The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What piece most embodies Fall for you and do you most look forward to hearing when autumn arrives? | September 22, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Fall arrives in the Western Hemisphere – at 9:49 a.m. this morning.

Sometimes I ask readers: What is the best piece of classical music to honor spring or fall or a certain holiday?

But music, and all art really, is really much more subjective than that.

So today I simply ask: What piece of classical music best embodies Fall FOR YOU? What musical work do you most look forward to hearing and listening to – either in a recording or a live performance – when the weather cool and Autumn arrives?

A couple of decades ago, The Ear was riding around the lovely Wisconsin countryside at harvest time, with rows of dried corn stalks in the fields. He was listening to Brahms’ three violin sonatas played by Itzhak Perlman with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy (at bottom).

Oh, my!

Somehow Brahms – whose late works for piano, strings, winds and orchestra have often been described as “autumnal” because of the bittersweet melancholy they possess – seemed a perfect choice.


And so ever since then, when I want to take a fall ride through the countryside – and this year it seems so unfair that a cold Fall has come early, too early, on the heels of a blazingly hot, record-setting summer — I make sure to bring that Brahms CD (below) with me. Curiously, my favorite sonata  of the three changes from year to year. They all work their magic superbly. But overall, I favor the last movement of No. 1 and the second movement of No. 3.

So, tell us a similar story about you and your favorite Fall music.


It could be a well-known work or a rarely heard work.

It doesn’t matter.

It might be Vivaldi’s familiar “Fall” from “The Four Seasons” or Haydn’s “The Seasons” or Astor Piazzolla’s reworking of Vivaldi in Argentina. It could be a song or aria or choral work, a piano or string piece, chamber music or orchestral music.

We all end up with our own personal traditions of listening, made up by experience as we go along.

Just share yours with the rest of us  and help all of us enjoy the coming of Fall – even if it is a bit early this year.



  1. I played Godfrey Ridout’s ‘Fall Fair’ on the radio show today, because the buoyant excitement of it exactly matches my feelings on finally leaving summer behind. Oh, how I hate hot weather!

    Comment by Marika Fischer Hoyt — September 22, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

  2. Kol Nidrei. Not the Bruch bastardization, but the original prayer. I’m listening to the Schoenberg version now, and it’s infinitely better than the Bruch, but I can’t say more until I’ve heard it a few more times.

    The first movement of Shostakovich’s 4th quartet seems to do it for me today, as well, though I couldn’t say why.

    The New World symphony has always felt autumnal to me too; anyone else feel that?

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — September 22, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  3. The first movement of Mendelssohn’s Octet for strings, of course. Crisp, bustling, bursting with excitement, a match to the brilliant, clear light of September.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — September 22, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  4. For me. there’s an Autumnal quality about Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”. I listened to it during a dark time in my life and found it very comforting. I have the Janet Baker version.

    Comment by AnnB. — September 22, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    • Hi Ann,
      I don’t know that particular Elgar. But I like Elgar a lot and trust your judgment. So I will check it out.
      I think his well known Cello Concerto also has some Brahmsian, autumnal qualities to it too.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 22, 2012 @ 9:59 am

  5. I once heard a part of Tchaikovsky’s four seasons. Although it’s called Four seasons it has 12 monthly sections. I can’t remember which month I heard. Your post reminded me of that piece. I’ll be glad to hear if you have any favorite performance for it.

    Comment by ltgmusic — September 22, 2012 @ 3:10 am

    • Hi Moty,
      It is a series of 12 solo piano pieces. Almost all of them exude the melodic and harmonic gifts of Tchaikovsky, and some are based on folk dance rhythms.
      All isn all, you offer an excellent reminder and outstanding choice.
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      The Ear

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 22, 2012 @ 9:56 am

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