The Well-Tempered Ear

What is the best classical music to greet summer with? | June 21, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Tuesday, June 21, 2011 is the first day of summer, which arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 12:16 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

Here in the Upper Midwest, it has been a long time coming, especially after the long, wet winter and the cold, wet and violent spring that brought floods and tornados.

As I often do, I want to ask readers what is the best music they can recommend to greet the new season – even if it has largely been a hot and cold affair, a rainy and cloudy affair, where I live.

There are obvious choices, like Vivaldi’s “Summer” concerto from “The Four Seasons” and Beethoven “Spring” violin sonata and Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.” There is the “Summer” section from Haydn’s oratorio “The Seasons.” And there is also the aria “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” and Ravel’s “A Boat on the Ocean” from “Mirrors.”

There are several of Debussy’s Preludes for piano that conjure up summer and warm weather for me. And there are many songs by Schubert, Schumann (who also wrote a “Spring” Symphony), Brahms and Faure that evoke summer with all its blossoming greenery.

But after mulling it overall and looking at a lot of choices, this year I think it comes down to choice of two great works for voice with orchestra.

One is a 19th-century proto-Romantic works by the French composer Hector Berlioz, “Les Nuits d’ete” or “Summer Nights.”

I wanted to offer a sample sung by the late great mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a posthumously released but beautiful live recording of the Berlioz songs  — paired with several Handel arias — with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under Nicholas McGegan. But it isn’t available on YouTube.

So here is Dame Janet Baker with a lovely excerpt from the Berlioz:

The other choice is a 20th century work by the lyrical American composer Samuel Barber, “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” based on words by James Agee, who wrote “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.”

I wanted to link to an excerpt sung by the terrific American soprano Dawn Upshaw, who scored quite a commercial success with her recording of the work. But again, that performance is not up on YouTube.

When will some of the record companies learn the value of “social media” as an advertising vehicle that gives potential buyers a sample of what they want to hear and might even buy?

So here is Part 1 of an equally beautiful, if now historic,  performance by the American soprano Leontyne Price:

What classical music do you most like and recommend to greet summer with?

The Ear wants to hear.

About these ads

Posted in Classical music

12 Comments »

  1. [...] but musically literal “He’s Mounting Up, The Sun,” by Joseph Haydn (h/t to The Well-Tempered Ear), and even the summer section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though its [...]

    Pingback by A Classy And Classical Summer Playlist | Lastfalling — June 22, 2012 @ 1:08 am

  2. [...] but musically literal “He’s Mounting Up, The Sun,” by Joseph Haydn (h/t to The Well-Tempered Ear), and even the summer section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though its [...]

    Pingback by Summer Playlist 2012: Ravel, Berlioz, The Requisite Vivaldi And More (PLAYLIST) :: iShoutLoud — June 22, 2012 @ 12:12 am

  3. [...] but musically literal “He’s Mounting Up, The Sun,” by Joseph Haydn (h/t to The Well-Tempered Ear), and even the summer section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though its [...]

    Pingback by A Classy And Classical Summer Playlist | Screw Cable — June 22, 2012 @ 12:11 am

  4. [...] but musically literal “He’s Mounting Up, The Sun,” by Joseph Haydn (h/t to The Well-Tempered Ear), and even the summer section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though its [...]

    Pingback by Summer Playlist 2012: Ravel, Berlioz, The Requisite Vivaldi And More (PLAYLIST) | Screw Cable — June 22, 2012 @ 12:11 am

  5. [...] but musically literal “He’s Mounting Up, The Sun,” by Joseph Haydn (h/t to The Well-Tempered Ear), and even the summer section from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” though its [...]

    Pingback by Summer Playlist 2012: Ravel, Berlioz, The Requisite Vivaldi And More (PLAYLIST) | Test — June 21, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  6. Definitely have a look at Beethoven’s 6th (Pastoral) Symphony.
    May be a bit obvious to many, but the Wiener Philharmonika under Karl Bohm is magical.

    Comment by DJHS — May 27, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

  7. [...] What is the best classical music to greet summer with? (welltempered.wordpress.com) [...]

    Pingback by SUMMER CHALLENGES! « PM27's Blog — July 20, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  8. Hi, Jake! Nice job…..but you missed a great one: the first movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, subtitled “Pan Awakes; Summer Marches In.” Of course, it’s the longest first movement of any standard symph. rep. at about 35 mintues — and the whole work is about 110!

    I’ve always adored Dawn’s recording of “Knoxville.” Simply one of my all-time favorite works and favorite performances.

    Happy listening to all!

    Comment by Greg Hettmansberger — June 21, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    • Hi Greg,
      Thank you for the addiiton.
      I tend to focus on the last movement of Mahler’s Third, one of my all-tiume favorites (What Love Tells Me).
      So you fill in an important gap.
      The Dawn Upshaw performance of the Barber is indeed so beautiful.
      Happy listening to you.
      And a good summer to us all.
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 21, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  9. I like to listen to British tone poems by Delius and Bax and some of the string fantasias of Vaughan Williams. For some reason the music that evokes the British countryside feels like warm, humid weather. Of course, we have not had much of that this summer here.

    Comment by Paul Rowe — June 21, 2011 @ 9:50 am

    • Hi Paul,
      Good suggestions, all, though I and the readers would appreciate some specific titles that you recommend.
      But you are right about the British composers’ ability to evoke landscape and atmosphere or climate.
      I would also add Gerald Finzi’s “Eclogue” for piano and orchestra, which is one of my all-time favorite unknown and unduly neglected pieces of music that fits right into the season., and is so poignant and calming.
      Valium in sound!
      Thanks for reading and replying so thoughtfully.
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — June 21, 2011 @ 10:49 am


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 859 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 1,059,545 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 859 other followers

%d bloggers like this: