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Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 tops Classic FM poll

Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 has been voted Britain’s favourite piece of classical music.

The music topped the annual Classic FM Hall Of Fame poll for the second year in a row, after it dethroned English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending in 2023.

Russian-born Rachmaninov finished composing his classic concerto in 1901, after he overcame depression, and dedicated the piece to his doctor, Nikolai Dahl, who helped him through that period of his life.

Music – Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams – Royal Festival Hall, London
Ralph Vaughan Williams, one of the UK’s greatest contemporary composers, was dethroned in the Classic FM Hall Of Fame poll last year (PA Archive)

The piece received renewed attention following the death of singer-songwriter Eric Carmen last month, who sampled part of the melody from Rachmaninov’s composition in his hit song All By Myself.

Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending remains in the second spot, while his Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is at number three.

Music from films continues to soar in popularity, according to the poll, which saw more than 100,000 votes cast by the public.

The top 300 pieces of classical music were played on Classic FM across the Easter weekend and the new number one was revealed by presenter Dan Walker on April 1.

Some 39 entries are film scores, with US composer John Williams taking the honour of the most popular living composer, with seven entries.

Williams’ score for Schindler’s List is at number ten on the list and his movie themes for Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter also featured.

All of Us Strangers gala screening – London
The new Classic FM number one was revealed by presenter Dan Walker on April 1 (Ian West/PA)

Hans Zimmer, who wrote the music for Gladiator (at number 43) and Interstellar (at 108) has six entries, while composer Debbie Wiseman has four entries, including her score to the film Wilde at number 198.

Welsh musician Sir Karl Jenkins, 80, is the most popular living British composer, with four entries, including Armed Man: A Mass for Peace at and Palladio at 64.

Mozart retains his crown as the nation’s most popular composer, with 13 entries in total, followed by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with 11 each, and Bach with nine pieces.

Walker, presenter of Classic FM Breakfast, said: “The Classic FM Hall of Fame always gives us a window into our taste in music and 2024 is no different.

“Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 is an enduring and powerful piece, and remains the nation’s favourite.

“The increasing popularity of movie music is one of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the past 28 years of the chart and this time we have an all-time record of 39 entries, led by the legendary John Williams.

“We should also congratulate Sir Karl Jenkins and Debbie Wiseman on being recognised as the most popular living British composers.”

– The Classic FM Hall of Fame 2024 top 20:

1.     Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.2

2.     Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending

3.     Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

4.     Jenkins – The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

5.     Elgar – Enigma Variations

6.     Beethoven – Piano Concerto No.5 (‘Emperor’)

7.     Holst – The Planets Suite

8.     Beethoven – Symphony No.9 (‘Choral’)

9.     Shostakovich – Piano Concerto No.2

10.  Williams – Schindler’s List

11.  Allegri – Miserere

12.  Morricone – The Mission (includes Gabriel’s Oboe)

13.  Beethoven – Symphony No.6 (‘Pastoral’)

14.  Mozart – Clarinet Concerto

15.  Mozart – Requiem

16.  Dvorak – Symphony No.9 (‘From the New World’)

17.  Ungar – The Ashokan Farewell

18.  Sibelius – Finlandia

19.  Wiseman – The Glorious Garden

20.  Barber – Adagio for Strings