With the height of fall right around the corner, this transition season presents a variety of sceneries that awaken our senses, as though its harmonies are descending slowly to a dramatic turnaround into winter. From eloquent arias to dazzling double reed solos, here are some seasonal classical pieces to fill up your imagination and encapsulate the spirit of the autumn season.
Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber
A product of a series of infamous quarrels with the original commissioner’s teacher, this piece opens with a mellow, soothing violin solo that is uninterrupted by the orchestra, and the music blooms as it continues. This piece contrasts an unforgettable peaceful beginning with a fierce resolution.
The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 3: “L’autunno” – A. Vivaldi
“All are made to leave off dancing and singing
By the air which, now mild, gives pleasure
And by the season, which invites many
To find their pleasure in a sweet sleep.”
While unattributable, Vivaldi may have written this poem along with the second movement of his Four Seasons. This piece, thanks to its immense attention to detail, gives the audience imagery of a bright and festive autumn season.
Symphony No. 4 – Johann Brahms
Like no other symphony, Brahms’ Fourth hits you hard with exuberant energy. Irritated, earthly, and agitated, this masterpiece is worth a listen; it might just transport you back in time to feel Brahms’ emotions.
Our Town – Aaron Copland
(Copland, New Philharmonia Orchestra)
The composition, one of first film scores Copland completed (for the Hollywood film by the same name), finds itself ingrained in the deep roots in American music. This piece sense of tranquility that you should feel during this season!
Die Herbst (Autumn) from Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) – Joseph Haydn
(Colin Davis, LSO)
One of the only two oratorios Haydn left for us, this piece is a tremendous addition to the already breathtaking number of compositions from the venerated composer. This long composition contains a variety of themes that Haydn felt were needed in an era of progressive human industry. It’s definitely worth listening to, especially for those who are curious about the potential of music—this one is as powerful as it gets.
Vier letzte Lieder: September – Richard Strauss
(Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Berlin Phil)
While listening to recordings of soprano compositions, I stumbled upon this late-Strauss gem that includes clear references and connections to Strauss’ life at the time that he composed this piece. A slightly moodier piece than his others, this one brings out the best sentiments in the autumn months.
String Quartet No. 15, op. 132 – Ludwig Van Beethoven
(Fitzwilliam Quartet/Alban Berg Quartet)
Beethoven used the third movement of this piece as a musical prayer, offering thanks after a long illness which physically drained him and contributed to a dry period of his composition. It can be hefty to listen to because of its construction, but it is very characteristic of late-Beethoven.
3 Romances, op. 94 – Robert Schumann
Despite its simplicity, 3 Romances highlights its diverse colors and beauty. While it might not be technically challenging, its melodies are heart-wrenching. A sincere work that is very reminiscent of romanticism, this piece is especially similar to Schumann’s Fantasy pieces for clarinet.
The Seasons – Tchaikovsky
Commissioned right after the debut of his bombastic Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky wrote a piece for every month of the year, originally for the piano. Its mostly minor melodies are successful at bringing the most pleasant and unruffled moods found in each season, and have elements reminiscent of some of his earlier works, such as the use of percussion and the winds.
Roman Festivals – Ottorino Respighi
The third work of Respighi’s Rome Trilogy captured the lighthearted but startling features of Rome through four movements with a cheerful yet evocative composition. The third movement represents a cheerful harvest in Rome, and the piece ends with a pompous fourth movement that conveys the clash of cultures in ancient Rome. This is definitely a piece that hypes up the brass section in any orchestra!