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Popular classical music chosen for funerals

Whether you enjoy classical music or not the power of these pieces played during a funeral service is undeniable. Each piece will evoke a different feeling or memory and that is the beauty of them.


These are just a few of our favourites that are frequently chosen.

1) Nimrod - Enigma Variations, Edward Elgar

Edward Elgar composed his "Variations on an Original Theme" between October 1898 and February 1899. This became known as The Enigma Variations. This orchestral piece contains 14 variations on an original theme. Elgar dedicated his work to "My friends pictured within" and each variation is a musical sketch of his close acquaintances.

The name Nimrod refers to Augustus J. Jaeger a music editor who was a close friend and advisor to Elgar. Nimrod is a name from the Old Testament as "a mighty hunter before the Lord".

Now associated as a piece played in remembrance of the fallen it is played every year at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.

2) Canon in D - Johann Pachelbel

Canon in D was composed by German composer Pachelbel between 1680 and 1706. After its initial success, Canon in D went out of fashion and was rediscovered in the 1960s, It now regularly used at funerals and is well loved for its beauty and power.

3) Air on a G String - Johann Sebastian Bach

The work now known as the Air on a G String is an arrangement for the violin made in the 19th Century from the Air of Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. Bach originally wrote the suite for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt sometime between the years 1717 and 1723. It is most commonly known for being remastered for the Hamlet Cigars advert by Jacques Loussier.

4) The Lark Ascending - Vaughan Williams

Based on George Meridith's poem of the same name, The Lark Ascending contains probably one of the most beautiful violin compositions and is regularly chosen due to it's similarity to a birds flight.

5) Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

One of the most heart-breaking pieces. Adagio for Strings was played at the funerals of Princess Grace of Monaco and Albert Einstein. Having been used by the media to broadcast the deaths of Princess Diana and John F Kennedy it is now firmly associated with grief and mourning.

6) Ave Maria – Franz Schubert

Ave Maria is religious in content but it is loved by Christians and non-Christians alike. A well known and moving melody establishes it as one on the most popular pieces for funerals.

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

The fourth movement of Mahler’s fifth symphony, known as Adagietto. It is played by only one string section with a solo harp and has a wistful sound. it is believed this was composed for his wife along with a 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!”

8) Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor – Sergei Rachmaninoff

An uplifting and moving piano piece that has been referred to many times as the best piano concertos ever composed. Written to mark the end of Rachmaninoff's period of depression it lifts the spirits

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

First performed in St. Petersburg just nine days before Tchaikovsky’s death. It has since been speculated that Tchaikovsky took his own life and that Symphony No. 6 was his last farewell to the world.

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. Written following the death of a young Greek friend in a cycling accident, Tavener incorporated elements of the Greek Orthodox tradition into the composition to create a moving memorial to life lost.

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