Classical composers were getting inspiration native the 4 seasons hundreds of years before anyone ever before sang about “walking in a Winter Wonderland” or belted out just how much castle “love Paris in the Springtime.” The assorted sights and also sounds of every season, merged with the different emotions conjured increase by winter, spring, summer, and fall, were frequently perfect sources for any type of classical composer in need of some new material.

You are watching: Vivaldi is noted for writing instrumental music that depicts a scene without the use of sung words.

As a result, us lucky listeners have a wide selection of piece to choose from if we want to gain into a seasonal mood. Whole symphonies dedicated to spring? Check. Entire ballets devoted to winter? Check. And also the list goes on and on…

Feel like providing each season a an individual playlist? This handy overview to keeping the standards with you every year round have the right to help.


Lesson Content


Vivaldi: The guy for all Seasons

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Before we look at every season individually, let’s pause to think about one of the couple of classical pieces that to be bold enough to tackle all of them in one go: Antonio Vivaldi\"s collection of four baroque concertos, best known as the Four Seasons.

In Four Seasons, winter, spring, summer, and also fall each obtain their own concerto created for a violin soloist, a team of string instruments, and also a keyboard. Concertos were Vivaldi’s specialty—works in three movements, normally written because that one solo instrument and a back-up ensemble.

What provides Four Seasons so special, however, isn’t its size (twelve movements total!); it’s the it manages come tell a story and capture specific scenes there is no the assist of words…kind of favor a music painting. What’s the big deal, girlfriend ask? The large deal is the this to be a pretty new concept in Vivaldi’s day. Prior to Vivaldi, purely critical music rarely had a story blueprint or “program” come go along with it.

What’s even an ext of a big deal is that Four Seasons helps you produce some incredibly “detailed” mental images by casting particular instruments together “characters” or as facets of nature. Hear those trills (i.e., vibrating sounds) from the violin in Spring? Those space meant to it is in birds to sing in springtime. The rumbling in the cellos in Winter? That’s an alleged to stand for a winter storm.

Vivaldi - Concerto No. 1 in E major,\"Spring\" (La primavera), I. AllegroVivaldi - Concerto No. 4 in F minor,\"Winter\" (L\"inverno), I. Allegro non molto

Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, every concerto sometimes inserts a ritornello (a musical “refrain” the repeats over and over, pronounced ree-torn-EL-oh) the helps listeners settle right into the general sentiment the the season. For example, Spring’s famous refrain is upbeat and also “joyous,” while Winter’s characteristics ritornello is furious and forceful.


Why should you hear to Vivaldi's \"Four Seasons\"?


Spring: here comes the sun…

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Rise and also shine and get all set for this spring-themed functions designed to conjure up thoughts of new beginnings and endless possibilities. From the gentle and also graceful come the powerful and exciting, these works, choose the season castle represent, are complete of expectation and inspiration. So jump-start your ears through these sometimes bright and also breezy, periodically riveting and also relentless bits the music…and be sure to listen for music illustrations of seasonal sounds choose singing bird or roll thunder follow me the way.

Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, motion 1: “Dawn” by Edvard Grieg

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Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, movement 1: “Dawn”

This interlude through Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg comes from a much bigger work based upon a beat by fellow countryman Henrik Ibsen. The renowned and, as writer H.T. Finck notes, “exquisitely beautiful” melody—constantly used in cartoons to suggest a bright sunny day—moves gently up and down the musical scale, type of choose a light spring breeze. Watch out for the tiny trills played by the flute the sound choose birds chirping.

“Variations ~ above a Shaker Hymn” from Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland

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Copland - “Variations on a Shaker Hymn” indigenous Appalachian Spring

American composer Aaron Copland made decision the acquainted Shaker tune “Simple Gifts” (or “’Tis the Gift to be Simple”) as the basis because that this ar of choreographer Martha Graham’s ballet, Appalachian Spring. In act so, Copland offered the song a sweeping and majestic reinterpretation, enabling it to pass through different instruments at different speeds. Expected to evoke a “celebration in spring…in the Pennsylvania hills,” this movement begins with a clarinet solo but grows steadily right into a forceful statement for the whole orchestra. Composed in a cheerful significant key (i.e., specific set of notes), this extra forte (loud) moment suggests the glorious “optimism and hope” often connected with spring.

Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, “Spring” by Robert Schumann

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Schumann - Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major, “Spring”

Robert Schumann said he wanted the opening moments of this bold and exciting symphony come “sound…like a speak to to awaken” his listeners. And does that ever. If you assumed the noises of feather were merely soft and also lilting, think again. In his “Spring” symphony (based on a poem about the season and perhaps inspired by Schumann’s very own happy marriage), Schumann records the joy and anticipation that go hand in hand through the come of spring by infusing his music with several syncopation (notes that don’t loss on a steady beat and also leave you emotion a little off kilter). Expect some heart-pounding percussive passages and also electrifying calls from the brass instruments in this brilliant ode to the season the “new life.”

Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastoral” by Ludwig valve Beethoven

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Beethoven -Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastoral”

Symphonic master Ludwig valve Beethoven was a huge fan that the countryside and also this piece—complete through musical depictions of dance shepherds, rumbling thunderstorms, and also babbling brooks—can it is in heard together one huge love letter come nature. Be cautious not to take anything because that granted together you journey v Beethoven’s tourism of the country; sometimes small moments (like a tiny flute solo in ~ the finish of motion 2) have the right to build and develop until they come to be massive themes (like the thrilling track in the final movement).

Music for feather HolidaysEaster

Intermezzo indigenous Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni

This short but beautiful critical piece acts as a peaceful intermission in one otherwise violent and also tragic opera that takes place totally on Easter Sunday.

Russian Easter Festival Overture by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Russian composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s music depiction of an Easter company features everything from the “call and response” of typical church chants (represented through solo “calling” instruments and larger “responding” instrument ensembles) to the bustling feather celebrations that follow Easter mass.

Messiah by Georg frederic Handel

Though generally heard in ~ Christmastime, much of Handel’s famed work—particularly the familiar “Hallelujah!” chorus—deals with the Biblical account of the occasions of Easter.

Passover

Israel in Egypt by Georg frederic Handel

This regularly dark and also mysterious piece for voices and orchestra portrays the suffering and eventual triumph of the Old Testament tale of Passover. Shot listening to “He sent a special Darkness” because that a frightfully atmospheric photo of a shadowy Egypt, then switch to “Sing Ye come the Lord” to relieve your ears with some brighter, more joy music.

Now on come the sizzling job of summer…


Summer: …And the livin’ is easy

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Classical music for the summer season is often as laid back and relaxing as your typical day in ~ the beach. Mainly sweet and soothing, the following summer pieces tend to repeat the very same melodies and also themes over and over, making time seem favor it’s standing still—kind the the same method a swelteringly warm afternoon have the right to seem to go on and also on forever. Store your ears open for several solos native the wind instruments, whose soft and also syrupy sound may simply send girlfriend off into a blissful summer night’s dream.

Three tiny Tone Poems: I. Summer Evening by Frederick Delius

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Delius - Three tiny Tone Poems: I. Summer Evening

British composer Frederick Delius’s take it on a summer’s night is perfect hammock music. In fact, the main theme, with its gentle syncopation, seems to in reality sway earlier and forth in hammock fashion. Plus, Delius’s music unfolds in long, slow, continual phrases (a stylistic trick well-known as legato, pronounced leh-GA-toh) without any real breaks or musical rests. This relaxed motion from note to note could remind girlfriend of a lazy evening throughout a summer heat wave.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture, Op. 61 by Felix Mendelssohn

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Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture, Op. 61

Mendelssohn’s relatively short homage to Shakespeare’s comedy (not come be puzzled with the much longer piece created as a type of soundtrack to the whole play) is often as “dreamy” together a hazy summer’s evening many thanks to some lovely and also lilting music native the wind instruments. However don’t get too comfortable—Dream likewise includes some incredibly bouncy and also fanciful tunes designed come evoke the hilarious misadventures that the forest fairies, star-crossed lovers, and also clumsy theatre troupe members that consist of Shakespeare’s story. If you’re familiar with the play, you might recognize several of those large leaps in the violins as being an imitation of donkey noises.

Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the afternoon the a faun) by Claude Debussy

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Debussy - Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune

Ever acquire the feeling once it’s an extremely hot outside that you have actually trouble reasoning straight? favor you’re walking through a fog? This renowned Debussy piece catches some of that sensation by introducing tiny bits the winding melody that drift aimlessly along and never yes, really go in a “straight” or noticeable direction. These fragmented tunes—often play by the flute, clarinet, or oboe—are frequently surrounded through a most trembling (or tremolo, TREH-moh-loh) results from the strings, which produce a sleepy atmosphere similar to a hot and humid summer day.

Music because that Summer HolidaysThe 4th of July

The Stars and Stripes Forever by man Philip Sousa

It’s merely not a fourth of July celebration without this quintessentially American item from the man well-known as the “March King.” that is trademark “big-band” flavor is therefore lively and exciting, the never stops working to acquire audiences in a patriotic mood.

1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Though that Russian background has nothing to do with the fourth of July, the 1812 Overture—a tour-de-force that includes actual canon fire and tons of crashing cymbals—goes really well with fireworks.

Labor Day

Fanfare because that the common Man by Aaron Copland

Copland’s people War II Era item was draft to honor anyone and also everyone in the American workforce. Despite fanfares (showy piece for brass instruments) to be usually reserved for royalty or heads of state, Copland broke with tradition and wrote one because that the daily American, who Copland feeling “deserved” a music celebration.

Had sufficient of the heat? On come fall…


Fall: every the leaves space brown...

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Warm and welcoming one minute, chilly and also foreboding the next, these works are as fickle and also unstable as the fall season. As you listen, it is in on the lookout because that music that’s constantly shifting (from loud to soft, high come low, etc.) and also leaves you emotion a little unsteady. Oh, and also though you’ll hear plenty the wind instruments here, intend some melancholy music native the strings as well. Your sorrowful sound is regularly the composer’s way of recall you the cold weather is approaching and the year is coming to an end.

Academic Festival Overture by john Brahms

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Brahms - scholastic Festival Overture

It’s ago to institution time! acquire yourself ready for course with this item by German master Johannes Brahms, written as soon as he obtained an honorary university degree in 1880. Brahms clearly thought school must be together much around fun together it was about study. The piece begins with a disciplined “march” the calls to mind intense lectures and serious homework sessions, however soon bursts into a fast and furious celebration of the school year, complete of crashing cymbals and borrowed snippets of traditional student songs. (Watch the end for the ever-popular “Gaudeamus Igitur”––a familiar European college song––at the tail end of the piece).

Autumnal Sketch by Sergei Prokofiev

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Prokofiev - autumn Sketch

Though 20th-century composer Sergei Prokofiev didn’t offer this piece a title till after it was completed, you’ll probably agree the the surname fits. Favor the autumn weather itself, Prokofiev’s Sketch is often wild and also unpredictable—full the dissonance (a musical phenomenon the purposely places “clashing” notes beside one another to annoy the ear) and contrast. Hear for moment when teams of tools seem to it is in fighting one one more by relocating in different directions (for example: the reduced strings often move under the scale, when the violins slide upward). This type of musical stress and anxiety is more than proper for the fall where temperature (and colors) room constantly changing.

Poema Autunnale (Autumnal Poem) by Ottorino Respighi

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Respighi - Poema Autumnale

It’s a for sure bet that Italian composer Ottorino Respighi believed of fall as a time because that solitude. Loneliness seems to it is in the general theme the Poema, possibly since most of the work is all around instrumental solos, specifically solos for violin (a go-to instrument for composers as soon as they want their music to sound extra solitary and also emotional). Though this piece does function a dance-like interlude for the whole orchestra the may have you tapping your toes because that a minute or two, the bulk of the music follows a single violin together it twists and turns in a sorrowful boy key. This lends the occupational a melancholy feeling that’s maybe fitting for the season of much shorter days and long chilly nights.

