If you were introducing a friend to classical music, which piece of music would you play them? For those new to classical music it can be difficult to know where to start, so we asked this question to the AYO community of musicians, artists and alumni and created a playlist of their favourite classical music picks. We had a huge range of suggestions, from the faithful classics such as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to newer compositions from Elena Kats-Chernin. We even feature an orchestral introduction from Gorillaz!
Our community of music lovers share why they chose these pieces and what they most enjoy about classical music – whether it’s being transported to another world, listening to intricate melodies or telling a story without words. Listen to the entire playlist here
SCHOENBERG, TRANSFIGURED NIGHT (VERKLÄRTE NACHT)
Clare Cooney, AYO violinist
It’s one of those pieces that causes a physical reaction from listening. It’s hauntingly beautiful and really draws the listener in. I think it’s a great piece for transporting someone to another world.’
BEETHOVEN SYMPHONY NO.7
Barbara Hornung, AYO viola alumnus (1984)
I believe this is a suitable work to introduce someone to classical music because it keeps the listeners attention. It consists of contrasting movements which express deep sadness to hope and joy. Even light-heartedness. Rhythmically, the seventh symphony is consistently exciting and compelling. The second movement carries a punch which is so emotionally potent that it is hard to imagine there is a soul on earth who could remain unaffected.
CARLOS SALZEDO, CHANSON DANS LA NUIT
Esther Wong, AYO harp and violin alumnus (2014-15)
I love using Marion Hofmann’s performance of Chanson dans la nuit (Song in the Night) to introduce my friends to classical harp! I tell them to listen out for all the night sounds: frogs, crickets, the wind whispering in the leaves, night birds, whatever else they want to imagine.
It’s full of different characters and techniques particular to the harp, including using your fingernails on the strings, doing glissandi with two notes in one hand, and knocking on the soundboard, and that makes it really fascinating to experience, especially live. It stretches people’s expectations of what a harp can do, all while being super fun and accessible!
GORILLAZ (FEAT. SINFONIA VIVA), PLASTIC BEACH ORCHESTRAL INTRO
Lewis Blanchard, AYO clarinettist
I recommended this mainly because it’s not really classical music but a good gateway into the genre. I’ve found most people aren’t going to go for something traditional straight up, but this piece is short and leads into a non-classical album. It’s a nice introduction I feel, to what classical music is.
CARL VINE SONATA NO.1
Tom Misson, AYO Composition alumnus (2019)
I used to be worried I’d have to satisfy my interests in jazz, prog rock, metal and classical music separately. Suddenly the Carl Vine Sonata No.1 came out of nowhere and satisfied all of these itches at the same time. This piece has it all; beautiful, free, lyrical sections; groove-heavy rhythmically charged sections; the free, organic, mysterious gestures; and intense angsty drive. It’s incredibly satisfying.
KATS-CHERNIN, WILD SWANS SUITE
Gabby Lee, AYO percussionist
The entire Wild Swans Suite by Elena Kats-Chernin! 😍 It’s full of beautiful storytelling and sucks you into its own world with charm and mystery (I’m also biased because her writing for percussion is GENIUS).
TCHAIKOVSKY SYMPHONY NO.6
Patrick Brearly, AYO viola alumnus (2008-2015)
My family in-laws have always appreciated classical music but not necessarily had access to symphony orchestras or the great symphonic repertoire. One night I convinced them we needed to sit down and listen to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6 in its entirety without any distractions. We got to enjoy a recent recording of the Berlin Philharmonic and fair to say it stunned them, with all of us close to tears at many points throughout the symphony.
I think in this day and age, we can easily forget just how powerful music can be. Being able to switch off from every distraction and sit and listen to some of the great compositions is such an important thing we should all do from time to time. I find it inspires, motivates, gets us in touch with our emotions.
STRAUSS, EIN HELDENLEBEN
Jordan Hall, AYO violinist
This piece sounds as if it could be the soundtrack to an epic movie, like Lord of the Rings. I really think the full power and virtuosity of the symphonic orchestra is displayed brilliantly.
BERLIOZ, SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE
Celine Ng, AYO violinist
If I were to introduce somebody to classical music, I would play them Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. This symphony is absolutely beautiful to listen to, it highlights unique instruments like the E flat clarinet which demonstrate the vast scope of the orchestra’s timbre and texture. Moreover, it also has a story, and an idee fixe which we can listen out for, this helps us to understand and appreciate the complex nuances of classical music.
These subtle intricacies are fundamental to the realm of classical music, and when interweaved amongst different textures and melodies create an absolutely divine work – a perfect introduction to this genre of music.