8 Classical Music Works about...Spring

Updated: Mar 23


You may be wondering "who is the composer of Spring" - that well-known piece of music for violin, string orchestra, and harpsichord that many of us know from our childhoods, from film or television, or from other media. Well, you've come to the right place - we'll tell you who that was in just a moment!


Before we answer that question, did you know that many composers have been inspired by the seasons in their work? As the Northern Hemisphere heads into spring 2021, have a listen to our 8 selections inspired by spring! Below these selections, you will also find spring activities for our four age groups: Adults (18+), Youth (12-18), Childhood (6-12), Early Childhood (0-6)!

The Four Seasons: La primavera (Spring)

Antonio Vivaldi

The answer to your question is: Antonio Vivaldi!


Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was an Italian composer, violinist, teacher, and priest. He is considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era.


The Four Seasons (Italian: Le quattro stagioni) is a group of four violin concerti (plural of concerto = a work for solo instrument/s and orchestra). They are based on poems (probably written by Vivaldi himself). They are some of the earliest examples of "programme music" - where the music is telling a story without the direct use of words/text.


Each of the four concerti in this work are divided into three movements, or sections. In "Spring", the movements and their inspirations based on the poems are as follows:

  • I. Allegro: The arrival of spring, birds singing, streams flowing, springtime storms.

  • II. Largo e pianissimo sempre: A goatherd sleeps in a flowery meadow, with his dog at his side.

  • III. Danza pastorale. Allegro: Nymphs and shepherds dancing.

Samson et Dalila: Printemps qui commence

Camille Saint-Saëns


Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor, and pianist. He was very successful at school, and was regarded as a musical prodigy. As a young man, he was very interested in the modern music of the day, especially works by Schumann, Liszt and Wagner. His own work was quickly recognised by other top composers, and he greatly influenced the next generation of composers.


"Samson et Dalila" is the only one of his operas which obtained and kept a place in the international repertoire. Based on the Biblical story, Saint-Saëns composed the role of Dalila for the famous mezzo-soprano singer and composer Pauline Viardot.


The aria "Printemps qui commence" ("Spring begins") is from the first act of the opera. Dalila sings how spring is blossoming and so too is love, but she has been left all alone, desperate for her lover's return.

Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34:

II. Våren (Last Spring)

Edvard Grieg


Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He was an important figure in helping Norway to form a musical and national identity of their own. Throughout his life, he struggled with respiratory illnesses and infections, and was frequently admitted into medical centres. He was a strong advocate of human rights, even cancelling concerts in protest against injustice.


Grieg composed "Two Elegiac Melodies" (1880) for string orchestra. The two movements are instrumental arrangements Grieg made of two of his 12 Melodies, Op. 33, for voice and piano, which are settings of texts by the Norwegian poet and journalist Vinje.


Composer David Lang (b. 1957) also wrote a piece based on the text of "Våren". Lang says that "the original poem is a moving description of an old man watching winter change into spring, not knowing if he will live to see another".

2 Pieces for Small Orchestra:

I. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Frederick Delius


Frederick Delius (1862-1934) was a British composer. He was born to a Dutch-German family who were wool merchants, but he was not personally interested in commerce. He was sent to the United States in 1884 to manage an orange plantation, but quickly returned to Europe. However, due to the influence of African-American music, he decided to pursue a career as a composer. The support of other composers, such as Grieg, meant that his family

eventually accepted this decision.


"On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" is a tone poem - a piece of orchestral music which illustrates or evokes the content of another source, such as a poem, short story, novel, painting, or landscape.


The first theme is an exchange of cuckoo calls. The second theme is based on a Norwegian folk song, "In Ola Valley". The cuckoo calls return before the end of the work.

Three Browning Songs, Op. 44:

I. The Year's at the Spring

Amy Beach


Amy Beach (1867-1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was very much a child prodigy, and began composing at age four. Her family struggled to keep up with her talents and behaviour, which were consistent with a possible place on the autism spectrum. Her works received a largely positive critical response, though some critics went to extraordinary lengths to relate her work and success to her sex.


Beach was most popular for her songs; "The Year's At the Spring" from Three Browning Songs, Op. 44 is one of her best-known. The poem is by Robert Browning, and is part of his very controversial work "Pippa Passes". The text is as follows:


The year’s at the spring,

And day’s at the morn;

Morning’s at seven;

The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven–

All’s right with the world!


