The ten best orgasm symphonies

The ten best orgasm symphonies


norman lebrecht

May 01, 2023

Last night, we learned that Tchaikovsky’s 5th can deliver full-body pleasure.

Here are nine more symphonies that give added value of an intimate kind:
2 Saint-Saens’ 3rd (wait for the organ)
3 Nielsen’s Inextinguishable (he’s still going)
4 Shostakovich 4th (the Lady Macbeth riffs)
5 Berlioz Fantastique (oh, yes)
6 Strauss Sinfonia Domestica (parental warning: includes copulation)
7 Szymanowski 3rd: song of the night (Tristan in bedsocks)
8 Messaien Turangalila (he keeps you hanging on)
9 Rachmaninov 2nd (works for some)
10 Scriabin Poème de l’Extase (says it all)

Any more?


  • Alistair Hinton says:

    Today is the first, but not of April…

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    Thanks for the interpretations, Norm. Never thought you had it in you.

  • Goldberg Variations says:

    Malcolm Arnold: Toy Symphony (for adventurous listeners)

  • Lester Phung says:

    Sorry, but everyone knows saxophone players are the best at getting their partners to achieve this, and they’re rarely included in symphony orchestras. That said, we must include Ravel’s Bolero for including several saxophones in the score, not to mention Dudley and Bo.

    • J Barcelo says:

      The first symphony of Meredith Willson (of Music Man fame) has a saxophone quartet playing.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Rossini said (sorry this is a paraphrase; I cannot find the original quote) that he felt pressured to orchestrate his Petite Messe Solennelle, because otherwise Monsieur Berlioz would do so, for an orchestra of saxophones.

  • Jean says:

    I think you forgot:

    Beethoven #3: ”Erotica” [sic]

    • Bostin'Symph says:

      In the 1980s when the South Bank used to post details of classical concerts in adverts on the Underground I once saw Beethoven’s 3rd subtitled ‘Erotica’ – maybe a typesetters bit of fun?

      • Ernest says:

        I used to moonlight in Tower Classical in Piccadilly and we had lots of shoppers asking for the Erotica. I was a bit confused at first …

    • Gustavo says:

      Not to mention the “Past-oral” and the ch-oral “Ode to Joy”.

  • SlippedChat says:

    End of the Mahler Second, whose orchestral/choral climax is followed by a brief but lovely period of instrumental afterglow before climaxing a second time. (The chorus did, after all, just finish singing “Rise again.”)

    • Cynical Bystander says:

      But only if you are a 14 yr old boy. By 15, you’ve got past that sort of thing. Mahler I mean.


      Oh that ORGAN – Saint- Saens– WOW! Great choice!
      I might add, though not a symphony- Beethoven’s Kreutzer Violin Sonata (1804) #9 Op 47- is another match for this topic. The first movement at about 9-min in, until the end– is an orgasm followed by an afterglow. Meow!

    • Gustavo says:

      Mahler’s Res-erection:

      Replace “enthusiasm” by “orgasm” here:

    • Jeff says:

      Came here to make sure this piece was mentioned. As a singer who has performed it many times, it completely drains you. And anyone who doesn’t think it’s orgasmic should just look for any of the famous videos/stills of Bernstein conducting it.

  • Chuck says:

    Usually, whatever my hometown Chicago Symphony happens to be playing. Tonight, it’s Tchaikovsky’s 4th (and the Elgar Cello Concerto with Yo Yo Ma playing cello). Call me crazy, but I am looking forward to this.

  • samach says:

    Bruckner is best for premature ejaculations…over and over again

    Tristan is best for edging … 5 hours of edging including intermissions

    Beethoven 5th, first 4 notes, best for those who just want to get it over with and then go to sleep, slam bam thank you ma’am

    • Edoardo says:

      A friend of mine has always said that the Scherzo of Bruckner’s 2nd was an epic f*ck translated into music

    • John Kelly says:

      Bruckner – “Climactus interruptus”

    • IP says:

      Premature is the second name of Rachmaninov. As for plateaus, a lot of Rossini is just like that. Run and buy the Ewa Podles recital on Naxos.

