Six of the best: pieces of classical music for summer
We celebrate music inspired by the summer
Wimbledon is underway. The World Cup is here. And the newspapers are full of pictures of people punting in Cambridge and licking ice creams on Brighton beach. Now all we need is for the weather to behave and for the sun to stay out.
Whatever the weather, however, now is surely the time to celebrate classical music's love of the summer season. Here are six works which do just that.
1. Felix Mendelssohn: Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Mendelsohn wrote his Overture in 1826 when he was just 17, attempting to capture the poetic imagery of the original Shakespeare play. The scampering of fairies' feet can be heard in frantic semiquaver runs, while Nick Bottom’s braying donkey is evoked by humorous string glissandi. Mendelssohn revisited the piece in 1843 when he composed a selection of incidental music to accompany a staging of the play.
2. Alexander Glazunov: The Seasons (summer)
Premiered in 1900 by the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg, The Seasons was Glazunov’s second collaboration with the renowned choreographer Marius Petipa. The third scene opens in a field of flowers and a sprightly waltz accompanies the entrance of nymphs and other enchanted creatures as they dance in the summer sun.
3. Frank Bridge: Summer
Sweeping melodic lines and constantly changing dynamics evoke a typical English summer in this orchestral tone poem by Bridge. His creates vivid images with his colourful orchestration, using the horn and the oboe to recall traditional pastoral connotations, and the harp to represent an undulating country landscape. Bridge himself conducted the premier of the piece in March 1916.
4. Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (summer)
Each of the concertos that make up Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is accompanied by a selection of Italian sonnets, possibly written by the composer himself. The three movements of Summer chart the approach of an oncoming storm which erupts dramatically in the final movement. Vivaldi also includes more unconventional directions, such as the description of a passage in the first movement to be interpreted as ‘languor caused by the heart’.
5. Frederick Delius: A Song of Summer
Delius dictated much of his beautifully evocative tone poem to his amanuensis, Eric Fendy after becoming blind. Expressive string melodies and wide brass chords represent the rise and fall of waves against a clear summer sky, while the flutes evoke the flight of a seagull, gliding serenely above.
6. George Gershwin: Summertime
Composed for his 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, and inspired by the blues and spiritual styles from the southern states of America, Gershwin wanted his aria, ‘Summertime’ to sound like a real folk song. The simple melody, based around only a few notes, has led to it being covered more than 30,000 times and in a wide variety of styles.