German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, asleep on piano dreaming of characters from mythology and literature, engraving by Francois Joseph Aime de Lemud
German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, asleep on piano dreaming of characters from mythology and literature, engraving by Francois Joseph Aime de Lemud © Getty  /  De Agostini

A dreamy classical playlist for a good night's sleep

There's nothing better than a lullaby, a nocturne or a soft melody to fall gently into the arms of Morpheus.

Having trouble getting to sleep? Lie back and let Brahms and Gershwin rock you to sleep. To the sound of a piano or a guitar, a soft singing voice or a choir, there's nothing better than falling asleep to music... 

If, however, you have no trouble closing your eyes and falling asleep, Mozart and Vivaldi will easily accompany your reveries until you finally and irresistibly fall fast asleep.  

Brahms lullaby

This lullaby (Op.49 N°4) is world famous. It is so famous, in fact, that many often forget that it was originally composed by Johannes Brahms, one of the key composers of the Romantic period.  

A celestial trio by Mozart

Serenity and peacefulness abound in this vocal trio at the end of the first act of Cosi Fan Tutte, famous opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is in fact a song of farewell: the young Fiordiligi and Dorabella sing goodbye as their lovers sail away, and comfort each other as they wish: "May the wind be soft" ("Soave sia il vento").

A Bach prelude

Though it is heard everywhere, and we may know it by heart, this excerpt from the Well-tempered clavier has not lost its calming and almost hypnotising character. Composed in the early 18th century by Johann-Sebastian Bach, it was initially composed as a simple practise exercise, a musical training primarily composed for keyboard players and organists. 

A Schubert lied

"Du bist die Ruh ; Der Friede mild" ( "You are the calm, the soft peace"): this lied composed in 1823 by Franz Schubert describes a state of amorous contemplation. It must be performed slowly and pianissimo, a formidable vocal exercise for any soprano, requiring perfect breath control and vocal technique, cunningly hidden behind such a seemingly simple and peaceful melody.

A hero's rest

Philip Glass composed this melody for the film The Truman Show, directed in 1998 by Peter Weir. The protagonist, Truman, is the main character of a television reality show in which he has unknowingly starred since his birth. Filmed 24/7, his slightest actions and gestures are analysed and monitored, until the day he falls in love and seeks to break out of his gilded prison.

A Vivaldi concerto

In the early 18th century, Antonio Vivaldi dedicated one of his (many) concertos to the lute, an instrument of oriental origin with a soft and tender sound, but was gradually replaced by the harpsichord and the guitar (case in point, the recording below was made using a guitar, and not a lute). 

L’heure exquise

As inspiration for his Chansons grises (1893), Reynaldo Hahn chose 7 poems by Paul Verlaine amongst which L’heure exquise, a nocturnal and magical promenade accompanied by the "infinitely soft and calm" sound of the piano, as described by the composer.

The slumber of Atys

Atys, hero of the eponymous tragedy composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully, is drawn into a deep slumber by Cybèle, a goddess who wishes to profess to our hero her love through a dream. The God of Sleep and the Chorus of Dreams arrive on stage and carry Atys off to the kingdom of Morpheus. 

Summertime with Gershwin

Though the lullaby Summertime is today considered one of jazz music's most famous standards, it was originally composed by George Gershwin for the first scene of his opera Porgy and Bess (1935). 

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