    • IP says:

      In fact, Romantic Italian opera grew on the fertile soil of repressed sexuality, and my big reproach to Verdi is that he turned an art form into vocal pornography. Just compare, say, Di tale amor from Trovatore with Pensa alla patria from L’Italiana in Algery (which, fatherland or not, is as sexy as they come) — it is as if you switched to an adult channel by mistake.

    • David says:

      OMG, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the edging aspect of Tristan! After Isolde’s Liebestod, I’ll bet it’s quite a load.

  • Rolf Erdahl says:

    Strauss “Don Juan,” figures F-G-H is the most explicit orchestral example. It’s the whole point of Jacob Druckman’s “Valentine” for solo double bass.

    • bystander says:

      I remember Druckman’s “Valentine” with a student at Tanglewood in the mid 70s. I was an undergrad and it was the first time I’d seen a teacher’s sexual exploitation of a student. The troubling memories of it, especially the young woman’s look of confusion and shame, haunt me to this day. I don’t know the Druckman work you mention, but I’d probably be disgusted and saddened watching it.

  • Robert Garbolinski says:

    Beethoven’s Erotica Symphony.

  • Barbara Thomson says:

    Climax (of course) of Mahler 2nd

  • bare truth says:

    I’ve said it all along: classical music is nothing but pornography for the ears.

  • Steven Eliscu says:

    Prelude to Rosenkavalier…the only music I know of intended to simulate an orgasm. Supposedly a description of Strauss in bed with his wife.

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Oh YES, YES!

    And don’t forget orgasmic opera arias: the world’s most acclaimed Italian opera conductor would suggest “Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate” and “Selva opaca”. He swears by them and knows what Verdi and Rossini really meant! We have to trust him! :-DDD

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    “Turangalila” for sure. “Poem of Ecstasy” seems more like a hallucinogen than sex; the musical equivalent of an opium trip. But more than Nielsen’s “Inextinguishable,” the bigger musical orgasm is in the “climax” – as it were – of Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, first movement, following a raging scene between clarinet of snare drum. After the big moment, the clarinet lights a cigarette, lies back and thinks of Denmark.

    Incidentally, in the last Lebrecht Listens review of Fabio Luisi’s Nielsen set, I thought it was an interesting interpretation to call the Fourth the “Inexhaustible,” but I see that it’s since been changed to the usual.

  • Bloom says:

    In Mahler s symphonies there are some very hot moments. The sort of breaking pathos expressed there is very orgasmic.

  • Bloom says:

    I guess all great classical music delivering intense emotions feels joyously orgasmic. That is why we are crazy about it, in fact. It gives us more and better orgasms than anyone and anything else in life.

  • Infidel says:

    Lever du Jour, Daphnis and Chloe. Two climaxes.

  • PaulD says:

    Ein Heldenleben’s Hero’s Companion section.

  • Pedro says:

    Haydn is excellent for that. Matin, Midi et Soir. La Passione. Surprise. My Military friends who have have studied in Oxford and live in London used to copulate around the Clock and have orgasms with Drumrolls.

  • KANANPOIKA says:

    If you happen to view Sibelius’ “Kullervo” as being a symphony,
    check out the third movement, before and following measure
    323 (rehearsal letter “L”)….it’s shockingly graphic….especially with Vänskä/Lahti.

  • Nosema says:

    Hall of the Mountain King – the most erotic music ever written according to Norwegian males….starts slow and soft and…well….

  • Gustavo says:

    Mahler’s 6th, last movement, is good if you are able to come more than once in 20 minutes and like a pinch of sadism.

    Zarathustra is the classic for a bold egocentic jerk-off.

