6 Pieces of Classical Music About Spring

Classical Music About Spring
Classical Music About Spring

In this exploration of classical music about spring, we will embark on a journey through a rich repertoire of compositions that evoke the sights, sounds, and emotions associated with this time of renewal and growth.

From tender pastoral scenes to exuberant bursts of joy, these musical works reflect the changing seasons and celebrate the arrival of spring.

Classical Music About Spring

1. ‘Spring’ (Op.8: RV. 269) from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi

It would be all but impossible to begin a selection of classical pieces about, or related to Spring without jumping immediately to this celebrated Baroque piece.

This is one of the most performed, purchased and popular pieces of classical music that ever came from that illustrious period of musical history.

This piece is a concerto for violin plus a small string ensemble and continuo. It is part of four other concertos, each taking the title of one of the seasons.

Spring is the first of the set and like the other concertos structured in a fast-slow-fast movement. The key Vivaldi chose of E major perhaps reflects the warmth and vibrancy of spring. The brilliance of the solo violin writing in this concerto sparkles with life and bristles with energy.

Each movement of each concerto is accompanied by a sonnet that may have been written by the composer. These elegant pieces succinctly capture the spirit of the seasons and guide us to the programmatic element of this wonderful music.

2. ‘Spring Song’ from the Songs Without Words by Felix Mendelssohn

There are eight books of Songs Without Words that Mendelssohn composed in his lifetime. These range from Op.19(b) from 1829 through to Op.102 composed in 1842. Each book contains six unique miniatures many of which are now extremely well-known.

The Spring Song appears as the last piece in book 5 (Op.62) and would have been written between 1842-44). It is the last song in this collection, placed directly after an equally famous piece the Venetian Boat Song.

In contrast to the previous piece in A minor, this composition is in the bright, invigorating key of A major.

Mendelssohn composed the piece whilst residing with relatives of his wife in Camberwell Green, London. The piece is often referred to by this title.

With a tempo of Allegretto grazioso and an instantly memorable melody, this piece trips along as lightly and as carefree as a spring lamb.

3. Symphony No.1: (Op.38) The Spring Symphony by Robert Schumann

Schumann composed four symphonies in his lifetime, each distinct and inspired. This symphony was his first exploration of a large symphonic form. Interestingly, the first performance in March of 1841 in Leipzig was conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. They were quite close friends.

Of all the four symphonies this one is by far the most buoyant, exuberant and even cheerful. It’s composed in the key of B flat major and supposedly inspired by the poetry of Adolf Böttger, where the title of the work originates.

Schumann scored the work for relatively modest forces but asked that the performers breathe “a little of the longing for spring” into the work.

The symphony is formed in four movements and Schumann apparently sketched the entire work in a little over four days. It begins with a majestic fanfare before moving into a march-like allegro section.

The second movement is a beautiful lyrical larghetto that leads directly into the third movement; a scherzo in D minor. For the Finale, Schumann returns to the tonic key and leaves us with an energetic allegro to conclude.

4. Spring Song (Op.85) by Anton Dvorak

The publisher Simrock produced three books of piano from Dvorak’s opus 85. The set was composed in 1889 and could be heard as representing the mature style of the composer.

Spring Song comes as the fourth piece in the first book. Dvorak called these piano works Poetic Tone Pictures to me sound close to the Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn.

What separates the two composers is Dvorak’s harmonic approach as well as his evident use of folk melody. Spring Song does have the fluttering figurations that resemble Mendelssohn but at the same time, it is unmistakably Dvorak.

Dvorak chooses a fast tempo for the piece and a time signature of 3/8 that brings a soft lilt to the work. The gentle melody is accompanied by flowing descending triplets that effortlessly propel the music on.

After some inspired development of the material, Dvorak returns to the opening material and closes with a whispered flourish in the tonic key of A major.

5. The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky

Composed from 1911-12 on the eve of the First World War this was an extremely ambitious and ultimately controversial piece.

One of the key features of the piece, which was written to a commission from Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, is the openly brutal nature of the music and the subject material.

The previous ballets that Stravinsky had composed were a world away from The Rite of Spring. Their tonal palette, tunefulness and use of favourite Russian stories like that of the Firebird and Petrushka as the narrative, appealed to the audiences without challenge.

The Rite of Spring is scored for an enormous orchestra. Its focus is drawn from a time when Russia was pagan, ritualistic and wild. The two parts of The Rite of Spring, during which we are plunged into a terrifying world where a young girl dances herself to death at the advent of spring.

Stravinsky’s music is dissonant, full of violent, angular rhythms, that stretched the abilities of musicians and dancers. As you might expect, the audience’s reaction in Paris in 1913 was one of shock and anger

It is a work of genius that uncompromisingly broke ground. Today, The Rite of Spring is an essential orchestral repertoire and the brilliance of Stravinsky is fully acknowledged.

6. Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland

For me, this is one of the most delightful, bright, joyful works to come from the pen of American composer Aaron Copland

The work was commissioned in 1942 by Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge who was keen to have a new ballet for the respected dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. The ballet rightfully won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.

What you hear in the score is Copland’s conjuring of a wonderful wedding day at a typical 19th Century farmhouse.

You hear Copland summon each of the characters through the lively and cleverly scored material, including the young couple who are to be married, the preacher and the pioneering woman.

Copland, as he has often done in other scores, draws from other musical sources. What has helped secure this work a place in so many peoples’ minds is the Shaker tune called Simple Gifts.

This is first heard in the clarinet part and Copland then continues to compose five superb variations on it. In the final section after the celebrations have subsided, the music returns towards that of the opening; spiritual, calm and warm.

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