Stream the Complete Works of Bach & Beethoven: 250 Free Hours of Music


Has the end­less dis­trac­tion of mod­ern life destroyed our abil­i­ty to sit with the sym­phonies of Beethoven and Bach? Do we no longer have the atten­tion span to read nov­els? These are the kinds of ques­tions schol­ar Alan Jacobs asks in books like The Plea­sures of Read­ing in an Age of Dis­trac­tion, and they’re ques­tions he admits—on his blog Text Pat­terns—may obtain dif­fer­ent answers depend­ing on the age of whom you ask. In a post from this past August, Jacobs wrote of his need to coun­ter­act social media with “the more peace­able and order­ly music of Bach and Mozart and Han­del,” and pon­dered the emo­tion­al resilience of younger peo­ple exposed pret­ty much dai­ly to videos of real-life vio­lence online. “It occurs to me,” he con­cludes, “maybe Twitter—maybe social media more generally—really is a young person’s thing after all. Intrin­si­cal­ly, not just acci­den­tal­ly.”

I admit, Jacobs’ post res­onat­ed with me because of the dif­fi­cul­ty I some­times have as I get old­er in dis­con­nect­ing from the con­stant stream of hor­ror and triv­i­al­i­ty on social media—and of get­ting lost in a good book or a mov­ing piece of music after wit­ness­ing spec­ta­cle after spec­ta­cle online. Per­haps it is a func­tion of age, as Jacobs sur­mis­es, and the young are bet­ter equipped to bounce right back. Or per­haps our dai­ly expo­sure to end­less con­flict has all of our ner­vous sys­tems frayed raw, leav­ing us unable to appre­ci­ate the “coun­ter­vail­ing forces” of music and lit­er­a­ture that demands sus­tained atten­tion. The Spo­ti­fy Clas­si­cal Playlist blog seems to sug­gest as much in quot­ing Pol­ish com­pos­er Witold Lutoslaws­ki’s claim, “peo­ple whose sen­si­bil­i­ty is destroyed by music in trains, air­ports, lifts, can­not con­cen­trate on a Beethoven Quar­tet.” Sub­sti­tute “Twit­ter tsuna­mi” and “24-hour cable news” for “music in trains, air­ports, lifts” and the point may apply to our cur­rent cul­tur­al con­di­tion.

So you may think of the Spo­ti­fy Clas­si­cal Playlists of all of Beethoven and all of Bach fea­tured here as exer­cis­es in increas­ing your men­tal sta­mi­na, or as ther­a­peu­tic “cop­ing mech­a­nisms” as Jacobs writes, to keep “emo­tion­al bal­ance.” You may think of them as ways to con­nect ful­ly with com­posers who lived in a world very dif­fer­ent from ours, one that moved much more slow­ly and demand­ed much less of our over­taxed sens­es.

Or you can choose not to apply any kind of frame­work, and sim­ply rev­el in the fact that thanks to the internet—be it over­all a scourge or a boon to human life—you can now enjoy all of the works of Beethoven and Bach, each in chrono­log­i­cal order; 250 hours of enthralling clas­si­cal music, for free. So enjoy. And learn more about how these playlists were com­piled at the the Spo­ti­fy Clas­si­cal blog. And if you need Spo­ti­fy soft­ware, get it here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear All of Mozart in a Free 127-Hour Playlist

All of Bach Is Putting Videos of 1,080 Bach Per­for­mances Online

Down­load the Com­plete Organ Works of J.S. Bach for Free

1200 Years of Women Com­posers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist That Takes You From Medieval Times to Now

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Andrew Farrell says:

    These links are to Spo­ti­fy playlists, a for prof­it ser­vice that you must be a mem­ber of to access. To me ths seems the antithe­sis the “open cul­ture” this blog seems to sup­port. Am I wrong. Please advise. There are a num­ber of ways one can access these works that are tru­ly open. Why adver­tise a cor­po­rate mon­eyed ven­ture such as Spo­ti­fy?

    • Dan Colman says:


      Although Spo­ti­fy is far from my favorite com­pa­ny, I’m not a purist, and I’m will­ing to use the plat­form when it pro­vides some unique mate­r­i­al. The last time I looked, Youtube is a for prof­it ser­vice and they put ads into their clips. And yet they host inter­est­ing mate­r­i­al, and we’re will­ing to high­light it. And no one com­plains about it.

      Spo­ti­fy, warts and all, func­tions in a sim­i­lar way. You can access their tracks for free, so long as you’re will­ing to lis­ten to an ad between some tracks. And (like Youtube) if you want to pay them some mon­ey, you can get the con­tent with­out ads.

      If you know of a bet­ter, legit­i­mate way to hear the entire cat­a­logues of Bach and Beethoven please let me know. I’m all ears.

      Final­ly, I’m aware that Spo­ti­fy has its well found­ed detrac­tors. And there’s a rea­son why we use their record­ings sparingly/as a last resort.


  • This is an excel­lent arti­cle. It is dear to me because I love piano clas­sics. Beethoven used the gam­ma ray as a reflec­tion of sound for his music. It brings joy and peace which my belief is summed by peace love and har­mo­ny. This arti­cle depicts so much emo­tion in the times of today. Thank you so much for writ­ing it. Have a blessed day.

  • Starry Gordon says:

    Peo­ple who find them­selves dis­tract­ed by Face­book, Twit­ter, Insta­gram, and so on, might want to know that there numer­ous con­trols on most dig­i­tal devices that will give them access to oth­er, very dif­fer­ent chan­nels of read­ing and audi­to­ry expe­ri­ence, and also an OFF switch (usu­al­ly) that will give them com­plete relief. I sug­gest that giv­ing these options a try may be more reward­ing than com­plain­ing about social media while con­tin­u­ing to sub­mit to it.

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