Top ‘Ten Pieces’

Posted on Feb 6, 2016 in Music, Ten Pieces | No Comments
Top ‘Ten Pieces’

After attending the Ten Pieces LIVE concert today at the Glasgow City Halls with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing, I thought I’d take this opportunity to choose from the 21 tunes (yes ironically there are 21 pieces of music) and pick my top ‘Ten Pieces’!

Just to fill you in, ‘Ten Pieces‘ is a initiative set up by the BBC which aims to open up the world of classical music to children of primary and secondary schools all across the UK! Due to it’s success with primary school last years (2014-2015), it is continuing its influence by not only working with primary schools still but also with secondary schools. More than a year ago I decided to base one of my Bachelor Degree projects on this initiative when it first started; it basically was my own visual interpretations of each of the pieces whilst also providing information on the composer and the music itself!

I loved the music from the first year and like the new selection this year as well, so jumped at the chance to go and see them performed live today and it was amazing! It was just an hours performance so only some of them were played fully like Mars, Beethoven’s 5th, Trumpet Concerto, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Lark Ascending, Carmen, Shostakovich’s 1oth Symphony, Mambo and Firebird! It was spine tinglingly good, but there was the odd child greeting and shouting ‘When’s it finishing?’ or ‘Can we go home?’

Anyway I’ll press on and start with number 10!

Bach - Toccota and Fugue


Toccato & Fugue in D Minor BWV 565
Johann Sebastian Bach

In 10th place is Toccata & Fugue. This happens to be the first piece I was probably introduced to in Disney’s Fantasia discussing abstract music (music for music and with no set purpose). But I distinctly remember fast forwarding it to Mickey Mouse because I thought it was boring. But being re-introduced to it through Ten Pieces has shown me how invigorating it actually is, bouncing to and from peaceful notes like the harp to bold loud notes like from the brass and percussion instruments.



The Firebird Suite (Finale)
Igor Stravinsky

Just like Toccata & Fugue, I was introduced to this originally through Disney’s Fantasia 2000. In this film, the Firebird is depicted as a demon from the volcano which destroys everything, whereas the story told from ‘Ten Pieces’ shows the Firebird to be an almost guardian angel that would help the hero once when he most needed. The finale is a brilliant uplifting piece that builds up, giving a sense of joy and triumph especially with the trumpet; this fits with the story as this is when the heroes have won and are celebrating. And with the film, concert, Ten Pieces film; it is a brilliant way to end! Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project >>>

ten pieces illustrations11


ten pieces illustrations7


Zadok the Priest
George Fredrick Handel

I heard parts of this prior to ’Ten Pieces’ as well as its influence with the UEFA Champions League tune, but never got the full impact from it until Ten Pieces. It is amazing that Handel’s family forbade music even within their household, and that Handel continued and wrote pieces like this that were eventually admired by royal families through the ages and used with every coronation in Britain since. It is an outstanding crescendo which builds the atmosphere in time for the choir to enter.
<<< Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project



The Lark Ascending
Ralph Vaughan Williams

This is one of the pieces which I was introduced through ‘Ten Pieces’, but unlike many of the Ten Pieces this is very peaceful. It’s not triumphant, energetic, fearful or surprising that most of the others are but instead tranquil, uplifting and reminiscent. The violin makes you reflect about home whatever that means to any individual. Compared to the raging war where the composer thought of the piece, it is the complete opposite and takes you away from your troubles and concerns for a while as you sit back, listen and relax.

Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending


Anne Clyne - Night Ferry


Night Ferry (Extract)
Anna Clyne

This piece on the other hand is far from relaxing! Another piece of music that I never heard of until Ten Pieces. This and Britten’s ‘Storm’ piece are very alike in trying to conjure up a storm but felt this piece had a bit more of a dark side to it whereas ‘Storm’ had more unpredictability to it. I love the tempo and pulse throughout this piece; it reminds me of the gothic music composed by Danny Elfman for his films; using the repeating background beat. It just increases the tension like it’s building up to something whether it be a surprising blast from the orchestra or the approach of a deadly incoming wave!


Horn Concerto No.4 (3rd Movement)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

This is another pieces that was introduced to me through ‘Ten Pieces’ but the amount of times I’ve listened to it, I feel like I’ve known it for most of my life. It is an extremely chirpy tune that gets stuck in your head like an ear-worm, but it’s always a pleasure to hear this tune. It feels like a tune that a couple would dance to as the orchestra and horn go to and fro: a gentleman (french horn) is dancing to win the affection of his loved one and an elegant lady (the orchestra following the horn’s steps) dancing along with the gentleman. What do you think of when you hear it? Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project >>>

ten pieces illustrations9


ten pieces illustrations8


Mars from ‘the Planets’
Gustav Holst

Previously Jupiter: Bringer of Joy was my favourite from the Planets suite but after listening to the ferocity of this piece, it made as one of my all-time favourites. From the Ten Pieces selection it was between this and Shostakovich Symphony No.10 for their same fearful emotion of music, but I felt this had more tension and more louder moments; the military rhythm from the drum beat and then the hard use of percussion and brass instruments, really strike rage and horror in this piece.
<<< Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project


A Night on the Bare Mountain
Modest Mussorgsky

This is another piece that was introduced through Disney’s Fantasia. This scene in Fantasia was always scary for me visually, but when you listen to the drones of the tuba getting deeper and deeper, it feels like you are descending into hell. When turned up loud this genuinely sends a shiver down my spine; it almost has a ghost-like build up with the wind and string instruments and then the strike of terror when the other bold instruments come in.
Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project >>>

ten pieces illustrations10


ten pieces illustrations4


Symphony No. 5 (1st Movement)
Ludwig Van Beethoven

This piece hasn’t always been my favourite; when I was younger I was just bored by abstract music like this and Toccota & Fugue, but maybe it’s just age and a better understanding of orchestral music which has helped me appreciate them. It was when I heard and was inspired by this piece at the 2014 Proms in the Park (Glasgow) that I decided to base my project on Ten Pieces! When I actually listen to this in comparison to other pieces, I realised it is very striking and even although the motif returns multiple times, you are still surprised by it. It uses calm sounds from strings and wind instruments at point, points but also used them to create loud sharp sounds which but you on edge.
<<< Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project


In the Hall of the Mountain King
Edvard Greig

And at number one: In the Hall of the Mountain King. I’ve always loved this piece of music. I distinctly remember my first encounter with it was with a computer chess game; there was a feature which let you play music in the background and one of the choices was In the Hall of the Mountain King. I remember that because it put me off the game when it sped up increasing the tension…if there is any with chess! I love how it begins slow and quiet and concludes fast and loud. The repetition reminds me of a spiral rotating continuously and in acceleration, that it almost feels hypnotising; maybe I’ve been entranced by it myself…
Here’s my interpretation from my Ten Pieces project >>>

ten pieces illustrations6

Well, that’s my top 10 from the Ten Pieces selections, but there are so many good pieces like Carmen and Ride of the Valkyries and Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony and Concerto for Turntables to listen to. I hope in the near future to find some spare time from work to design a second booklet for Ten Pieces II as I loved designing the first book. So keep an eye out for it on my website and social media pages! Below are my interpretations of pieces not added to the top 10 with links to my first Ten Pieces project if you’re interested.

Short Ride in a Fast Machine
John Adams

ten pieces illustrations3

‘Storm’ Interlude (Peter Grimes)
Benjamin Britten

ten pieces illustrations5

Connect it
Anna Meredith

ten pieces illustrations12


ten pieces illustrations