Warmer months are on their way, and for today’s post we asked our friend Josh, a violist, if he’d create a classical playlist that we might enjoy over the summer. Here’s what he sent us!
Sam and Claire
A classical playlist for summer
I’ve put together 20 tracks of classical pieces that remind me of summer, and I hope you will listen and hear the sounds of summer in this music! In this spirit, I want to share some fun facts with you about a few of the pieces I chose, why I chose them, and how a couple of them relate to each other. You’ll find the playlist here.
1-3. Antonio Vivaldi, Summer from The Four Seasons
How could I not include this on a classical playlist about summer? The Four Seasons are arguably some of the most famous pieces of music ever written, but did you know that each of the four concerti have stories that inspire the music? Antonio Vivaldi himself wrote a poem to go along with each concerto, and in lots of scores the text of each poem is printed in between the bars of music! Here is an excerpt from Vivaldi’s poem about Summer. Can you hear the birds and the storm in the music?
Under the heat of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the pine is parched.
The cuckoo finds its voice, and suddenly,
The turtledove and goldfinch sing.
A gentle breeze blows,
But suddenly, the north wind appears.
The shepherd weeps because, overhead,
Lies the fierce storm, and his destiny.
8. Felix Mendelssohn, Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream
I’ve been lucky enough to perform this piece, and I have nothing but the fondest memories of this overture! Mendelssohn wrote this along with other pieces (including a Scherzo, Track 11 on this playlist) to provide background music for a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as such he created musical themes for each of the factions in the play: the violins play fast, quiet 16th notes to represent the fairies coming out at night; the second theme is a lilting love theme for the four lovers; and the whole orchestra even gets to hee-haw like a donkey!
10. Astor Piazzolla, Verano Porteño (Summer in Buenos Aires)
If you haven’t listened to Piazzolla’s music before, I’m delighted to introduce him to you! Astor Piazzolla was an Argentine composer and leader of the Piazzolla Quintet, comprised of piano, violin, double bass, electric guitar, and bandoneon (similar to an accordion). Piazzolla wrote fabulous tangos, one of which is Verano Porteño, from a set of four tangos called The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The version in this playlist is an arrangement of these tangos by Leonid Desyatnikov for violin and strings, and one of the things that makes this arrangement so cool, is that it borrows musical material from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons! Since Vivaldi and Piazzolla lived in different hemispheres, Desyatnikov matched each Vivaldi concerto with the correct season that Piazzolla would have experienced in Argentina, so Piazolla’s Summer references Vivaldi’s Winter.
13. Antonin Dvořák, Serenade for Strings No. 2 in E Major, II. Tempo di Valse – Trio
This is a piece that may sound very familiar, but many people have no idea what it is! I’ve heard it at the end of podcasts, in at least three or four commercials, and on British Airways flights – so while I have no special musical reason for including it, it reminds me of summer travels!
15. Florence Price, On a Summer’s Eve
I only recently discovered this beautiful piano piece by Florence Price, and I wished I had heard it much earlier! Price was a female, African American composer, writing in the early 20th century in the United States, and she was incredibly prolific. This is one of only a couple of her pieces for which four autograph scores in her handwriting survive, and in the world of classical music, that’s a lot! If you enjoy this piece, I highly recommend you check out more of her music.
18-20. Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons: Summer 1 – 3
At the end of this playlist, we return to Vivaldi’s Summer, but this version is a little different than Vivaldi’s original. Max Richter is a living composer, and his work was featured in films like Shutter Island, Prometheus, and Arrival as well as TV shows like The Crown, Black Mirror, and The Last of Us. In this project, Richter ‘recomposed’ Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, keeping some of the original material and writing new sections of music to go along with it. I’d recommend revisiting Vivaldi’s original poem while listening to this. Can you still hear the birds and the storm in the music?
Happy listening, everyone, and thanks so much for inviting me!