10 Fun Classical Pieces for Kids

Elmer Bernstein – The Great Escape

Elmer Bernstein was an American composer who is best known for his film and television scores. Based on true events, The Great Escape (1963) tells the story of a group of prisoners planning their escape from an “escape-proof” German camp during world war II.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

The Sugar Plum Fairy is a dance from Tchaikovsky's 1892 ballet, the Nutcracker.

Marius Petipa (choreographer and principal ballet master for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg) asked for the music of the Sugar Plum Fairy to sound like "drops of water shooting from a fountain".

This led Tchaikovsky to the celeste - a keyboard instrument invented by Auguste Mustel in 1886. Tchaikovsky wrote:

"The celeste is midway between a tiny piano and a Glockenspiel, with a divinely wonderful sound."

Julius Fučík - Entrance of the Gladiators

Entrance of the Gladiators is a military march composed in 1897 by Czech composer, Julius Fučík. Julius Fučík was both a composer and conductor of military bands. In total, he wrote over 400 marches, polkas, and waltzes.

Edvard Grieg - In the Hall of the Mountain King

In the Hall of the Mountain King was written as incidental music for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt.

This piece is played as the main character enters the hall of the mountain king:

"There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. Dovregubben sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall."

Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals

The Carnival of the Animals is a fourteen-movement musical suite by French composer, Saint-Saëns. Written as fun for a private ensemble, each movement of the suite represents a different animal (with the exception of movement XI...):

1.Lion 2.Hen/ rooster 3.Donkey 4.Tortoise 5.Elephant 6.Kangaroo 7.Aquarium 8.Characters with long ears 9.Cuckoo 10.Aviary 11.Pianists 12.Fossil 13.Swan 14.Finale

Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf

In 1936, Prokofiev received a commission from Natalya Sats (director of the Moscow Theater for Children) to compose an educational piece which would serve to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra. Prokofiev immediately accepted and later said:

"In Russia today there is a great stress on the musical education of children. One of my orchestral pieces (Peter and the Wolf) was an experiment. Children get an impression of several instruments of the orchestra just by hearing the piece performed."  

Georges Bizet - Carmen Overture

Carmen is Bizet’s most famous opera. Based on an 1845 novella by French writer Prosper Mérimée, Carmen tells the story of a young woman who seduces and corrupts an officer of the Civil Guard. Although short, the Overture is full of energy, drama and contrast.

Johann Strauss - Radetzky March

Johann Strauss was an Austrian composer of light music, dances and operettas. The Radetzky March was composed in 1848 in honour of Field Marshal Radetzky who successfully led an assault in Italy that same year.

Johann Strauss - Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka

Strauss composed more than 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music. Referring to the Viennese passion for gossip, The Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka (chit-chat-polka) is catchy, cheerful and spirited.

Aram Khachaturian - Sabre Dance

Aram Khachaturian was a Soviet composer best known for his Piano Concerto and his ballet Gayane (which includes the popular Sabre Dance). Gayane tells the story of a young woman who helps to entrap a spy bent on stealing Soviet secrets. The dancers display their sabre skills during the celebration of a wedding in the final act - The Sabre Dance