Youth Ambassador Blog: Caitlin's Ten Pieces

My name is Caitlin and I am one of the 13 Youth Ambassadors working with the CBSO this year. In preparation for our takeover concert which took place in January, last summer we were tasked with picking ten pieces to potentially feature in our concert. There were a total of 130 pieces to choose from so many didn’t make the cut but today I’m sharing my original selections with a Spotify playlist for you to listen along to.

When choosing my pieces, I decided I wanted to explore storytelling through music. The power music has to convey a story is so fascinating and I have found that having a narrative element can be really helpful in making Classical music more accessible for new audiences.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

This piece is one of the earliest examples of programmatic music (narrative music) with each of the four concertos representing one of the four seasons. My favourite concerto is the fourth which represents Winter and is included in the playlist. Vivaldi’s music has inspired many other composers in this work such as Piazzolla. His own Argentine style version of the Four Seasons was featured in our takeover concert and is also included in the playlist for you to listen to.

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (Pastoral)

Currently there is a lot of Beethoven’s music circulating as it is his 250th birthday this year. My favourite of his symphonies is this, his pastoral symphony, which I think is one of the most vivid depictions of nature in the Western canon. Whilst we may not be able to go outside and enjoy nature as much as we would be able to, this symphony certainly transports you to the beautiful countryside.

Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 by Grieg

This piece is probably one of the earliest memories I have of engaging with Classical music so I had to include it in my ten pieces. Alongside the well known movements, Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King are other lesser known but equally enjoyable movements The Death of Aase and Anitra’s which are both included in my playlist

The Carnival of Animals by Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens is one of my favourite composers and this piece perfectly fits the concept for my programme as he is able to present a host of animals in the music. I recommend the Aquarium, the Swan and the Finale which interestingly quotes elements from previous movements.

1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky

This is perhaps one of my favourite pieces of Classical music ever. I love how it begins calmly with only the cellos and violas playing and gradual builds to the epic finale. The original orchestration calls for the use of canons which is so crazy and exciting and while most performances replace this instead using a bass drum or gong. You can still hear how Tchaikovsky intended the piece to be performed on the recordings.

Prelude L'après Midi d’un Faune by Debussy

You may recognise this piece as it featured in our Takeover concert back in January. We chose it because of the beautiful calming atmosphere it creates. It provided a nice contrast to some of the other pieces in our programme, particularly the Meredith Beatbox Concerto which was performed right after.

Nimrod from the Enigma Variations by Elgar

Elgar is a very important composer for the CBSO as the conductor of the first of their concerts in 1920. In this, the CBSO’s 100th anniversary much of Elgar’s repertoire has been celebrated. Arguably one of his more famous compositions is this beautiful piece from his Enigma Variations. The piece pays homage to Elgar’s friend Jaeger who was a great source of inspiration for Elgar when he struggled with self doubt almost giving up composing all together. In the playlist, along with the original orchestral version, is a beautiful vocal arrangement.

The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky

Another favourite amongst the Youth Ambassadors was this piece suggested by four of us. Stravinsky is well known for his ballets in collaboration with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes Company of which this is the first. I like the many different colours that the piece has with both quiet, calming moments and loud energetic parts.

The Planets Suite by Holst

This was a hugely popular piece amongst the Youth Ambassadors featuring in four of our lists. Alongside the popular movements Mars and Jupiter, I have also included some of my other favourites including Neptune. As part of the Youth Chorus, I have performed Neptune and think it is a fascinating movement for both the performers and the audience. The idea of having off stage singers creates a mystical effect which Neptune is characterised as being. To its first audience, Holst was able to create a magical ending with his daughter describing the fade-out as ‘unforgettable, with its hidden chorus of women's voices growing fainter and fainter... until the imagination knew no difference between sound and silence.’

Star Wars Soundtrack By John Williams

When choosing my pieces I was sure I wanted to include some film music and ended up choosing perhaps one of the most famous film composers of all time John Williams. The Star Wars Soundtrack features many memorable cues but my favourite is the fun Cantina Band which alongside the Main Theme and the Imperial Attack feature on the playlist.

Bonus Piece: Danzon No. 2 by Maruqez

One thing I have loved about being a Youth Ambassador is discovering new music and this is a piece I have discovered through the programme and grown to love. It is energetic and I struggle to keep still when listening to it. I’ve found it to be a piece I’ve listened to a lot to help get me through quarantine and I had to share it with you.

See what our Youth Ambassadors got up to when we gave them full rein of our symphony orchestra earlier this year!