Top Five Works to Greet the New Season
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Spring officially sprung on March 20 with the vernal equinox, and count us among those excited. In order to summon the warmer weather with its balmier breezes and longer leisurely days, here are our top five works to greet the new season:
1. There isn't a more dramatic way to ring in the new season than with a human sacrifice. Stravinsky’s seminal ballet score the Rite of Spring, written to accompany a young woman’s dance to her death, is up to the task. The 1911 premiere that sent Paris audiences rioting still sounds modern today.
2. Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring is full of references to corn fields, open prairie skies, Shaker hymns and other pieces of Americana. The music and the Martha Graham ballet was initially intended for Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It wasn’t until Copland completed the score that Graham titled it with a phrase taken from a Hart Crane poem.
3. Like Copland, Beethoven didn’t name his Fifth Violin Sonata "Spring." The name caught on shortly after he completed it, though the adopted moniker is not without reason. Its F-Major key is the same one as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and the playful interwoven violin and piano lines evoke the cheerfulness and optimism of spring, especially in the sprightly third movement scherzo.
4. Unlike Beethoven and Copland, Schumann explicitly called his Symphony No. 1 the Spring Symphony after Adolph Böttger’s poem. Schumann described the opening horn fanfare as “a summons to life.” Though he composed it during the winter 1841, the symphony is an aural description of the greening of the earth.
5. Johann Strauss's waltz Frühlingstimmen, or Voices of Spring, features a coloratura soprano chirping about larks, nightingales, love and other things that seems to awake in late March. This lively song enumerates the wonders of spring, but American audiences might recognize Strauss's work from this Three Stooges episode.