The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What music best expresses the “bomb-cyclone” and Arctic blasts? | January 6, 2018

By Jacob Stockinger

Weather-wise, the past couple of weeks have been unforgettable and, in many ways, unbearable.

First, around Christmas, we had one bitterly cold Arctic blast.

Then after New Year’s Day came the massive “bomb-cyclone” that brought snow and ice, high winds and flooding, to the East Coast all the way from Florida to Maine.

Next came another Arctic blast – that put most of the country into the deep freeze with sub-zero temperatures that broke records over a century old.

(How, The Ear wonders, does the Arctic blast differ from the Polar Vortex of a few years ago? And who invents such colorful names that certainly seem new.)

Such extreme wintry weather has brought misery, hardship and even death to wherever it struck.

With luck, the coming week will see a return to more normal temperatures and more normal winter weather.

Still, the past few weeks got The Ear to wondering: What music best expresses such extreme kind of winter weather?

The highly virtuosic and aptly named “Winter Wind” Etude in A minor, Op. 25, No. 11, by Frederic Chopin came to mind. Its swirling notes suggest the howling wind and bitter cold while the minor-key melody has a certain dirge-like or funereal quality to it.

You can hear it played by Evgeny Kissin in the YouTube video at the bottom.

But The Ear is sure that many readers could suggest other musical depictions of extreme winter weather.

So please leave the name of the composer, the title of the work and, if possible, a link to a YouTube video performance at the bottom.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Although not specifically related to weather, one piece that comes to mind for me is Bela Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion” — I think the 1st Movement in particular pretty graphically depicts the fierce initial burst and continued ominous path of a “Bombcyclone”. In more general terms, I would invite people to give an ear to some of John Luther Adams’s soundscapes, most of which were composed and influenced by the Alaskan environment, where he lives.

    Comment by Tim Adrianson — January 6, 2018 @ 11:10 am

  2. Harald Saeverud, Slatter og stev fra Siljustol, Op. 21, No. V: Siljustol March Saeverud is highly regarded in Norway, not at all well-known in the U.S. I like his slightly acidic humor, which is very Nordic.

    Comment by slfiore — January 6, 2018 @ 8:22 am

  3. The first thing that comes to mind is “Sinfonia Antartica” of Vaughan Williams (No. 7). I do love the piece….preferably heard while seated by the fire!

    Comment by ghettmansberger — January 6, 2018 @ 8:18 am

  4. I don’t suppose classic(al) rock qualifies. If it did, “Riding the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon fits.

    Comment by bbead — January 6, 2018 @ 8:09 am

  5. The Ride of the Valkyrie by Richard Wagner. Played by the Berlin Philharmonic

    Comment by Ann Boyer — January 6, 2018 @ 6:02 am

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