I recently began to teach a junior high-aged violinist who had played the violin for six years, but had never listened to classical music. As a Suzuki-trained violin teacher, I believe that listening to high-quality performances and recordings is a must. Learning how to play an instrument without listening to music would be the equivalent of learning a language without ever hearing it being spoken.
I found myself in the unusual, yet wonderful position of creating a playlist for someone with a blank musical slate. Of course, I wanted to include some of the standard classical repertoire. But I also wanted to include works which would engage a teenaged musician. I finally came up with a list of YouTube videos which spanned different classical music periods, instruments, and countries.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing the 13 compositions on my playlist. It’s not exhaustive by any means, but it provides a solid foundation for anyone who wants to learn more about classical music.
1. Antonio Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons: Julia Fischer, soloist
This is one of the most familiar classical compositions in existence. Even people who think they haven’t heard this piece have probably encountered it at one time or another. The video takes place in a lovely, botanical setting. I chose Julia Fischer not only because she is a great violinist but also because she would be an approachable role model for my student.
2. Gustav Holst’s “”Mars, Bringer of War” from The Planets: Sir Charles Mackerras conducts the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
This piece demonstrates the power and fury of early 20th century classical music. Plus, it provides contrast to the delicate beauty of The Four Seasons. It also happens to be one of my favorite pieces back when I was in junior high.
3. Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango
Libertango reveals the less buttoned-up side of classical music. The tango originates from bordellos in Argentina. Piazzolla reinvented the traditional dance with his own Nuevo Tango style which combined classical counterpoint, jazz, and tango. This arrangement is for flute and guitar, and I wanted to familiarize my violin student with instruments from outside of the string family.