While we all sit back and recover from the outstandingly tense match between England and Colombia in the World Cup, we have gathered some of the best pieces of music about sport. You will probably want to have our playlist on repeat for the next few weeks, as England (hopefully) progresses through the competition and Wimbledon gets underway!
Debussy’s Jeux was premiered by the Ballets Russes just two weeks prior to the riotous debut of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The short ballet pays witness to three young people searching for a lost tennis ball at dusk, ending with a sinister conclusion. The music is in a swift triple-metre, often interrupted by syncopation and rubato.
Arthur Honegger: Rugby (1928)
Honegger’s Rugby (Mouvement Symphonique No. 2) is an orchestral tone poem representing a game of rugby through the passing of a musical theme from one section of the orchestra to another. The dichotomy of dissonance and consonance reflects the struggle of the game, and the final passages glorify the winner’s victory.
Jean Sibelius: The Lonely Ski Trail (1925)
The Lonely Ski Trail is scored for speaker and piano and is based on a poem by Bertel Gripenberg. The piece rotates themes of loneliness and mortality around skiing and brings them to the fore with syncopated rhythms and wistful melodies. It is sometimes performed in a version for harp and strings.
Mauricio Kagel: Match (1964)
Kagel’s Match is a piece for two cellos and percussion. A game of tennis is represented through the two cello lines whilst the percussionist takes the role of the interfering referee.
Listen to our sporty tunes here:
Émile Waldteufel: The Skaters’ Waltz (1882)
The Skaters’ Waltz, Op. 183 is probably the best known work by French composer Émile Waldteufel. It evokes a frozen scene around the Seine in Paris. Waldteufel contrasts the stately grandeur of a French horn line with flurrying scalic passages in the flute, piccolo and violin parts. The use of sleigh bells and the triangle adds a seasonal touch to the piece.
Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie (1997-9)
The Silver Tassie is an opera based on a play of the same name by Seán O’Casey. Set during the First World War, the opera opens with local sporting hero Harry as he accepts a prize (the Silver Tassie) for his acheivements. The plot goes on to document his demise at the hand of experiencing the tragedies of war.
Charles Ives: Yale-Princeton Football Game (1898)
Ives’s Yale-Princeton Football Game is the perfect encapsulation of his shared passion for music and sport. As a Yale graduate, the composer returned to the university for the game, the experience of which he wanted to express afterwards in music. Like in Honegger’s Rugby, the use of instrumentation characterises the different players on the pitch.
Erik Satie: Sports et divertissements (1914)
Satie’s Sport et divertissements is a collection of 21 piano miniatures, each presented alongside a short poem. Each depict a sport or leisure activity, and Satie uses music programmatically to reflect the characteristics of each game. A bouncing ball in tennis can be heard in the short staccato quavers; the smooth waves under a yaught in legato quavers.
Need a playlist to listen to when you go for a run? We’ve got just the playlist here.