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Uplifting classical music

March 30, 2020

In these difficult times, you may feel in need of a musical pick-me-up. Here’s a selection of uplifting classical music to brighten your day.

Morning Song, from the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 – Edvard Grieg

Grieg beautifully captures the rising of the morning sun with a serene melody for flute and oboe. The tune is passed around the orchestra as the clarinet and flute imitate a dawn chorus of bird song. The flute returns to the main tune, strings shimmer and the orchestra comes to a peaceful close. 

Ruslan & Ludmilla Overture – Mikhail Glinka

Ruslan & Ludmilla is an opera based on the 1820 poem by Alexander Pushkin who based the poem on Russian folktales he had heard as a child. It tells the story of the abduction of Ludmila, the daughter of the grand prince of Kiev, by an evil wizard and the attempt by the brave knight Ruslan to find and rescue her. Glinka sets the scene with this very lively and energetic overture.

Rodeo, Hoe-Down – Aaron Copland

Composed in 1942, Rodeo is the second of Copland’s ‘cowboy ballets’. The action takes place at Burnt Ranch, where a cowgirl who is happy to be just one of the lads, really fancies the Head Wrangler. He, together with all the other boys, only has eyes for the Rancher’s daughter. The cowgirl decides on a change of image, puts on a beautiful dress for the Hoe-down, and finally gets her man! Yee-ha! Hoe Down was inspired by a Kentucky fiddler known as Bill Stepp whose original tune called ‘Bonaparte’s Retreat’ is incorporated in this movement together with ‘McLeod’s Reel’. The result is an uplifting take on the American square dance.

La Traviata ‘Libiamo ne’lieti calici (Brindisi)’ – Giuseppe Verdi

The famous drinking song from Verdi’s opera La Traviata encourages us to ‘drink for the ecstatic feeling that love arouses.’ Enough said.

Symphony No. 35 “Haffner” (4th movt.) – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Composed in 1782, this symphony was commissioned by the Haffners, a prominent Salzburg family at the time. The last movement is an exercise in speed and precision and is a fantastic piece of uplifting classical music – indeed, Mozart said it should ‘go as fast as possible!’

Mambo from West Side Story – Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein was a conductor, composer, educator, and pianist. One of his most popular works, West Side Story, is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as a New York gang setting. The ‘Mambo’ comes from this high-energy musical. Listen out for the percussion in this Cuban-inspired dance!

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