Eight of the best: pieces of music about sport

To mark Sport Relief, we have selected eight of our favourite pieces of music inspired by, or featuring, sport

Eight of the best: pieces of music about sport


Sport Relief kicked off today and to mark the occasion (as well as donating to the great cause) we have selected our favourite pieces of music about sport.


Claude DebussyJeux (1913)

Debussy’s Jeux was premiered by the Ballets Russes just two weeks prior to the riotous debut of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The short ballet pays witness to three young people searching for a lost tennis ball at dusk, ending with a sinister conclusion. The music is in a swift triple-metre, often interrupted by syncopation and rubato.


Arthur Honegger: Rugby (1928)

Honegger’s Rugby (Mouvement Symphonique No. 2) is an orchestral tone poem representing a game of rugby through the passing of a musical theme from one section of the orchestra to another. The dichotomy of dissonance and consonance reflects the struggle of the game, and the final passages glorify the winner’s victory.


Jean SibeliusThe Lonely Ski Trail (1925)

The Lonely Ski Trail is scored for speaker and piano and is based on a poem by Bertel Gripenberg. The piece rotates themes of loneliness and mortality around skiing and brings them to the fore with syncopated rhythms and wistful melodies. It is sometimes performed in a version for harp and strings.


Mauricio Kagel: Match (1964)

Kagel’s Match is a piece for two cellos and percussion. A game of tennis is represented through the two cello lines whilst the percussionist takes the role of the interfering referee.


Émile Waldteufel: The Skaters’ Waltz (1882)

The Skaters’ Waltz, Op. 183 is probably the best known work by French composer Émile Waldteufel. It evokes a frozen scene around the Seine in Paris. Waldteufel contrasts the stately grandeur of a French horn line with flurrying scalic passages in the flute, piccolo and violin parts. The use of sleigh bells and the triangle adds a seasonal touch to the piece.



Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie (1997-9)

The Silver Tassie is an opera based on a play of the same name by Seán O'Casey. Set during the First World War, the opera opens with local sporting hero Harry as he accepts a prize (the Silver Tassie) for his acheivements. The plot goes on to document his demise at the hand of experiencing the tragedies of war.



Charles Ives: Yale-Princeton Football Game (1898)

Ives’s Yale-Princeton Football Game is the perfect encapsulation of his shared passion for music and sport. As a Yale graduate, the composer returned to the university for the game, the experience of which he wanted to express afterwards in music. Like in Honegger's Rugby, the use of instrumentation characterises the different players on the pitch.


Erik Satie: Sports et divertissements (1914)

Satie’s Sport et divertissements is a collection of 21 piano miniatures, each presented alongside a short poem. Each depict a sport or leisure activity, and Satie uses music programmatically to reflect the characteristics of each game. A bouncing ball in tennis can be heard in the short staccato quavers; the smooth waves under a yaught in legato quavers.



Sport Relief takes place until Sunday 23 March. Visit: www.sportrelief.com to make a donation


Holly Harrison

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here