The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Autumn arrives today. What composers, works and instruments do you like to listen to in fall? The Ear favors late Brahms – specially the strings, the piano and the clarinet | September 22, 2018

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By Jacob Stockinger

Fall arrives today.

The autumn equinox will occur at 8:54 p.m. Central Daylight Time.

As the days get markedly shorter and the night longer, one’s mood often changes as do one’s listening preferences.

Many composers have written pieces about autumn, and you are sure to hear many of them on Wisconsin Public Radio or other media outlets.

But The Ear has his favorites.

Not for nothing is the late music of Johannes Brahms described as autumnal, both because it happens late in the composer’s life and because of its bittersweet sounds, its poignant harmonies and its melancholy melodies.

For The Ear, you will find it in most of late Brahms, especially in the slow movements. He loves the string music – the violin, the cello and especially the viola sonatas – as well as the clarinet sonatas and piano intermezzi.

Below are three samples.

Here is the slow movement from the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, played by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Daniel Barenboim:

Here is the slow movement of the Sonata in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1, for, in this case, clarinet or viola:

And here is a particularly moving piano intermezzo, Op. 117, No. 2, in B-flat minor, played by Arthur Rubinstein:

And should you still be unsure what music you like for the fall, here is a link to two hours of music for fall  — vocal and instrumental music by Antonio Vivaldi, Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn  Alexander Glazunov, Peter Tchaikovsky, Giuseppe Verdi, Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler and others — put together by Minnesota Public Radio:

Is there a special composer who evokes autumn for you?

What instruments most speak to you of fall?

Are there special works you like to listen to in autumn?

Leave your thoughts in the COMMENT section, along with a link to a YouTube performance if possible.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Edvard Grieg is the composer I most associate with autumn. Yes, he wrote a concert overture called ‘In Autumn,’ but that work was successful because it had so many elements found in his his orchestral works. Off the top of my head: the incidental music for Peer Gynt, the Lyric Suite, Norwegian Dances; the two Lyric Pieces, especially “Evening in the Mountains”; and the absolutely splendid and bright bittersweetness of the ‘Old Norwegian Melody with Variations.’ That might be my single favorite work by Grieg and it’s every bit as good as the music he is famous for (rightly so, of course).

    And then there are all the pieces associated with the darker, supernatural elements of autumn and the last day of October—the Mephisto waltzes, the dances of death and the witches’ Sabbats—all the wonderful, ghoulish classical music that goes bump in the night.


    Comment by Joseph Charles — October 28, 2018 @ 1:57 am

  2. Here’s another good one (WPR jogged my memory by playing this): Astor Piazzolla’s “The 4 Seasons of Buenos Aires.”

    Here played by Artiom Shishkov, violin | Dima Tsypkin, cello | Sergey Smirnov, piano

    Belarusian State Philharmonic. Autumn is the 3rd movement, “Otoño Porteño.”


    Comment by fflambeau — September 23, 2018 @ 8:22 pm

  3. Hi, Jake, If you haven’t heard it already (but I’m guessing you have), try Panufnik’s Autumn Music.

    Cordial regards,John Holzaepfel


    Comment by Joan Callan — September 22, 2018 @ 8:21 am

  4. You can hear the swans heading South in Sibelius’s great Symphony #5.

    A monumental work here played beautifully by Bernstein and the VPO.


    Comment by fflambeau — September 22, 2018 @ 1:07 am

  5. Jean Sibelius. He always makes me feel like I am in some Northern, chilly woods. Also, Dvorak.


    Comment by fflambeau — September 22, 2018 @ 1:04 am



    Comment by Terry Baer — September 22, 2018 @ 12:11 am

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