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8 classical works you'll recognize from watching TV

Robert Rowat

We love classical music and we love watching TV, so when those two things come together, we get pretty excited (maybe we need to get out more).

Classical music does crop up fairly often in ads, sitcoms and dramas and it's being used in increasingly expressive ways. But do you ever find yourself on the verge of identifying the snippets of classical music you hear on TV? They go by so quickly, it can be frustrating. We put some recent examples under the microscope.

TV spot: 2016 iPad Pro ad

Composition: Claude Debussy, String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10, 2nd movement

The people at Apple were looking for music to reflect the clever and innovative features of its new iPad Pro and they found it in Debussy's String Quartet in G Minor. The ad adapts the work's second movement, marked "Assez vif et bien rythmé" (lively and rhythmic), to suit its 30-second format.

Computers are ingenious, Debussy is ingenious. It just works. Here's the complete second movement performed by the Accord Quartet.

TV spot: Mom, CBS sitcom

Composition: Mikhail Glinka, Overture to Ruslan und Lyudmilla

If you're an Allison Janney fan (and who isn't), then you love the CBS sitcom Mom. We love it even more because of its use of the Overture to Glinka's opera Ruslan and Lyudmila as its theme music. This is Type A music — busy, caffeinated and extroverted — that emphasizes (via contrast) the show's flawed, profligate and lovable Type Bs portrayed by Janney and Anna Faris.

Mom's opening and closing credits give a taste of this music, but you need to hear the whole Overture to really sink your teeth into it. The Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre and Valery Gergiev give an authoritative performance.

TV spot: Bud Light Lime-a-rita ad

Composition: Mendelssohn, Song Without Words, Op. 62, No. 6 (Spring Song)

This ad juxtaposes two classics, we're guessing, for the first time: Mendelssohn's Song Without Words, Op. 62, No. 6, and Nelly's 2002 banger, "Hot in Herre."

The message is clear, if not exactly original: a sip of Bud Light's Lime-a-rita will turn a genteel cultural experience (underscored by the strains of Mendelssohn) into an orgy (cue Nelly, confetti, flying sparks and provocative dancing.)

Good to know: this versatile piano piece by Mendelssohn also comes in handy in cartoons when a character gets bonked on the head and sees stars.

TV spot: 2017 Mountain Dew ad

Composition: Chopin, Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. 66

You know how Chopin's piano music seems to suspend time and lets you live in the beauty of the moment? The people at Mountain Dew totally get that, too.

In this recent ad, a gang of skateboarders glides through an underground carpark to an urban samba soundtrack. Before long, pro skateboarder Sean Malto breaks away from the pack and the music switches to Chopin as he does an ollie with a kickflip and jumps over a car. Malto is poetry in slow motion with the second theme of Chopin's Fantaisie-Impromptu filling the air.

We love Dmitry Shishkin's performance of this piece at the 2015 International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition.

TV spot: 2017 Oreo Thins ad

Composition: Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra

Call us old-fashioned, but don't go messing with our Oreos by making them thin. Also, don't go messing with the music of Richard Strauss by remixing it. And above all, don't take Strauss's symphonic poem Also Sprach Zarathustra and remix it with your overly cheerful "Wonder if I Gave an Oreo" song. That's just wrong.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Vienna Phil to the rescue.

TV spot: Arrow, Season 3, Episode 17

Composition: Antonio Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 1 in E Major, "Spring," first movement

This episode of Arrow begins at Diggle and Lyla's wedding and when the minister is called away at the last minute, Palmer steps in to officiate.

When he declares, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," our attention is diverted from his rather amazing cleft chin by an invisible string quartet playing the first movement of "Spring" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

TV slot: Apple "Shot on iPhone" ad

Composition: Claude Debussy, Clair de lune

It would appear Apple has a thing for Debussy.

This brief "Shot on iPhone" ad uses four measures of Debussy's famous solo piano piece, Clair de lune — arranged for synthesized a cappella voices — as a soundtrack for a woman whose hair obscures her face in the wind. Why? Not sure, but it works.

Add your eyes to the over 1.4 million pairs that have viewed this video of Angela Hewitt playing Clair de lune at Toronto's Koerner Hall:

TV spot: United Airlines ad aired during the Rio 2016 Summer Games

Composition: George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue

The Superbowl isn't the only major sporting event that attracts top advertising dollars. United Airlines pulled out all the stops for this one-minute ad that aired during the Rio 2016 Summer Games. In it, a number of American athletes sprint, jump, hurdle, flip, tumble, bounce, vault, row and even swim through an airport to catch their flights. Underscoring all this commotion is a vigorous samba rhythm that soon reveals itself to be an arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue — a nice fusion of American and Brazilian culture.

In this performance from 1976, Leonard Bernstein both conducts and plays the solo piano part.

Explore more:

9 amazing covers of Franz Schubert songs

The real reason musicians are dropping out of music schools

10 pieces of classical music everyone should know