The recent announcement of the BBC’s new list of Ten Pieces for secondary schools got us thinking about which pieces most inspired us to get into classical music at a young age. In this blog post and as a tribute to the project, each member of CLS staff shared the piece of music that stood out for them as a child, combining to make CLS’s own Ten Pieces! Is there any piece that particularly inspired you?
Find out more about the BBC Ten Pieces project here. City of London Sinfonia is a Ten Pieces champion, supporting the project and incorporating the pieces into our education programmes.
- Matthew (CEO): Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (first movement)
Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 was the first piece of orchestral music that I got really excited about and aged 10 I used to listen to it on headphones through my parents’ radiogram while trying to follow the score. I was learning the trumpet, inspired by a family friend six years my elder, and I loved the way that the first movement built from almost nothing to a massive trumpet and brass fanfare. It was also the first big piece of orchestral music that I played, aged 12, with said family friend, in a local amateur ‘repertoire’ orchestra. I’ve no doubt that the performance, put together over a single weekend, was probably dreadful, but to an inexperienced 12 year old it was like playing in the Berlin Philharmonic!
- Elaine (COO): Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake
This was the first work I ever got paid for (I sang ‘the child’ in a performance in Liverpool when I was 14). The sheer noise and emotional climaxes blew me away and since then I’ve bought two different recordings and it still moves me. I think it’s some of the best dramatic music ever written. The text is definitely better in French though…
- Rebecca (Marketing): Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave
I mainly grew up listening to my dad play Albinoni on guitar but I’d say the first piece of music that really got me into classical (and orchestral!) music was Fingal’s Cave by Mendelssohn (Hebrides Overture). I remember forcing my parents to take me to any concert where it was being played…
- Gillian (Education): Dvorak’s ‘Dumky’ Piano Trio (first movement)
My piece is the first movement of Dvorak’s ‘Dumky’ Piano Trio. A record (yes, an actual record…) of the Beaux Arts trio playing this was played a lot in my house growing up and I heard them play it live twice in my teenage years. I always loved the drama and contrast in this movement and have memories of dancing around my kitchen to it as a child.
- Jacqui (Librarian): Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (last movement)
Sounds corny I know but this is my earliest memory of classical music. My dad used to put the record on every Sunday while dinner was cooking and we’d all sing along. When I got a bit older I asked if I could put the record on the player (yes I am that old!) and was mightily puzzled that it was a completely different piece. This was entirely due to my not knowing that symphonies had four movements and my dad had always put on side two of the second record whereas I put on side one of the first – which is obviously the beginning! All of a sudden there was a great deal more to classical music.
- Pia (Education): Debussy’s L’Apres Midi d’un Faune
Debussy was definitely my first classical music crush! After hearing Clair de Lune I started teaching myself piano on a little single note keyboard, and then as I explored it a bit more I just couldn’t believe the beauty of the sound world Debussy creates in L’Apres Midi. That was the piece that inspired me to keep up with my flute lessons and introduced me to the magic of an orchestra!
- Claire (Concerts): Grieg’s Holberg Suite
I loved learning string repertoire when I was playing in youth orchestras, but I think sitting in the 2nd violins trying to play the ‘bun sticky bun sticky bun…’ rhythm that starts the Holberg suite for seemingly hours at a time particularly stands out in my mind! And then when I moved up to the firsts I got to play the tune…!!
- Chloe (Marketing): Albeniz’s Asturias
Throughout my childhood I remember my dad playing this piece on the piano and thinking to myself how it was the most impressive and emotive music I’d ever heard! I have vivid memories of practising and practising as a child so as to be able to play it too (only the first couple of lines until the big spread chords came in..) and feeling very pleased with myself when I finally managed to do it! It was the first piece that really inspired me to practice and explore the rest of what classical music has to offer.
- Patrick (Concerts): Michael Nyman’s Water Dances
As a young boy with OCD tendencies minimalism showed me a musical world where everything could be neatly compartmentalised and rationalised and made sense of. Nyman does all of that but with great energy and fun.
- Nancy (Development): Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scherherazade (second movement)
My piece is one from later in life as a teenager: Rimsky-Korsakov’s second movement of Scherherazade. I remember learning and performing this exciting piece with my high school orchestra. It was a turning point for us as an ensemble and something about the melody stuck with us: we hummed it in the hallway, in maths class! I think it captured our imaginations or was at least fun to play. More than 10 years later, I can still play the bass part and melody from memory. It wasn’t my introduction to classical music, but it definitely reinforced my lifelong love of orchestral music and how it has the power to bring people together.