Music for loss HolidaysYom Kippur

Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch

A hauntingly beautiful piece based upon the Judaic prayer (usually sung by the cantor, the music leader the synagogue prayers). Written for cello solo and orchestra accompaniment, this lush variation of the timeless melody is heard during evening services for Yom Kippur, likewise known together the work of Atonement, and can serve as one of the 3 repetitions that the sacred chant.

HALLOWEEN

Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, motion 4: “In the room of the mountain King” by Edvard Grieg

Revisit Peer Gynt in the loss with this famed movement, frequently used in cartoons once somebody is sneaking up on someone else. That doesn’t get much creepier than Grieg’s pulsating tune, full of plucked strings and also extremely low woodwinds.

Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach

Though this occupational for organ has no accompanying story or “program,” listeners all seem come agree there’s something fairly eerie about it. That’s perhaps since of its unstable minor key, its usage of chromatics (successive notes the sit so close together they sound jarring or upsetting), and the nearly demonic speed and also agility the are needed to pat a toccata (from the Italian word because that “to touch,” pronounced toh-CAH-tah) and fugue (a complicated and elaborate version of a musical round).

Danse Macabre (Macabre Dance) by Camille Saint-Saëns

A bone-chilling musical journey with a graveyard at midnight, this spooky dance of the dead features a devilish violin and some frightening music for the xylophone (meant to stand for skeletons!).

Night on fully Mountain by usually Mussorgsky

You won’t find anything an ext Halloween-y 보다 this ultra-scary symphonic piece, originally meant to depict a “witches’ gathering” but immortalized for modern-day audiences by a super spooky segment in Disney’s Fantasia. Listen for a supernatural speak to and response between various musical themes and also instruments, specifically the jerky and disjointed melody from the strings (which stand for the witches) that play versus the slower an ext terrifying theme for the brass (which to represent the devil).

Veterans Day

War Requiem by Benjamin Britten

British anti-war composer Benjamin Britten composed this sports on the classic Latin requiem in the results of people War II, however much the its lyrics room taken native poems composed by a young soldier during civilization War i (the original inspiration for Veteran’s Day). Britten’s clever usage of violent percussive sounds regularly make you feel as though you’re top top a battlefield and also are a painful reminder that the horrors that war. Over there are likewise plenty of softer, more poignantly beautiful moments in this tribute, which assist make it proper listening because that a job of remembrance.

And now to round the end the year v winter…


Winter: Let the snow…

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Don’t allow the cold gain you down. This composers sure didn’t. ~ above the contrary, castle knew that winter was simply as full of intrigue and adventure—think winter vacation!––as it was of snow and also ice. So, while these pieces attribute occasional slow-rhythm moment of sadness and also reflection (let’s challenge it, who doesn’t feel simply a small bit gloomy as soon as the year draws to a close?), they’re additionally pretty lively and action-packed. Expect many impressive sound impacts from tools like the flute, the violin, and the piano together these composers carry out their finest to call to mental blistering winds, slippery job of ice, and also delicate snowfalls.

Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams” through Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

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Tcahikovsky -Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams”

From the very first moments the Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Daydreams” symphony, with its shimmering violins and also whistling flutes, listeners recognize they’re in because that one hell of a sleigh ride. Be certain to hold on tight as the well known Russian bring away you v all kinds of emotionally winter “journeys”—from a bustling trek in the snow, come a sorrowful drive with a dismal and “shadowy” landscape and beyond. It is in warned: Tchaikovsky regularly jumps indigenous one music idea come another really quickly (a nice risky move in his day) in an effort to shake things up and also explore a range of feelings. This symphony may make you desire to laugh and cry end the space of simply a few minutes.

