Music Appreciation

Winter Music

Classic FM digital radio station has compiled a collection of music it describes as "the best pieces inspired by the coldest season," and it's hard to argue with that assessment. Among the 25 pieces, you'll find some familiar and some likely unfamiliar, with just a few Christmas selections and many odes to wind and snow. You can find all the links here.

Handel's Messiah

For 45 years, several members of the West Suburban Symphony have performed as part of Chicago's downtown Do It Yourself Messiah ... first sponsored by Talman Home Federal and now, after many bank mergers, sponsored by a group of individuals and companies. The event has taken place over the years at Symphony Center, the Chicago Civic Opera House, the former Medina Temple, and most recently the Harris Theatre at Millennium Park. Each December, about 2000 people form the "audience," which is also the chorus, for this phenomenal piece of music. This year's performance is virtual and profoundly moving: view it here -- -- through January 3, free of charge. Those WSS players who are part of the Do It Yourself Messiah orchestra can't wait to do it live in 2021.

Giving thanks

While Thanksgiving 2020 challenged many traditions, music remained an enduring gift for which we were thankful. Because Thanksgiving is an American holiday, most music written expressly for Thanksgiving is popular, but there are classical pieces well suited to this November celebration:

Music of the seasons

Classical composers wrote a variety of music inspired by the seasons and the wonders of the natural world. For instance, Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, where each movement represents a different season. The music clearly depicts those seasons, including a thunder and lightning storm in the Summer movement and the wind howling in the Winter movement. Other composers, such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, also wrote music for the seasons for piano and for ensembles. And the BBC has compiled delightful selections of season music, including collections for summer and autumn.

Flowers and animals and insects are represented in music as well. For instance, Giacomo Puccini wrote the Chrysanthemums elegy for string quartet, Camille Saint-Saens wrote The Carnival of the Animals, where different animals are represented by different instruments, and Ralph Vaughan Williams featured buzzing insects in The Wasps. There are many more such depictions just waiting for us to discover.