tribute to the mercy of God.

What is an uplifting song after death? ›

Written and performed by Carrie Underwood, See You Again is a power ballad about moving on from a loved one's passing. The lyrics for the song provide hope that one day everyone will be reunited with their loved ones in the afterlife.

What is the song for the celebration of life? ›

One of the most timeless classics for celebrating life is the eternally happy song, “What a Wonderful World.” Armstrong's soulful and warm voice captures the essence of appreciating life's beauty, even amid grief.

What were Diana's last words? ›

Sergeant Xavier Gourmelon, a firefighter, who was on the scene, said Princess Diana's last words were "My God, what's happened?" When Princess Diana was extracted from the wreckage of the car, she went into cardiac arrest.

Did King Charles cry when Diana died? ›

In King: The Life of Charles III, Christopher Andersen says Charles was "ashen and trembling" when he heard the news of Diana's death. "He let out a cry of pain that was so spontaneous and came from the heart. Palace staff rushed over to Charles' room and found him collapsed in an armchair, weeping uncontrollably."

What are good hymns for funerals? ›

Hymns for Funerals
  • Abide With Me. Words: H.F. Lyte; Tune: W.H.Monk. ...
  • Amazing Grace. Words: John Newton; Tune: American Folk Melody. ...
  • Be Not Afraid. Words: Bob Dufford. ...
  • Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind. ...
  • Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer. ...
  • How Great Thou Art. ...
  • I Watch The Sunrise. ...
  • It Is Well With My Soul.

What is the traditional song played at a funeral? ›

13 Popular Traditional Songs for Funerals
More Traditional Songs for Funerals
It Was A Very Good Year Frank SinatraTimes of Your Life Paul Anka
Nature Boy Nat King ColeTurn Around Paul Anka
On Eagle Wings Michael CrawfordWhen the Saints Go Marching In Louis Armstrong
September Song Jimmy Durante
9 more rows

What is the instrumental song played at funerals? ›

Instrumental Funeral Songs

Here are some top options: 'Canon in D' by Pachelbel. 'Air on a G String' by Bach. 'Adagio for Strings' by Barber.

What is the most popular funeral hymn? ›

Many people find comfort in including religious songs in their loved one's service and certain hymns have remained the most appropriate funeral song choices over the years.
  • Be Not Afraid. ...
  • Lord Of All Hopefulness. ...
  • Nearer My God To Thee. ...
  • I Am The Bread Of Life. ...
  • Love Devine. ...
  • The King Of Love My Shepherd Is. ...
  • Lead, Kindly Light.

What is the piano song when someone dies? ›

Chopin: Piano Sonata No.

The opening to this funeral march for solo piano has become the universal musical shorthand for death.

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