Souvenir de Chamonix

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 07:01 AM

The cliché September school essay, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” will be no problem for me this year. Earlier this month, I fulfilled a dream of hiking in the Alps.

Our group of 17 headquartered in a nice hotel in Chamonix, France, the valley beneath Mont Blanc, and home of the first modern Winter Olympics in 1924. The slopes, which in winter are skimmed down by skiers, are grassy summer meadows in the lower elevations, crisscrossed by hiking trails. Assisted by chair lifts and ski gondolas, we were in Alpine splendor every day. One day, we hiked across the Swiss border, and a few of us took a gondola across the Italian border, too. We took a chilly, refreshing dip in a mountain lake on one hike; on another, we scrambled up a mountain snowfield next to a glacier, and after lunch in a hut on a little plateau, a few of us slid back down, giggling like children!

One of our fellow-travelers is putting together a DVD from our hundreds of photographs. He asked me for advice on music to accompany the pictures. I have some ideas, but I thought I’d share the pictures with you and ask you for thoughts. What musical works – classical or otherwise – come to your mind as you look at these beautiful mountain scenes?

The mountains near Chamonix.
One of our hikes.
Mountain Flora...
...and Fauna.
The Aiguille du Midi is the sharp peak on the middle left, and Mont Blanc is the rounded white peak at center, and the village of Chamonix is below.

From the Aiguille du Midi, a mountain peak above Chamonix, ice climbers walk out on a vast snowfield.
Hiking up a snowfield.
My wife and I will never forget this amazing vacation.


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Comments [31]

Silvia Hakanoglu from New york City

A long time has passed since you first posted the blog, but I did not get around to comment sooner.
How about selections from Arvo Part's music, to underline the almost mystical beauty of the landscapes? I think music by Benedetto Marcello or his contemporary musicians would set a good complementary atmosphere.
I do enjoy listening to you in the morning and you often make me laugh!

Jul. 30 2010 11:18 AM
Rosemarie Gates from FortLee, NJ

The beautiful photos could be backdrops to Rossini's opera, Guglielmo Tell, which takes place in Switzerland - and I always feel that the mountains are a powerful character in the story. This alpine beauty and the community that it nurtured is, after all, what they are fighting for. Some of the chorus sections are absolutely transcendant and would give a nice pastoral flavor to the photos. For example from Act 1: "Pastori intorno ergete il canto!.." and "Al fremer del torrente...."

Jul. 24 2010 11:18 PM
Julia de Bary from Kearny, NJ

Hello Jeff;
Thank you for share your pictures, really beauitful that it come to my brain..".Meditation" from Thais!
You do a great job and your sence of humor...I love it:)

Jul. 24 2010 08:17 AM
Dan O'Neill

You believe it should be called a concerto, but D'Indy titled it "Symphony on a French Mountain Air"!

Jul. 23 2010 02:51 PM
Jacques from NYC, NY

Hi Jeff,
Glad you enjoyed our beautiful French Alps. Lynn from Little Neck suggested Berlioz' Harold in Italy earlier. Considering the fact that the Alps lie between Berlioz birthplace in La Cote St Andree and Italy, I find it rather appropriate. Hope that you will agree.
With best,

Jul. 23 2010 10:38 AM
Michael Meltzer

There is actually an Alphorn Concerto by Leopold Mozart. On the old first Hoffnung Music Festival recording (a pre-PDQ Bach
comedy effort), the late Dennis Brain played what I think was the third movement of it on a garden hose fitted with a French Horn mouthpiece (incredibly well, I think there was just one clinker).
I have no idea if there is a legitimate complete recording.

Jul. 23 2010 10:20 AM
Lynn Merklinger from Little Neck, NY

When I look at the photos, I hear Movement III of Hector Berlioz "Harold in Italy (Serande of an Abruzzi Mountain Dweller to His Mistress). I see a man traversing the Italian Alps, walking stick in hand. Thanks for sharing the photos.

Lynn Merklinger

Jul. 23 2010 08:59 AM
Pam Melhado from Hartsdale, nY

I can't believe nobody has suggested any Alphorn music! I first heard it several years ago while at the Verbier Festival. It's quintessential Alps fare.

I'd like to add that yours is a particularly welcome and refreshing voice on my morning commute. Thanks for helping start my work days on such a delightful note.

Jul. 22 2010 08:24 PM
Michael Meltzer

It was in very hot summer weather such as this, that an electrical fire in a shaving cream factory caused the explosion of several tanks of shave cream which blew the roof off the factory, raising several huge mounds of lather rivalling the Alps.
The event was immortalized by composer Carl Ruggles in his, "Mennin Mountains."

Jul. 22 2010 06:57 PM
Phyllis Sharpe

I'm sorry I can't think of a classical music reference, but instead a classic American song "The hills are alive with the sound of Music" struck me instantly. I also was reminded of how many times I read "Heidi in the Mountains" to my daughter. So thanks for the pictures and the memories.

Jul. 21 2010 04:56 PM
Rita from Cresskill

Thank you for sharing your images, and for your wry sense of humor. You're a worthy successor to Lloyd Moss.How about some opera (in Italian, but a French subject) Andrea Chenier's arias "Un di al'azzuro spazio" and "Come un bel di di Maggio"?

