What's the Sound of Springtime in Classical Music?

Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 12:00 AM

spring7.jpg Brooklyn Botanical Garden

The arrival of a new season is big news in some pursuits: summer means blockbuster movies for Hollywood. The winter brings a flurry of cold-weather cocktails to bars and hearty soups to restaurants. In autumn, the serious theater and dance seasons usually fire up.

But classical music has often been a relatively season-agnostic pursuit. Fans of the art form are just as likely to consume the same programs of Bach, Brahms or Bartok at Avery Fisher Hall in January as they would at Tanglewood or Ravinia in July. Of course, there is summer pops fare: orchestras like the Boston Pops kick into high gear starting in early May and keeps a heavy schedule through August. Opera companies prefer Parsifal in the spring and Hansel and Gretel in December.

But increasingly such lines are blurred: Winter can bring Broadway show tunes to the Philharmonic while the summer can mean premieres and adventurous fare to amphitheaters from Santa Fe to Verbier. As for spring? It's a short season, for one, given that most New York venues at least wind down by mid-May and June is virtually an off-month.

So are some works are inherently suited to certain times of year? If so, what would spring sound like? For the first day of the Vernal Equinox, WQXR is offering some different expressions of spring. Some composers sought to evoke the stormy aspects of the season (Mahler's First Symphony; Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring) while others captured its spirit of bucolic reawakening (Sibelius's Spring Song, Strauss's Fruhling). 

Tell us: What signals spring to you, in music or perhaps in New York? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.


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Comments [18]

Eliot G. from Earth

Spring from Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is a fun tango piece.

Mar. 30 2014 11:29 AM
Jared from Greenwich CT

Leslie said above that the sound of springtime is "good music". I agree 100%!! Needless to say I am passionate about the same music and composers year round. I will happily listen to a Sibelius symphony on the hottest day
of summer. Many compositions that have "spring" in the title reflect little of that season and seem arbitrary. (see other's examples). I'm surprised no one mentioned Delius's "Upon hearing the first cuckoo in spring", that does
offer a bit of springtime but then again...it's Delius's typical soft and airy style.

For no reason that I can fathom, the ethereal chamber music of Arnold Bax can remind me of spring, now that
I think of it. Oft it's flute, harp, strings; glorious, lovely and longing melodies...so that's the frame of mind for me I suppose-when I stop and think of it.

Mar. 24 2014 04:57 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Listening to Boccherini's Guitar Quintet(the Fandango) with the serenading each other of the various strings and guitar riffs, followed by the castanets, makes me think of late spring bursting into summer. Those castanets sure get your blood and body moving. Bravo Luigi

Mar. 22 2014 10:47 AM
The Truth from LES

Great to hear Mahler 1 today - and the FULL piece, not just a snippet like you're often prone to do. One thing: why can't your announcers say a little something about the piece? Try and educate us and not just say the name of the composer and performers? What was Bernstein's relationship to Mahler? When was this recording made? Lenny did several versions - tell us what makes this one special. That's why I come to a classical radio station and not just plug in Pandora and let it run on auto-pilot!

Mar. 20 2014 05:05 PM

Well this year is very different from all others for me. I had the pleasure of watching Ms. Hilary Hahn perform the Brahms this past Sunday in Morristown NJ. Her performance was so fresh and lively that I left the theatre with a "spring" in my step. (sometimes I crack myself up)

Mar. 20 2014 04:00 PM
Brunnhilde from NYC

"Wintersturme" taunts me about spring.....and then "du bist der Lenz" fulfills that tease.

Mar. 20 2014 12:41 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

It is not classical music, but the song of the cardinals in my yard is sweet music to my ears. There they go singing their little hearts out.

Mar. 20 2014 11:56 AM
Emma from Long Island, NY

Il Barbiere di Sevglia overture by Rossini - it has calm moving lines, and also more aggressive ones, like a spring breeze :D

Mar. 20 2014 10:52 AM
RG from Boston

Handel's "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba," from "Solomon." That piece -- so fresh and jaunty -- always puts an extra bounce in my step, like the arrival of spring after a long hard winter.

Mar. 20 2014 10:46 AM
Ege Maltepe from New York, NY

Vivaldi - from Il Giardino Armonico

Mar. 20 2014 10:31 AM
Leslie A. Miller from Belfast, Maine

What is the sound of music in the spring?

Good music.

Mar. 20 2014 10:20 AM
Gev Sweeney from The Jersey Shore

The Drunkard in Spring portion of Das Lied von der Erde has the line, "Der Lenz ist da, sei kommen über Nacht!" -- Spring is here; it arrived overnight.

Mar. 20 2014 10:13 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Respighi's unjustly neglected "Three Botticelli Pictures" has an opening movement entitled "Spring" and notwithstanding that, sounds very fresh, appealing and positive as befits the season. The second movement, "The Adoration of the Magi" doesn't really herald the season, but I think the final "The Birth of Venus" does. Respighi's "The Birds" also has a fresh and somewhat naive appeal to it, based upon four baroque composers' works, one of whom is anonymous. I like hearing both of these works in the Spring.

Mar. 20 2014 09:51 AM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

"Printemps qui commence" from 'Samson et Dalila'!

Mar. 20 2014 09:40 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

When Sigmund exclaims Armed with gentle weapons, spring conquers the world. I think I have the right translation from Die Walkure. The cave is flooded with light. How lovely and he runs off with his sister/bride.

Mar. 20 2014 07:58 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

Karl Goldmark's "In Springtime" overture signals the season's arrival, at least for me.

Mar. 20 2014 06:15 AM

Sullivan: "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring."



Mar. 20 2014 02:37 AM

For the first day of Spring, there is absolutely no piece of music that is more fitting than Concerto No. 1 in E major (the Spring movement) of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.

Mar. 20 2014 01:47 AM

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