8 classical works to celebrate our return to the moon with NASA's Artemis

A full moon is shown behind Artemis I as it sits on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Ben Smegelsky/NASA

August 29, 2022

With NASA’s planned launch of Artemis, we are returning to the moon after more than 50 years. Here's your must-hear lunar soundtrack of eight classical works to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Aloft! by Jack Stamp

Wisconsin-based composer Jack Stamp’s Aloft! was composed for the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force, but the majestic fanfare’s high energy and rhythmic momentum make it an ideal accompaniment for liftoff of Artemis I.

Moonlight Sonata, by Ludwig Van Beethoven

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 didn't pick up its well-known nickname until after his death — when a music critic claimed that its opening strains evoked looking at the moon shining on Lake Lucerne — yet it remains the quintessential tribute to our heavenly neighbor. This version with orchestral accompaniment adds gravitas.

Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy

For the third movement of Debussy's Suite Bergamasque for piano, whose name translates as "moonlight" in French, nothing evokes the mystery and majesty of its subject more than the great Leopold Stokowski's orchestral transcription, which was intended for the 1940 Disney animated film Fantasia.

Verklärte Nacht, by Arnold Schoenberg

Inspired by a poem of the same name by Richard Dehmel, Schoenberg's somber, beautiful work tells the musical tale of a moonlit walk by two lovers through a dark forest and her sharing of an even darker secret.

Piano Concerto No. 1: Romanza, by Frederic Chopin

Chopin described his Romanza as "intended to convey the impression one receives when gazing on a beautiful landscape that evokes in the soul beautiful memories — for example, on a fine moonlit spring night." Late summer will do for this lunar landmark.

'O Susser Mond,' by Otto Nicolai

This lovely song from Nicolai’s opera The Merry Wives of Windsor is nicknamed the "Moon Chorus." What more do you need to know?

Il Mondo Della Luna: Overture, by Joseph Haydn

More opera, this one an entire work dedicated to our subject — it translates as "The World on the Moon." Here we have the overture that kicks off the musical festivities.

Goodnight Moon, by Eric Whitacre

Composer Eric Whitacre, who’s known for his ethereal choral works, wrote this work for soprano and orchestra to pay tribute to the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. It ends this celestial music roundup, but here’s hoping for many happy returns to the moon, thanks to Artemis.