7 Lesser-known Classics for your Winter Playlist
You’ve heard the Nutcracker and Vivaldi’s Winter, but have you heard these lesser-known pieces of classical music to put you into the spirit of winter? From the desks of Schumann and Tchaikovsky to the computer of Max Richter, these 7 Winter Classics are a must-listen for long-time fans or newbies of Classical Music alike.
1. Hodie, by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams’ most popular Christmas pieces include his Fantasia on Greensleeves and his Fantasia on Christmas Carols, but we’re starting this list off with his incredible, but fairly unknown, Christmas Cantata: Hodie (pronounced HO-dee-ay). Vaughan Williams composed Hodie (or “This Day”) near the end of his life (at the ripe age of 82). The text is taken from the bible and the works of John Milton and Thomas Hardy.
The piece opens with the brass section blasting the Hodie theme, followed by proclamations of “Nowell” from the choir and the vespers for Christmas Day. This opening and the vespers are sung in Latin, but the remainder of the piece is in English. Hodie is a festive start to the holiday season.
2. Symphony No. 1, “Winter Dreams” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
While audiences around the world can’t help but know the Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s lesser-known, early winter masterpiece is his Symphony no. 1, subtitled “Winter Daydreams.” Written shortly after Tchaikovsky started teaching at the Moscow Conservatory, this ode to Russia’s harsh winters was finished when the composer was only 26.
Though only the first and second movements come with representative, winter titles, the nervous energy of the 3rd movement of this symphony suggests a shivering rush through the winter’s cold to the warmth of home.
3. Christmas Prelude for Orchestra, by Vitězslava Kaprálová
Vítězslava Kaprálová was an artist who died too young. Born in 1915, her creative output was cut short after an untimely death in 1940 at the age of only 25. But what she did leave behind bubbles with youthful spirit and exuberance. Her music and persona have a strong following around the world. In the Amazon show Mozart in the Jungle, the character Lizzie imitates and celebrates Kaprálová by dressing in the composer’s characteristic white shirt and black bowtie.
Kaprálová’s Christmas Prelude for Orchestra is an energetic celebration of the Christmas season. Built from pieces of familiar tunes, you won’t hear your Christmas favorites in their entirety, only masterfully composed fragments of them.
4. Symphony no. 1 “Spring,” by Robert Schumann
The “Spring Symphony” by Schumann may seem an odd addition to this list, but this work was actually written in January and February of 1841. Premiered that March (in Leipzig under the baton of Felix Mendelssohn, no less), the symphony looks forward to the coming warmth of Spring. “Could you breathe a little of the longing for spring into your orchestra as they play?” Schumann wrote to the conductor Wilhelm Taubert. “That was what was most in my mind when I wrote.”
The symphony opens with an “awakening” call in the brass. Some scholars believe that this horn call evokes the final lines of Adolf Böttger’s “Spring Poem,” which played an important part in Schumann’s inspiration. Translated to English, it reads “O, turn, O turn and change your course/In the valley, Spring blooms forth!” The rest of the first movement is based on this awakening call.
Hiver-Printemps by Ernst Bloch
Winter 2, by Antonio Vivaldi and Max Richter
Fanfare on Amazing Grace, by Adolphus Hailstork
If you enjoyed this guide…
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