Listen to our Spring Playlist 2017
30 March 2017
Spring is finally here, and not a day too soon! We're celebrating with a new playlist of spring-themed music, including some lesser-known classical masterpieces - and one or two fun extras...
1. Beethoven - Violin Sonata No.5, "Frühlingssonate"
Published in 1801, this sonata became known as the 'Spring Sonata' - and it is easy to see why. Infused with the optimism and lyricism of this beautiful time of year, it perfectly captures the mood of the season. It was also Beethoven’s first sonata to have four movements, with the short Scherzo movement perfectly bridging from the simplicity of the second movement to the lyricism of the finale.
2. Vaughan Williams - Folk Songs of the Four Seasons
Most famous for his pastoral scenes and folk-inspired English songs, it is hardly surprising that Ralph Vaughan Williams could weave together such a magnificent collection of folk songs about nature. The female-only cantata was the first work ever to be commissioned by the Womens Institute, and was premiered in 1950 at the Royal Albert Hall, sung by no fewer than 3000 singers from the WI, joined by the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. This recording is sung by the choir of Clare College Cambridge, conducted by Sir David Willcocks.
3. Grieg - Lyric Pieces (Book III), 6 - 'To Spring'
We have chosen to include this particular recording here, as it is a rare find - Grieg himself, performing his own music on the piano. The Norwegian composer would undoubtedly have had a deep love for the spring, living in a country where winters are long and dark - in fact in northen parts of Norway, for almost 3 months the sun does not rise at all! The piece is delicate and contemplative, and brings to mind the calm beauty of a thawing landscape.
4. Rachmaninov - Spring Waters
The words of this song tell of streams running through still-white fields, heralding the coming of spring. Typically dramatic for Rachmaninov, the piano part mimics the rushing of a stream with torrents of arpeggios. The song has remained a concert staple of Russian vocal repertoire since its first performance, and is sung here by Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda.
5. Brad Medlau - It Might As Well Be Spring (Rogers & Hammerstein)
A departure from the classical, this song gives us an excuse to mention one of the greatest jazz pianists of our time, Brad Meldau. Here performing an old standard written by Broadway songwriters Rogers and Hammerstein, Meldau and his trio transform it from its melancholy original into a jaunty, off-kilter bundle of energy. The melody never sits still around its 7/4 meter, and the constantly evolving harmony is full of the optimism and energy that comes with the brighter, longer and warmer days of spring.
6. Britten - Five Flower Songs
Britten’s Five Flower Songs date from the spring of 1950 and were first performed by a student choir conducted by Imogen Holst (daughter of composer Gustav). Concerning the coming and passing of spring, the five songs are perfectly balanced as a suite, but can equally be performed individually. Here they are sung by The Monteverdi Choir.
7. Beethoven - Symphony No. 6, 'Pastoral'
Beethoven has made it into our playlist twice, but for good reason. Whilst not explicitly about spring, there are few pieces of music that more strongly conjure an image of springtime in the countryside. Rolling pastures, buds bursting open and lambs skipping - Walt Disney thought the same, and in his film 'Fantasia' animates this scene by depicting the gods and legendary creatures of Ancient Greece in a landscape full of tree blossoms and flowers. Composed in 1808, this recording by the Wiener Philhamoniker brings it to life.
8. Debussy - Images pour orchestra No.3, “Rondes de printemps”
Like so much of Debussy's music, this work is packed with imagery and swirling colour. "Rondes de printemps" are springtime dances, and Debussy references two folk songs, "Nous n'irons plus au bois" and "Do, do l'enfant do", which further serves to conjure the image of rural celebrations at the end of winter. Here performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas.
9. Tom Lehrer - Poisoning Pigeons in the Park
Ending on a comical note, who could capture the joys of spring better than Tom Lehrer? His witty lyrics and carefree brilliance at the piano are so at odds that you almost forget the macabre nature of the song. A reminder that music can be both serious and hilarious!
Listen to the full playlist:
Spring is here, which means summer is on the way - so it's time to start looking ahead...
What do you have planned for the summer? Are you thinking of coming to join us at the Ingenium Academy?
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