The Evergreen Classical Spring: primephonic Writers' Choice
31 March 2016
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We asked two of primephonic's regular contributors what thoughts and feelings Spring brings to them, in relation to classical music.
Jordy van Wijk
We have made it through the dark days of the year. In contrast to autumn and winter which are associated with cold, darkness and death, spring is literally the season of birth and new beginnings and of course the feast of the season: Easter. And if there is anything inseparable from Easter it must be Bach’s ‘Matthäus Passion’.
Throughout the centuries, holidays have turned into a combination of festivals and celebrations and Easter is no exception to that rule. As a matter of fact, Easter is the prime example of this. Many aspects of different religions are adopted into this moveable feast. It is the festival of spring: the honouring of Queen Ostara the Goddess of spring and fertility (hence the colour yellow and the Easter eggs), folk festival maypole, the sacred grove, the celebration of the people of Israel being led out of Egypt and more. Christianity holds the best-known reason why we celebrate Easter, that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So like any holiday, Easter is a great opportunity for religious and non-religious people to visit a church. This may be for a service or for a concert. But perhaps the biggest event of Easter must be an enactment of Bach’s ‘Matthäus Passion’.
It has always amazed me how are many conventions that we can owe to the influence of the church. Can you imagine that it was prohibited to use the tri-tone interval because it was the “devil’s interval”? It is nothing more than the distance between two notes, but somehow people considered it diabolic. Religion also pushed a lot of symbolism into musical laws. For example; the holy trinity made the number three divine and sacred, a number that was considered to be perfect. That is amazing!
Ever since Antonio Vivaldi’s graceful and magnificent violin concerto in The Four Seasons (a work with its own fascinating history), classical composers have been repeatedly inspired and captivated by the spring season. From baroque music all the way to modern compositions such as Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring or Copland’s Appalachian Spring, spring has been associated with and served as a theme for numerous works of exceptional artistry and great importance.
After a careful spring clean of the relevant repertoire, here are ten of the most beautiful spring compositions, in chronological order:
Joseph Haydn – Spring, from The Seasons
Ludwig van Beethoven - Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24, "Spring"
Franz Schubert - Frühlingstraum ("Dream of Spring"), from Winterreise
Robert Schumann - Symphony No. 1, Op. 38, "Spring"
Felix Mendelssohn - Frühlingslied ("Spring Song"), from Songs Without Words (Book V, Op. 62, No. 6)
Richard Wagner - Siegmund's Spring Song, from The Valkyrie
Edvard Grieg - Til våren ("To Spring"), from Lyric Pieces (Book III, Op. 43, No. 6)
Christian Sinding - Frühlingsrauschen ("Rustle of Spring")
Claude Debussy - Rondes de printemps ("Round dances of spring"), from Images pour orchestra
Frederick Delius - On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring
Corigliano’s latest opera The Ghosts of Versailles just won both best opera recording and best engineered album at the Grammys. primephonic caught up with one of the stars of the celebrated production, the American baritone Lucas Meachem.
Their nuanced dynamic shaping so heavenly performed and captured, it’s very hard to recall better examples. The whole thing is simply entrancing. This is probably as spiritual, in a primeval way, as music can possible be.