Want to know more about Amy Beach? Check out our product Classical Inspirations: Amy Beach (for ages 6-12)!

Trittico botticelliano: I. La Primavera

Ottorino Respighi


Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) was an Italian composer, violinist, and teacher. As a child, he did not show much interest in music until about the age of 8, though he received lessons from an early age. He then took very quickly to a variety of instruments, and began studying violin and viola at the conservatory in his native Bologna in 1891, also completing his first compositions here. He loved languages, and learned to speak eleven languages fluently in his lifetime.


The "Trittico botticelliano" (1927) is a work for chamber orchestra, based on famous paintings by the artist Botticelli. "La Primavera" ("Spring") is based on the controversial painting "Primavera". It depicts the progress of spring, reading from right to left, through a group of representative classical mythological figures.

Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Igor Stravinsky


Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. As a child, he did not enjoy school life , but he took to music at an early age. At around eight years old, he attended a performance of Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Sleeping Beauty", which inspired a lifelong interest in ballet composition.


Stravinsky partnered with ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev for the creation of some of his most famous works. Diaghilev was the founder of the Ballets Russes company, and commissioned composers to create new works. One of these commissions was "The Rite of Spring", choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky.


"The Rite of Spring" is divided into two sections:

  • Adoration of the Earth: rituals celebrating the advent of spring

  • The Sacrifice: a young girl is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death.

The work was not received well by the public. According to musicologist Richard Taruskin: "It was not Stravinsky's music that did the shocking. It was the ugly earthbound lurching and stomping devised by Vaslav Nijinsky". It is now one of the most recorded classical works.

Flowering Jasmine

Georgs Pelēcis


Georgs Pelēcis (1947-) is a Latvian composer and musicologist. His work is considered to be "new consonant" music, where the intention is for the musical language to be pleasurable and to be understood by both the performers and the audience - a response to the intellectualism which was so prominent in the 20th century in particular. The idea is "if you have something to say, just say it!"


In his own words:

"I invite my listeners to be aware that the evolution of music has not only been a progression, but also a long sequence of losses. These losses are painful to me...I try to save and regenerate as much as I can. For the average listener, as indeed for me, the scope of classical music...is a paradise that invites us into the most sumptuous realms that the mind of a composer can imagine. The imagination of a composer contemplates and rejoices in a certain ideal, that of sonic perfection in all its dimensions. But what has chased composers from this Garden of Eden? I rather fear that they have often escaped from their own master. As for me, no one has chased me out. So I remain there and I am happy. I see myself as a gardener, part guardian and part creator of the beauty in our communal musical paradise."

Activities

As the plants SPRING into life, why not make a flower potion with your little one? Fill up a plastic tub with water, collect some flowers (and other bits!), and mix them around with a wooden spoon! Grab some other utensils and practice scooping, pouring, and more!



Head to our "Freebies" page (under the "Products" tab) and download our free About The Music/Visualise It worksheet. Choose one or more classical music works from our 8 Classical Music Works about...Spring playlist (on our blog), fill out the left hand side of the worksheet, and get creative with the right hand side! Which kinds of flowers might match the music?



Can you create an animation or video inspired by the classical music works on our "8 Classical Music Works about...Spring" playlist? You can use software/programmes such as Canva, Powtoon, Animaker, Pencil2D, or Stykz to get started!


What you'll need: - A tin, glass jar, or other container - Soy wax - Candle wick - the height of the container, plus a little extra length - Essential oils of your choice (optional) - Dried flowers - Popsicle sticks - Wooden skewer


What to do: - Measure out enough wax to fill up your container twice. - Melt the wax over a low heat (use a double boiler if available), stirring frequently, until fully melted. - Dip the bottom of the wick in the melting wax (or use superglue/hot glue) and use a popsicle stick to press the dipped part down. Place other popsicle sticks to hold it in place. Let set for 5 minutes. - Once the wax has melted, add in around 25 drops of your chosen essential oil (optional) for a tin-sized candle. Mix. - Let cool for a few minutes, and then slowly pour the wax (you can hold the wick, but don't pull on it). Add in dried flowers as you go. Use the skewer to adjust their placement. - Adjust the popsicle sticks to keep the wick in place. Let cool for 4 hours at room temperature. Trim the wick as needed.


Do you have a favourite "inspired by spring" classical music work? Let us know in the comments!


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