Classical Party: A Summer Night To Remember

from

WGUC

Summer may seem like the shortest of seasons, but at least the evenings are long and warm. As we wend our way into August, when the sticky air makes it easy to forget how little time remains until fall, here are five pieces by classical composers who embraced summer nights. Here's hoping the music signifies both summertime and celebration the next time you spend a hot night entertaining guests.

woman in headphones at night i i
iStockphoto.com
woman in headphones at night
iStockphoto.com

For more entries in this summer's weekly It's Time to Party: Summer Songs series, click here.

Classical Party: A Summer Night To Remember

mendelssohn art

Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream

  • Artist: Various Artists
  • Album: Shakespeare's Music: Classic and Popular Music Inspired by the Plays
  • Song: Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream

Celebrating the longest day of the year is one of those ancient pagan rituals that was turned into a Christian holiday when June 24 became the Feast of St. John the Baptist. The eve of that feast is a night for lovers, and for magic. Shakespeare put both into his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Felix Mendelssohn's "Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream" includes scurrying fairies, royal trumpets and Bottom the Weaver in his donkey's head, braying, "Hee haw, hee haw!" The summer of 2009 may have careened all the way into August, but it's not too late to revel in the simple pleasures of summer's longest stretches of daylight.

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Song
Overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream
Album
Shakespeare's Music: Classic and Popular Music Inspired by the Plays
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Telarc
Released
2009

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Le Sacre du Printemps art

St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain

  • Artist: Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Album: Le Sacre du Printemps [Hybrid SACD]
  • Song: St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain (Ivanova noch' na Lisoy gore), symphonic poem for orchestra

The aforementioned midsummer night is cause for all kinds of revelry -- some Shakespearean, some Mussorgskian. The full title of A Night on Bald Mountain is actually St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain, because it was inspired by a witches' sabbath in Gogol's story St. John's Eve. Shortly after the piece premiered, a critic called it "an orgy of ugliness," which just proves that Mussorgsky got it exactly right.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain (Ivanova noch' na Lisoy gore), symphonic poem for orchestra
Album
Le Sacre du Printemps [Hybrid SACD]
Artist
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
2006

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Swedish Orchestral Favourites art

Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, for orchestra ("Midsommarvaka"), Op. 19

  • Artist: Various
  • Album: Swedish Orchestral Favourites
  • Song: Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, for orchestra ("Midsommarvaka"), Op. 19

Different countries have different ways of celebrating summer. Many of them involve bonfires -- which is kind of strange, given that this is the time of year when days are at their longest, and a lot of the countries that celebrate the season are so far north that the sun doesn't even set for long stretches.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, for orchestra ("Midsommarvaka"), Op. 19
Album
Swedish Orchestral Favourites
Artist
Various
Label
Naxos
Released
1995

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Mozart art

Serenade No. 13 in G major, K. 525, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Serenade): Allegro

  • Artist: Vienna Chamber Orchestra / Philippe Entremont
  • Album: Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
  • Song: Serenade No. 13 in G major, K. 525, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Serenade): Allegro

Serenades were originally performed outdoors in the evening -- presumably a summer evening, because neither audience nor musicians would be terribly enthusiastic about standing around outside in the cold. Most of Mozart's serenades were written for special events like birthdays and graduations, but "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" (A Little Night Music), his finest serenade, remains a great mystery. There's no record of its first performance, or for whom Mozart might have written it.

Prokofiev: Cinderella art

Summer Night, suite for orchestra, Op. 123

  • Artist: Mikhail Pletnev
  • Album: Prokofiev: Cinderella
  • Song: Summer Night, suite for orchestra, Op. 123

Sergei Prokofiev was looking for a little relief from Soviet ideology when he turned Richard Sheridan's play Betrothal in a Monastery into an opera (although Prokofiev did throw a bone to the authorities by including a scene full of tipsy monks). The composer turned some of the music from the opera into a suite titled "Summer Night." Since this CD also contains Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella, there's another great bit of nocturnal music on it: "Midnight," with the clock striking 12.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Summer Night, suite for orchestra, Op. 123
Album
Prokofiev: Cinderella
Artist
Mikhail Pletnev
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
1995

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Purchase Featured Music

Shakespeare's Music: Classic and Popular Music Inspired by the Plays

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Shakespeare's Music: Classic and Popular Music Inspired by the Plays
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Telarc

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Le Sacre du Printemps [Hybrid SACD]

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Purchase Featured Music

Album
Le Sacre du Printemps [Hybrid SACD]
Artist
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
2006

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Swedish Orchestral Favourites

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Swedish Orchestral Favourites
Artist
Various
Label
Naxos
Released
1995

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Prokofiev: Cinderella

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Purchase Featured Music

Album
Prokofiev: Cinderella
Artist
Mikhail Pletnev
Label
Deutsche Grammophon
Released
1995

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