  • RMK says:

    You forgot Der Rosenkavalier. The opening depicts an actual orgasm.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Franz Schmidt Symphony N°4, first movement.
    Bruckner 8 Adagio
    Fibich Poème in D flat (would have to be a pretty quick one)

  • DG says:

    Not a symphony, but Brahms double concerto is what I think of first in this category!

  • James Jacobs says:

    There are moments throughout Sibelius’s symphonies that could be interpreted as orgasmic. If Tchaikovsky’s Fifth does it for you then I imagine Sibelius’ Second or Fifth could also get you there.

    And though he didn’t write any symphonies (which actually isn’t a particularly sexy form), Monteverdi definitely wins the prize as the most erotic composer.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    No doubt about it ….. Stauss’s Alpine Symphony. Or anything with multi-horn parts come to think about it!!!!!

  • Gustavo says:

    Tchaikovsky’s “Polish” Symphony

  • Gustavo says:

    Ravel’s Bolero a long-standing open-air favorit.

    • Sol L Siegel says:

      Reminds me of the anecdote of the lady who supposedly came up to Stokowski and thanked him that “wonderful Bordello”.

  • RENEE ROTTA says:

    How about Beethoven’s (ch)oral Fantasy in c minor?

  • Adam Stern says:

    For what it’s worth…

    David Diamond once said that Howard Hanson had an orgasm while conducting his own Symphony No. 2 (the “Romantic”)…

  • Cultura says:

    Symphonies and orgasm?
    Next time better to try with opera and ballet music!!!

  • Gerald says:

    How can you miss the most obvious one? Beethoven’s 5th — at the moment of transition from the third to the fourth movement. OH! And Beethoven’s 8th. The development section in the first movement has to be Beethoven imagining climaxing with his Immortal Beloved!

  • jim says:

    Chopin’s Db nocturne op 27.2 (have you noticed that it’s a duet?) has an exquisite and subtle mutually-satisfactory climax followed up with languorous billing and cooing…

  • Ilio says:

    Opening of Der Rosenkavalier….

  • Taly says:

    None of the above…

  • Sol L Siegel says:

    Rach 2 “works for some”? Aw, come on. If the climax (ahem) of the development of the first movement isn’t a musical you-know-what, what is?

  • Bart S. says:

    Haydn Symphony #69

  • Craig in LA says:

    A couple of people have mentioned the big horn glissando in “Der Rosenkavalier” that’s sometimes euphemistically referred to as the “embrace motive”, but it’s clearly much more than a chaste embrace.

    Even more amorous is the extremely amorous cat duet that covers the change of scene midway through Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortileges”. There’s an obvious buildup, climax, and even a post-coital sigh played on a slide whistle.

  • André Gustavo says:

    Mahler’s 5th Adagietto is not so much a romantic ode to Alma Mahler as much as the description of a perfect epic relaxed fuck, you know (very typical, newlyweds and all). So much so that It should flow without much of a rush, but people still discuss If It should last more or less than 10 minutes, 7 minutes could be too much of a quickie, more than eleven and It loses interest and becomes too dead for some, you know… You can clearly identify an acute climax near the end and kind of a satisfied fainting as the strings fade in the end… like tired breathing, you know. Well, maybe only I came up with these silly comparisons, who knows

  • Ben G. says:

    There is no doubt that the last pages of the “Rite of Spring” will stimulate anyone’s libido, whether you’re a performer or a listener.

  • Dburl says:

    The Adagio from Spartacus by Khachaturian. It certainly has nothing to do with sailing ships!

  • trumpetherald says:

    Danse Generale from Ravel Daphnis Et Chloe

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    What about Beethoven’s ‘Erotica’ Symphony no .3?

  • Micaelo Cassetti says:

    Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnol just drips with aching lust

  • Tom says:

    The Saint-Saëns organ symphony? Much as I love it, the start of the last movement uncomfortably reminds me of attempts to build up enough steam to get a locomotive rolling.

