Classical Music for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, here in the US.  I wanted to commemorate the day with a classical playlist that celebrates those wonderful women who raised us, cared for us, and always had our backs.  I’d like to dedicate this playlist to my own mom, who I love to pieces.  Enjoy… and Happy Mother’s Day!

* * *

Brahms: “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit,” from Ein deutsches Requiem Brahms never explained what inspired him to compose his German Requiem, but it is widely believed that one key reason was to pay tribute to his mother, who had died in 1865.  The Sixth Movement captures this sense of filial love, with a text that reads, “I will console you, as one is consoled by his mother.”


Dvořák: “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” from Gypsy Songs This is a song of love spanning generations—a young woman recalls hearing a lullaby from her mother, and then completes the cycle by singing it to her own child.  While the original song is justly famous, it has been adapted for many instruments, too.


Gershwin: “Summertime,” from Porgy and Bess This haunting melody, sung in the opening moments of the Gershwins’ folk opera and appearing at key points thereafter, beautifully captures the sense of a mother’s love for her child, as well as all her hopes for its future.


Larsen: Missa Gaia Libby Larsen’s Mass for the Earth is a celebration to the Mother Earth that is home to us all. As the composer writes, “The form and spirit of the traditional Mass combines with words that speak of human beings’ relationship to the Earth.” The words are drawn from the Bible, Native American texts, and a variety of poets, past and present. (Sorry, I can’t find a YouTube version, but trust me… it is a great piece!)


Rachmaninoff: “Rejoice, O Virgin,” from All-Night Vigil (Vespers). This is roughly the Orthodox version of the Latin hymn, “Ave Maria,” which blesses the Virgin Mother: “Rejoice O Virgin Mother of God, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls.” Rachmaninoff’s arrangement is stunning.


Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben This famous song-cycle, written in 1840, chronicles a woman’s experiences of finding love, marrying, and having children as told in her own voice. In “An meinem Herzen an meiner Brust” (On my Heart, on my Breast), the new mother rocks her baby to gorgeous accompaniment.


Sibelius: Lemminkäinen in Tuolena (from the Lemminkäinen Suite).  A companion to the more famous Swan of Tuolena, this dramatic piece tells of a reckless hero’s death on a dangerous quest, and his subsequent resurrection due to his mother’s love (and powerful magic).  The middle section where Lemminkäinen’s mother searches for his body is particularly haunting.


Strauss: Muttertändelei. In this short little charmer, Strauss sets a five-verse comic poem about a boastful mother.  It’s a rapid-fire tongue-twister with bright and cheerful piano accompaniment.


Tavener: Two Hymns to the Mother of God Tavener writes, “These Two Hymns were written in memory of my mother. The first is for double choir, and is a setting of a text from the Liturgy of St Basil. It speaks of the almost cosmic power attributed to the Mother of God by the Orthodox Church. The second comes from the Vigil Service of the Dormition (of falling asleep) of the Mother of God. She invites the apostles to gather form the end of the earth to bury her body in Gethsemane, and asks her to receive her spirit.”


Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra.  Something a little different to close out the list.  Webern had lost his mother a few years before, and this loss was one of the most significant events of his life.  The Six Pieces were an overt effort to work through his complex emotions surrounding his loss.



2 thoughts on “Classical Music for Mother’s Day

  1. Pingback: Classical Music’s Monster Mothers: An Anti-Mother’s Day Playlist | Mask of the Flower Prince

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