Jul. 21 2010 12:48 PM
David from Warren County, NJ

I hope this does not sound too corny, but your pictures of the Alps remind me of Swiss dairy farms, and so I would suggest the classical barnyard tune: "Turkey In The Straw". Jeff played a great piano version awhile ago

Jul. 21 2010 11:42 AM
Martin Beiser from Manhattan

I too was thinking "Night on Bald Mountain." Of course, there's Beethoven's Pastoral. Keep up the fine work, Mr. Spurgeon. You are among the many pleasures of living in NYC.

Jul. 21 2010 08:54 AM
Francisca from Scarsdale, New York

i agree with Frank from Brooklyn - it is so refreshing to have someone like you instead of the dreaded Duncan Pirnie who was enough to turn anyone off from classical music - the naysayer is that sort of person - small wonder that you were voted the No. 1 DJ by some publication - which one i can't remember - someone has already mentioned the Alpine Symphony which is what first came to mind but isn't there an opera called Linda di Chamonix by Donizetti (?) - never heard it but it sticks in my mind - thanks for your ever upbeat morning personality

Jul. 21 2010 07:57 AM
Mike keenan

Music to go with your Alpine vacation: D'Indy Symphony on a French Mountain Air, Liszt, Le Prelude, Wagner's Forest Murmers, Overture to Das Rheingold

Jul. 21 2010 07:45 AM
Frank. from Brooklyn NY

I must take exception to the person who complained about your broadcasting. You do a spectacular job and I particularly enjoy your sense of humor. Glad that you enjoyed the hiking and scenery.

Jul. 21 2010 06:54 AM
Heywood Gould

I had hoped the mountain air would cure you of your irritating habit of cheerleading for the classics. Do we really need to be told that Beethoven is "wonderful?" And your use of hollow superlatives. I counted four "terrifics" in one hour last week.

Jul. 20 2010 06:11 PM
Nancy Wight from New York City

Dear Jeff,

Thanks so much for sharing your summer vacation. You were greatly missed. I so appreciate your cheerful voice when I have returned myself from vacation. My suggestions have already been posted, but how about "Night on Bald Mountain," plus any number of Schubert songs dealing with die berge, and a yodeling track, too. You sing, so you can do the last one yourself.

All best,
Nancy Wight

Jul. 20 2010 10:32 AM
Leonard Dauber

What else but Vincent D'Indy's Symphony on a French Mountain Air? The music is not quite as breathtaking as the scenery, but it is not played as often as it should

Jul. 20 2010 09:14 AM
Pat Volini

I would buy J. Ralph's "The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine & Nazur" from iTunes--there are multiple pieces that would work but you might not know it from the 30 second preview.

My husband & I were in the same area the end of June--breath-taking!

Jul. 20 2010 07:48 AM
Chris Martin from Geneva, Switzerland

I was actually in Chamonix this last weekend, and I listened to Beethoven's 6th symphony while there and felt that the music very much fit my surroundings.

Jul. 20 2010 07:01 AM
Pat Vann

Beautiful pictures, I think of the Lord of The Rings, Return of the King, the lighting of the fires to alert Gondor to invasion. I know that's motion picture music, but the vision is wide and awesome. Also I think of Wagner's ring cycle. Sigfried journey. May be anathema to France & French Alps, but its majesty overwhelms you. More intimate chamber music for the flora & fauna; there you might go to local composers. Again thanks for sharing. You are great in the AM!

Jul. 19 2010 08:36 PM

Eat any CHOCOLATE Jeff??.....(lol)

Jul. 19 2010 07:22 PM
Hans-Hartwig Ehlers from NYC

great photos Jeff I wish I could be there right now, musically these images would be
greatly accompanied by Richard Strauss'
" Eine Alpensinfonie".

Jul. 19 2010 06:19 PM
i.russo-alesi from bellerose, N.Y.

Beautiful pictures...glad you had a good time...thank God?
By the way, you tend to mumble the end of some of your sentences...

Jul. 19 2010 05:32 PM
Richard Newburger from New York, NY

Great photos, Jeff.
How about anything performed by L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande...

Jul. 19 2010 04:06 PM
Annette Shandolow-Hassell from North Bergen

Beautiful pictures!

What about the last movement of St. Saens' "Organ" Symphony?

Jul. 19 2010 03:48 PM
Doreen Antonelli from New York City

Beautiful pictures. Perhaps one of
Itzhak Perlman's performances of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Can you ever go wrong with either of these men?


Doreen Antonelli

Jul. 19 2010 03:17 PM
Paul Manzon from Somerset, NJ

Hi, Jeff!
Perhaps "Clair de Lune" or "Meditation" from Thais! Thanks for sharing the lovely pics! Just spectacular!

Jul. 19 2010 01:57 PM
Charlotte Yudin

The first piece that comes to mind is "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite". Actually, several pieces from "Peer Gynt" would be appropriate.

Jul. 19 2010 09:50 AM
Leland Hoch

Suggest suggest Strauss's Alpine Symphony as musical accompaniment for the DVD.

Leland Hoch

Jul. 19 2010 08:31 AM

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