In light of the BBC’s Ten Pieces project, we asked BBC Music Magazine readers to tell us about their own experiences of the pieces that first inspired them to listen to classical music. Here are some of the many responses we had.


The overture of Rossini's William Tell is the ideal piece for introducing people to classical music. It is the ultimate programmatic music and if you explain to the listener what is going on, the whole thing can be visualised instantly - endless fun! Yiannis Katsaounis, Athens

I remember sitting in the hall and the teacher put on 'Mars' from The Planets and I was immediately grabbed by the tension and building excitement. That began the exploration of a world of magic. Mike Jackson

When I was a child our music teacher played us Beethoven's ‘Moonlight’ Sonata on the piano and I was absolutely entranced. I have loved classical music ever since. Margaret Miller Smith

My first LP as a teenager was piano music by Beethoven, including Für Elise and the 32 Variations in C minor. That was the start of a lifetime adventure in classical music. Bernard Fournier, Québec

As a young boy I was captivated by Beethoven's Egmont Overture and the 'Pastoral' Symphony. The Egmont had a special meaning for me as a Flemish boy who learnt about the Spanish occupation during which the Duke of Alva had the counts of Egmont and Hoorn decapitated. The 'Pastoral' Symphony was something my Dad bought when we lived in Bujumbura, on the shores of the Tanganyika Lake in Africa. Luc Colpaert

The music that sticks in my memory is the beautiful and haunting plainchant we sang in my school choir some sixty-five years ago. Perhaps as church choirs diminish there is a case for reviving plainchant as simple music to be sung in schools and churches. George Russel

When I went to study Economics at the University of Athens and joined the University Choir, my life changed. We sang classical music, often masses by Haydn, Gounod, Mozart and Fauré. A whole new world opened for me. Vassili Louziotis, Athens

Two weeks before the news of the BBC Ten Pieces, my youngest daughter asked if I knew of a piece of music with a funny name by Rimsky-Korsakov. Her Turkish husband had heard it on his car radio and it reminded him of music from his home country. Guessing it to be Scheherazade, I played my BBC Music Magazine copy of it for her. Yes – that was it! I told her that this piece of music was responsible for fifty years of me being totally passionate about classical music. Terry Brace

When I was six or seven years old, I discovered a portable record player at the back of a cupboard with two old 78s beside it. One completely captivated me and I played if endlessly – it was the original Paul Whiteman Orchestra playing Rhapsody in Blue with Gershwin himself. David Wilson, Isle of Lewis

There were two compositions that inspired me to become a fan of classical music: Liszt’s Les Preludes and Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, played by Van Cliburn. cdbloomerphd

When I was around 10 years old the only classical music I heard was the Lone Ranger theme. Then one day my mum found three albums that she thought I might enjoy. I listened to Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 and – my favourite – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. That is when I got hooked on classical music. Courtney Morrow, Connecticut

When I was eight my parents took me to hear my violin teacher playing Dvořák’s American Quartet, Op 96. It was hugely inspiring to me. Rod Fisher, Huntingdon

I was a teenager at the end of the war so all we had was an occaisional symphony concert – I saw the Hallé Orchestra playing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony and it was just wonderful. Arthur Kay

When my father bought me a tape recorder I recorded Brahms’s Second Symphony just to try it out. It was a thrill to hear – few finales are as exciting – and that encounter has led to my having practically all of his music on disc and digitally. Bernard Fields

I remember my mother opening our French windows so wide that, from our wind-up gramophone, the strains of In the Hall of the Mountain King could be heard in the garden where I was dancing on the lawn. I still love that piece – and I’m over seventy now! Norah Sinclair

When I was in primary school there used to be music playing each morning as we went into assembly. Two pieces were essential listening as far as I was concerned: the Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke and the Hebrides Overture by Felix Mendelssohn. Alan Green

I was moved and inspired to listen to classical music by two pieces. When I was nine I heard Sibelius’s Finlandia for the first time and, shortly afterwards, Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Coming, as I did, from a non-musical family it was by pure chance that I heard these two works and now, 70 years on, I am an avid listener and student of the keyboard. John Bird

For me two pieces stand out: The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan and Grieg’s Piano Concerto, first heard live from the proms in my early teens. Michael de Grey

When I was at junior school our headmaster played us Massenet’s ‘Meditation’ from Thaïs and Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals. When I became a teacher myself, I often played the 'Entry of the Toreadors' from Carmen. I always asked the children to tell me what they thought it was about and the most usual response was that it was circus music. Barbara Pickering

I grew up in a home where classical music was always playing. Three pieces that made a big impression on me early on were Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 5 (first movement), Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (first movement) and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique – I was thrilled by the depiction of a beheading in a piece of classical music! Ken Ogilvie, USA

My father didn't have a large classical music collection, but it did include Saint-Saëns' Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso. This piece has so much energy that it is difficult not to be inspired by it. Felipe Mellado, Mexico

Without doubt: the Overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie. Alf Fortnam


Ten pieces of classical music to inspire a generation

Ten Pieces repertoire list

Ten Pieces: where next


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