April 8, 2020 — It probably comes as no surprise to you that the Durham Medical Orchestra can’t rehearse right now. Getting together would violate social-distancing guidelines. What’s more, many of our members are busy serving the public in their roles as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical researchers, and more.

But we have long believed that classical music can be a source of stress relief, offering a break from worry and a chance to appreciate the beauty that human beings can create together. In other words, sharing classical music is a way of improving the well-being of our community.

Our members were asked to name their favorite examples of soothing classical music and to offer comments explaining why they chose those pieces. They offered an incredible list of recommendations, spanning the old and the modern, the comfortingly familiar and the delightfully novel.

We hope you find the recommendations valuable while you work, cope with illness, or even if you just need a moment of calm. We wish everyone good health and peace of mind at this time, and we encourage you to pass along our link to anyone you like.

BONUS: Scroll to the bottom for playlists containing hours of DMO-recommended soothing classical music.

Debussy: Arabesque No. 1

For me: the Debussy arranges flowing ideas into a collage of color, calming thoughts and leading to harmonic resolution.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4, Movement 2 “Adagio”

It has the sublime heart-beat rhythm throughout its melodic exposition and development. It captivates and resonates with the human soul. We begin to breathe with the music. It leads one’s thoughts to a pastoral landscape.

Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, Movement 2

The Mozart Clarinet quintet immediately starts with a soft underlying harmonic feather bed for the the divine respirations of the mellow clarinet to welcome a state of relaxed awareness. Plus, it’s absolutely beautiful!

Massenet: Meditation from Thais

Listening for the composer’s intention and the performer’s interpretation of that intention helps me focus on something outside of myself.

Mackey: Sheltering Sky

When I heard that all of the groups I play in have suspended rehearsals and concerts for the rest of this spring, the first thing I did was go to my computer, lie down, and listen to this!

RICHTER: On the Nature of Daylight

This piece is inherently very sad, but it’s actually because of the fact that it makes me sad that it helps me feel better. It’s important to take time to feel and process our sadness to be able to accept joy again.

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings

This piece keeps the intensity and energy that Tchaikovsky is known for, but uses only rich string textures in a major key to keep the overall feeling smooth and positive. The Valse movement is particularly soothing.

Khachaturian: Adagio From Spartacus and Phrygia

An incredible build to the climax and soothing ending. In college, my roommate and I would often play this before going to sleep.

Whitacre: Sleep

I lose myself in this every time.

Holst: “Venus” from The Planets

It puts me in the mindset of thinking about the beauty and expanse of the galaxy.

Faure: “IN PARADISIUM” from Requiem

Pure contentedness. The sense of peace just radiates.

Soothing classical music playlists

If you liked those pieces, you’ll enjoy these playlists. Click on the videos below to hear hours of soothing music recommended by DMO members.