Winter is here, and with it the longest night of the year. As a season, winter often gets a bum rap—while spring is a season of new beginnings, winter too often gets written off as a season of death and bleak desolation. And indeed, many people start feeling a bit stir crazy this time of year. So, let me break the seasonal doldrums with a playlist of winter-themed classical music. Some of the following selections are delicate, some melancholy, some dramatic… but all take winter, ice, or snow as their point of departure. Note that I have deliberately avoided Christmas or holiday music here… Christmas music deserves its own post.
Cheers! Continue reading
Classical music has always had a fondness for the supernatural. In earlier centuries, composers had incorporated Christian miracles or classical myths into their works. But by the nineteenth century composers had expanded the repertoire to include mermaids, witches, phantoms… and vampires.
Vampires have been a staple in classical music since the early 1800s. The vampire craze really took off in 1819, when John William Polidori’s short story “The Vampire” became an international sensation. Soon, vampires were showing up everywhere, in fiction, poetry, and religious treatises. Naturally, composers took advantage of the new-found popularity and brought vampires to the opera house and concert hall, too. Sometimes the resulting works were dramatic, making them precursors to modern horror films. At other times, composers used the vampire story for comedic effect, giving their bloodsuckers an ironic wink.
As October gets underway, I thought I’d share a collection of 10 vampire-themed classical works from the last 200 years. Enjoy!
Fall is a time when iced tea gives way to apple cider, and school buses start to nudge out ice cream trucks on neighborhood streets. With dusk coming on earlier and earlier, there’s a new crispness to the air (at least there should be… it’s supposed to be 90 degrees in Minneapolis today!).
In honor of the new season, let me provide a listening guide to some of my favorite autumn-themed works of classical music, listed alphabetically by composer. Please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments. Enjoy! Continue reading
Eclipse mania is gripping the country! Next week, a huge swath of the United States will be treated to a textbook perfect, solar eclipse that (depending on the weather) should be seen by millions. Alas, for those of us in the far north of the country, the effect won’t be so total. So I’m consoling myself with a playlist of appropriate classical music, drawing on music inspired by the moon, the sun, or outer space as a whole.
Grab your specialty glasses, and have a listen! Continue reading
It’s Independence Day! The Fourth of July remains one of America’s favorite holidays—a time for patriotic celebration, cookouts with families and friends, and plenty of fireworks. In almost all of these events, music is an absolute must, ranging from military bands and John Philip Sousa to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
In keeping with my blog’s overall theme, I’d like to share a list of classical works to help my fellow Americans get into spirit. And while everyone seems to love having Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as background music for their firework displays, I bet I can find a few more honestly American-themed pieces for you to enjoy….
So grab a sparkler and have a listen!
And as long as we’re on the subject, for a great patriotic concert experience, check out PBS’s annual concert, A Capitol Fourth, which is broadcast live on July 4th from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It’s always a big hit—click here for more info. Continue reading
Summer is here! Well, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere…. Summer is almost always portrayed as a life-affirming season, if an occasionally lazy one, where life is to be savored to its fullest.
“Midsummer Eve,” c.1908 by Edward Robert Hughes
I’m tempted to hang up a “Gone Fishin’” sign myself and run off to the lake… but instead, let me share a few classical works from a variety of genres that perfectly embody summer in all its hedonistic glory.
Cheers! Continue reading
The blockbuster film, Wonder Woman has hit the theaters… and audiences are flocking to this story of the Amazon princess who sets out to save the world. Not surprisingly, the movie has rekindled contemporary interest in the mythological Amazons and turned them into somewhat of a pop-culture sensation.
In ancient Greek myth, the Amazons were a nation of warrior women living at the fringe of civilization, either along the Black Sea, in Libya, or on the Scythian plain. They were both fascinating and terrifying to the ancients, and their hold on the West’s imagination has never really faded. Wonder Woman will no doubt help create the “standard” depiction of Amazons in the modern mind, but it is hardly the only one—given the popularity of Amazons in Western culture, there are many other depictions to explore.
Battle of Greeks and Amazons
So in this spirit, allow me to provide a classical music playlist of works that prominently feature Amazons—particularly the most famous Amazon queens: Hippolyta, Antiope, and Penthesilea. Continue reading