  • Adam Stern says:

    This one (one hopes) involves the fictional executant rather than the partaker: the character Judge Turpin in Stephen Sondheim’s •Sweeney Todd• brings himself to orgasm while simultaneously contemplating his beautiful young ward and flagellating himself. (The number is frequently cut from stagings of Sondheim’s masterpiece, even if the copious throat-slittings remain.)

  • Tichy says:

    Sibelius’ Kullervo, 3rd movement literally has an incest-orgasm. Quite explicit 😉

  • Stephen Goldfinger says:

    Cesar Franck.Symphony in D Minor. Finale

  • Katy O. says:

    Prokofiev “Romeo and Juliet”, balcony/bedroom scene…..the most erotic classical passage.

    • DL says:

      Yes. Great suggestion! A good portion of that piece (ie: Montagues and Capulets–Dance of the Knights, etc.) I would put in the erotic category.

  • Barbara says:

    Beethoven’s “Kreutzer,” first movement. The way the violin and piano chase each other… This piece inspired a short story about passion.

  • Pianopal says:

    Just about any Rachmaninov, but the last ten minutes of the 3rd Piano Concerto takes overall first prize with “Palm de Erotica.”

  • DannyATL says:

    The last movement of Beethoven’s 2nd has the clearest musical orgasm I’ve ever heard, to this day… just listen, and you’ll know it when it “comes” (it’s just before the final coda).

  • DannyATL says:

    Ooops, I meant the last movement of the *4th* Symphony!!

  • Pete says:

    What happened to Bolero?

  • James MacKaye says:

    If I could include a choreographic symphony, nothing on this list comes close to the choral opening of Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloe”.

  • John Folchi says:

    A few measures before the end of Beethoven’s 6h.

  • David says:

    The end of Act I, Die Walkure, is one big orgasm. And of course, that’s exactly what Siegmund and Sieglinde do when the curtain comes down. Sometimes they don’t even wait for the curtain!

  • Steve says:

    My orgasmic musical moment has always been the Liebestod from Tristan. After 3 1/2 hours of not resolving the cadence, the gentle release achieved by the final resolution… they don’t call it the little death for nothing.

  • Lynn Fritz says:

    The Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”, Op. 95, B. 178, popularly known as the New World Symphony, was composed by Antonín Dvořák

  • Alexander de Bordes says:

    The first movement of Schumann’s 4th and the last movement of Brahms’ 2nd

  • Bruce says:

    There is a shared orgasm aria in Boito’s Mefistofele. technically not a symphony, i guess..

  • G.C. Petty says:

    Many parts of classical music make me tingle and swoon, mainly in the legato movements:
    – Beethoven’s “Emperor”
    – Saint-Saens’ “Organ” (“Orgasm”?) Symphony
    – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23
    There are many others. In a word, the effects of classical music can be very visceral and intense.

  • Robert M. Burns says:

    Are you freaking serious?

  • Alcophile says:

    Aaron Copland’s Symphony for Organ and Orchestra.

  • Chris says:

    Ravel’s bolero should be on the list. There’s no better musical expression of an orgasm

  • Peter H. says:

    How about the last movement of Beethoven’s Sixth, when the music rises in a sequence, then Ludvig, in his genius, slams on a subdominant, causing the music to subside into the tonic, “satisfied.”

  • KSH says:

    Georg Friedrich Haas, IN VAIN (2000)
    [don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it]

  • DeForest Clifford says:

    Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor Op. 37. There are two performances I have listened to (and watched). One, countless times–the reason I am aware of how moving classical music can be emotionally.

    Still, G-Rated performances reveal it, too (a performance with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic comes to mind). But a stunningly brilliant performance is closer to NC-17, especially if you take into account a conductor’s near-boorish behavior.

  • Jgr says:

    The glorious final trio in Der Rosenkavalier is, to my mind, the most explicit depiction of an orgasm in the classical repertoire, complete with timpani roll at the climax,