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It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!
There are no passges that get me every time, over and over again. Nothing ever really hits me hard unless there's some element of genuine surprise to it: maybe it's a piece I've never heard before, or a piece I haven't heard in a long time (so that I've forgotten some of the details), or maybe the presentation is sufficiently different to catch me off guard.
If I know exactly what's coming -- which is the case with recordings -- then my reaction goes a bit meta, as in "oh, here comes a crushingly beautiful moment, and there it goes" which just isn't the same thing as being crushed.
(Exception: sentimental reactions to music that I associate with some life event. Mostly pop songs, in my case, but I don't think the OP is asking about this sort of reaction.)
I can't play the 1st mvmnt of Schubert's D960, nor the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Op 10#3 without becoming a bit of an emotional mess.
I don't think people have a specific piece that sets them off every time. Like someone mentioned, sometimes it's the element of surprise, the mood you're in, etc.
But all the times that this has happened to me, it's been at a live concert. There's something absolutely magical about a (really good) live concert - it's like transcending to a completely different world and state of mind.
"The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth."
Debrucey, you know how much I love that section. (My favorite part is at 2:20). Mr. Ferguson, no matter how many times I hear it, it still manages to touch me very deeply.
Pogorelich, I agree. A few years back I heard a live performance of the Turangalila. It was an extraordinary experience. You do not know how close I was to jumping up and dancing in the aisles during the Finale.
I don't think people have a specific piece that sets them off every time.
How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place - Brahms Requiem
As a chorister I've performed the entire Requiem twice (served as rehearsal accompanist leading up to one performance) and have sung this particular selection on several occasions. It always has a profound impact on me.
Most of the musical passages that really "get to me" are from vocal music, particularly opera or vocal with orchestra.
There are moments in the final scene of "Der Rosenkavalier" which are so heart-rending, both dramatically and musically, that it's difficult (for me) not to be profoundly moved by them : "Hab' mir's gelobt..." and "Ist ein Traum, kann nicht wirklich sein."
There is another "gotcha!" moment in Mimi's third act aria ("La Bohème, of course!) "Donde lieta uscì" where the tonality changes from A major to D-flat major (Mimi goes from a G-natural to an A-flat while the orchestra changes the tonality from a dominant VII on A to D-flat, with the soprano's words soaring upwards to a high B-flat : "... se vuoi, se vuoi serbarla a ricordo..."
As my third example, I can't decide whether it's the final vocal phrase in the closing measures of Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen," "In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied" or whether it's the final orchestral measures of the same work: the long-held English horn's G before resolving to an F over the orchestra's already established B-flat major tonality; it is so poignant!
BruceD, a man of exquisite taste. But I do not tear up to "sad" music but rather to joyful things or to a brilliant solo or a gorgeously rendered coloratura passage or a gloriously resonant orchestra. I am particularly moved when an artist gives his/her best and both he/she and the audience (I) know it.
Bach Goldberg Variations Aria Schumann Traumeri Chopin Nocturne No 21 Schubert Piano Sonata no 21 1st movement Beethoven Bagatelle no 5, opus 57 2nd movement, Piano Concerto no 5 2nd movement Brahms Piano Concerto 2, 3rd movement Liszt Ballade no 2
Schubert: D960 second movement Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde, last movement - many places, but particularly the ending. Ewig, ewig ... Mahler: Symphony #3, last movement. I'm not a great brass lover, but when the brass come quietly in with the main theme about 5 minutes from the end - it gets me every time. Strauss: Beim Schlafengehen Berg: Violin concerto, at the end where it all begins to dissolve.