Excerpts from “The Frost Scene”: “What strength art thou…?” & “See, see, us assemble” native King Arthurby Henry Purcell

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Purcell -Excerpts native “The Frost Scene”

Though not based on the typical King Arthur legend (no Lancelot or Guinevere here), Henry Purcell’s opera still attributes plenty that magic and also intrigue. In this “Frost Scene,” among Arthur’s opponents transports the action to a freezing snowscape, and also we listen together the local people (headed by a the personality is bad winter soul sung by a bass vocalist), lament the bitterness cold. Purcell paints a vivid picture of the scene by having the instruments and also singers perform practically exclusively in short, choppy notes (known together staccato, stah-CAH-toh) the mimic shudders and also shivers. In fact, Purcell regularly has his chorus and soloist song one word over several fast notes come emphasize the frozen climate, as once they sing, “co-o-old.” Sounds together though they’re actually shaking in the snow, doesn’t it?

Children’s Corner: IV. “The eye is Dancing” by Claude Debussy

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Debussy -Children’s Corner: IV. “The eye is Dancing”

One that six small piano piece that composer Debussy specialized to his young daughter, “The eye is Dancing” sounds just as its title suggests: like a walk through a light snowfall. Debussy to be a highly accomplished impressionist (a word music scholars use to explain composers experienced at giving the “impression” or basic feeling the a scene), and also this piece is a perfect example of his style. The soft, swirling melodies offer the effect of snowflakes “dancing” on a gust the wind.

Music because that Winter HolidaysChristmas

The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Sugar-plums literally run in this fanciful timeless music favorite, which complies with the adventures the a young girl and also her fascinating Christmas toy. Winter and also snow inspire several of the countless dances that comprise this famous ballet, particularly the “Waltz that the Snowflakes” and “The dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy.”

Messiah by Georg freder Handel

Though we imply you have actually a listen to this work roughly Eastertime as well, Messiah is also a lovely Christmas classic, and also many that its commemorated choruses, such as “For Unto united state a boy is Born” to be written especially for the winter season.

New Year\"s Day

“Prelude” from Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss

German composer Richard Strauss’s “overwhelming” work, though originally an homage to a modern philosopher, is often used come symbolize new beginnings. That is dramatic key theme, which attributes slowly rising trumpets and also a few crashing chords because that the whole orchestra, will help start your brand-new year with a (very big) bang.

Music for imperial Fireworks by Georg freder Handel

Why no pair your brand-new Year’s celebration with some music the was actually meant come go together with fireworks? Handel’s explosive piece, written in celebration event of a European tranquility treaty and skillfully composed to function a booming timpani and also some flashy brass instruments, is a great way to ring in the new Year.

Valentine\"s Day

Romeo and Juliet Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

You recognize those sappy scenes in movies, TV shows, and commercials wherein two civilization run come each other from across an open field? ripe times out of ten, this is the music that’s playing in the background. Tchaikovsky’s musical adaptation that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the ultimate romantic piece, built roughly a sweeping love design template that’s been making listener swoon because that generations.

Barcarolle (“Belle nuit” or “Beautiful night”) from Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The tales of Hoffmann) by Jacques Offenbach

This barcarolle (or “boating song”), through its gently swaying melody and also dreamy lyrics around love and also happiness is a perfect Valentine’s lullaby. The voices are the stars here, yet keep her ears open for the flutes and cellos, which also play a huge role.

Prelude indigenous Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde) by Richard Wagner

Sometimes if you desire a good love story, you have to turn to tragic opera. These opening notes from Wagner’s infamous Tristan und Isolde are around as bittersweet and also full of anxiety as music can get, thanks to Wagner’s cheat of never ever quite installation his love theme into a typical musical key­­—a relocate which is bound to do you feeling a small confused and also disoriented. Possibly not the the happiest of Valentine’s day tunes, yet it will definitely leave one impression.

President\"s Day

Lincoln Portrait by Aaron Copland

This an effective tribute come our 16th president features an ear-pounding main melody that’s together imposing together the towering 6′4″ Lincoln himself. The item packs extra emotional beat by consisting of a spoken narrator that recites excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches.

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Now the you’ve gotten through the year, try listening to these pieces anywhere again… or coming up with some new seasonal perform of her own. As you’ve seen, there’s many of timeless fun to be had from January to December.