Our Summer Classical Music Playlist
In light of our theme this week, The Four Seasons, we wanted to make a short playlist of some of our favorite summer music. Follow the links to hear the pieces and comment with your suggestions!
1. The movement "June," from a large, 12-movement work for piano entitled "The Seasons" is the most tender and sentimental of the bunch. Written in 1876, it was commissioned by the famous publisher, Nikolay Bernard, who also selected a Russian poem for each month/movement.
The poem for "June" reads:
"Out on the beach the waves
Will lick our feet.
High up in the skies the stars
Will shine mysteriously on us."
- Alexei Koltsov
In 1942, the Russian composer and conductor Alexander Gauk made a beautiful orchestral arrangement of "June" (both are attached below).
2. "Der Sommer" is one of four large sections in Haydn's Oratorio "Jahrezeiten" ("The Seasons"). The piece was written between 1799-1800. Haydn uses orchestral tone and color to depict certain pastoral scenes (As Bill states in the 'Four Seasons' episode), suchas an oboe to represent the morning rooster, or an ascending scale to represent a sunrise.
3. "Am leuchtenden Sommer Morgen" is an art song from RobertSchumann's most famous song cycle "Dichterliebe." The text is taken from a book of poems by Heinrich Heine, entitled "Lyrisches Intermezzo". The sixty-six poems tell the story of a woeful knight, who has lost his lover. Schumann chose sixteen of them to tell his version of the story, and no. 45 is the poem for this song. The text
is as follows:
"On a sunny summer morning I went out into the garden: the flowers
were talking and whispering, but I was silent. They looked at me with
pity, and said, 'Don't be cruel to our sister, you sad, death-pale
-Suggested by Exploring Music Social Media Coordinator: Sophia Feddersen.
4. This song is a perfect choice to cool down with. Known for its smooth texture and iconic text, the aria "Summertime" from George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess" is the most appropriate choice for this list.
Jascha Heifetz also has a wonderful arrangement for violin and piano, that really depicts the 'laziness' of the song. We have
added both, so you can really hear the inimitable style and élan of Heifetz, as well as the 'Summertime' text in the original.
Suggested by Exploring Music producer Jesse McQuarters.
5. In the middle of your playlist, is music for the middle of the summer! The overture to Overture to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn wrote this impressive piece at the astonishingly young age of 16. He grew up watching and reenacting Shakespeare plays with his siblings, and was deeply inspired by this for his overture. Almost 20 years later, Mendelssohn composed incidental music for a local production of the play, to which he included his overture.
6. "Vltava" (better known by it's German title "Die Moldau"), is a symphonic tone poem by Bedrich Smetana. It is from a collection of six tone poems known as "Má vlast" ("My Motherland"). This is by far the most famous piece of the collection, and is usually programmed independently. 'Vltava' is one of Europe's longest rivers, stretching from just outside Germany all the way to Prague. Smetana brilliantly evokes the feeling of a flowing river, and the warmth of the famous melody feels like a summer wind. The melody, in fact, was based off an ancient folk tune, and eventually became the Israeli national anthem.
7. Brahms started composing his first Violin Sonata in the summer of 1878. He resumed work and completed it a year later, in the summer of 1879. The sonata is sometimes called the 'Regen-Sonate' ('Rain Sonata'), because the musical material that holds the piece together is based off of two previously written art songs by Brahms - "Nachklang" and "Regenlied" ("Tears/Echo" and "Rain song,"
respectively). Throughout the piece, you can hear the gorgeous sound of summer rain in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, where this piece was written.
Suggested by Exploring Music producer Cydne Gillard.
8. The opening of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings is one of the most engaging and luscious in musical history. The thick chords and the key of C major brings to mind none other than a bright sunny day, flying like a bird through a clear blue sky. It was written in 1880, and remains high in the ranking of standard repertoire for string orchestra.
9. The most edgy piece on your playlist (which is also in our 'Four Seasons' episode), is Ástor Piazzolla's "Verano Porteño" ("Buenos Aires Summer") from "Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas" ("The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires"). Written in 1965, this piece is a sweltering dance on the shores of Buenos Aires! One of the most striking moments of the piece, as Bill points out, is a quotation from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." We would expect an excerpt from the "Summer" concerto, but he in fact quotes the "Winter"
10. The final piece on this summer list is the only piece written by a living composer. "The End of Summer" is a chamber piece written in 1985 by the American composer Ned Rorem. The "Fantasy" movement is the middle movement of this work, and it is poignant and introspective. The conversation among the clarinet, violin, and piano seems to portray memories - reminiscing on times long ago. Fitting for the end of the summer.
Thanks to our intern, Micheal Rosin, for help compiling this list!
The Exploring Music streaming website is made possible by Mr. & Mrs. William Gardner Brown and Susan & Richard Kiphart.
Thanks to Oxford Music Online, the home of Grove® Music Online and the access point for other Oxford online music reference subscriptions.