20 Best Classical Albums 1970s

Few things send shivers down the spine like classical music, and the ’70s had plenty of it. It was such an iconic decade for timeless compositions performed by orchestras and chamber ensembles.

So, let’s take a trip back in time and revisit some of the finest classical albums of the 1970s. 

1. Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians

If the cosmos had a sound, this would surely be it!

The pulsing first five minutes, strict patterns, and repetition of those simple melody lines create this piece truly otherworldly.

Despite its title, it takes more than 18 musicians to perform all the instruments in this minimalist composition.

It was Steve Reich’s first crack at composing for a larger ensemble, and the result is a shimmering musical experience.

2. Nino Rota, The Godfather

Like the mob movie, Nino Rota’s composition is mournful, ominous, devastating, and triumphant.

It swept the awards season, winning Best Original Score in the Grammy’s, Golden Globes, and British Academy Awards.

However, the Academy Awards revoked its nomination because it lifted parts from Rota’s earlier recordings of Fortunella.

3. Karl Bohm and Wiener Philharmoniker, Mozart: Requiem

Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster!

The requiem evokes fear and beauty, capturing Mozart’s looming death. The gifted musician died while writing it, and his student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, completed the unfinished fragments.

Performed by world-class soloists and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the composition features intense strings and dark melodies.

4. Bill Conti, Rocky

While Rocky is the underdog in the hit sports drama, Bill Conti’s soundtrack is anything but. This album is a true winner in every way.

And let’s not forget that famous trumpet intro! It’s the perfect pick-me-up to get you pumped and ready to conquer the day.

Classical Music Concert

5. John Tavener, Requiem for Father Malachy

The 45-minute haunting composition is a homage to the life and legacy of Father Malachy-Lynch, the priest who rebuilt the Priory at Aylesford and established a retreat center at Allington Castle.

Tavener’s use of plainsong, or a religious chant, makes the piece almost sacred.

6. Frederica von Stade, Mahler Songs

Mahler Songs is a gem of a record album. You get to immerse yourself in Gustav Mahler’s beautiful compositions, including Rückert-Lieder and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.

These songs come alive with Frederica von Stade’s singing chops and accompaniment of the talented London Philharmonic Orchestra.

7. John Williams, Star Wars

Seriously, is there anything more universally recognizable than the Star Wars soundtrack?

Just a few notes from the legendary score, and you’re instantly whisked away to a galaxy far, far away.

Whether you’re a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord, there’s no denying the force of the legendary John Williams’s epic compositions.

8. Wendy Carlos, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

If you’re a fan of classical and electronic music, Wendy Carlos’s collection is right up your alley.

Using a Moog synthesizer, Carlos gave some of the tracks an eerie, bizarre quality. But then, the manic sounds of William Tell’s Overture provide a playful interlude.

9. John Williams, Superman: The Movie

John Williams’ heroic melodies capture the essence of the Man of Steel like no other.

From the majestic march to the soaring love theme, every note feels like a journey through Superman’s epic adventures.

10. Bernard Herrmann, Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho would be nowhere as iconic (and terrifying!) without Bernard Herrmann’s memorable main theme.

Those screeching strings are guaranteed to give you goosebumps for different reasons. This style has become a staple in horror films, especially slasher flicks.

11. John Pritchard, Hansel and Gretel

Imagine stepping into the fairytale world of Hansel and Gretel. That’s the magic you’ll experience with John Pritchard’s rendition of Engelbert Humperdinck’s beloved opera.

The singers deliver exceptional performances, while Pritchard’s conducting is lyrical.

12. Judith Blegen and Frederica von Stade, Songs, Arias & Duets

This 42-minute studio album is a delightful mix of art songs, duets, and operatic arias.

Accompanied by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, it offers a rich repertoire in French, German, and Italian languages.

Symphony orchestra on stage

13. Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music For Airports

Airports aren’t the only place to enjoy Brian Eno’s masterpiece.

With its stripped-back sound and gentle melodies, this album offers a serene from the chaos of daily life wherever you are.

14. Claude Frank, Beethoven: The 32 Piano Sonatas

Claude Frank’s skillful interpretation is a soaring journey through Beethoven’s piano repertoire.

It’s a must-listen for every classical music enthusiast looking to explore the German pianist’s genius and emotional depth.

15. Harry Partch and Ensemble of Unique Instruments & Danlee Mitchell, Delusion of the Fury: A Ritual of Dream and Delusion

This piece of art encapsulates Harry Partch’s lifelong passions in 72 mesmerizing minutes.

The former carpenter invented his own musical scale and dozens of unique instruments to play music for it.

These instruments aren’t mere oddities; they elevate the performance to a whole new level. 

16. Jerry Goldsmith, Chinatown

Jerry Goldsmith’s score will transport you to a smoky, mysterious world of 1930s Los Angeles.

You can feel the tension and drama seeping through every note, and the restrained jazzy tunes perfectly define the film noir.

17. Martha Argerich, 24 Préludes, Op. 28; Préludes Nr. 25, Op. 45; Nr. 26, Op. Posth.

Martha Argerich’s rendition is a revelation for anyone unfamiliar with Chopin’s preludes.

Her control and mastery over each prelude, whether short or long, is impeccable. Her interpretation allows moments of perfect ease and delicate nuances.

18. Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach

Einstein on the Beach is avant-garde opera at its finest. Repetitive yet evolving musical motifs? Check. Non-narrative structure? Also, check.

The composition offers an immersive experience that challenges traditional notions of opera.

19. Iannis Xenakis, Persepolis

Fair warning: Persepolis isn’t for the faint of heart.

The electronic acoustics deliver relentless and intense soundscapes, mirroring the fall of the Achaemenid Empire’s capital. It just plunges you into chaos and destruction.

20. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Preludes Volume 1

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli was a man of elegance and composure, and those very qualities overflow in Preludes.

His interpretation of Debussy’s compositions makes this album peak twentieth-century piano music.

Wrapping Up

If you enjoyed the best classical albums of the 1970s, be sure to check out our list of best classical songs from the same decade.