It wasn't summer yet, but it sure felt like it. Earlier this month, here in Washington, D.C., the temperatures were scorching, nearly breaking the 102-degree record set in 1874 when Ulysses S. Grant was president. Summer officially arrives here tomorrow — at 1:16 p.m. EDT to be exact.
Various aspects of the summer season have inspired composers. Some, such as Brahms and Mahler, just needed to get away from the heat and the hubbub — usually to bucolic settings near lakes — to compose in peace. Others, from Vivaldi to Piazzolla, wove summery themes right into their music. In the "Summer" concerto from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, the heat is so oppressive the opening music droops with a dog-tired listlessness.
What music are you drawn to when the mercury rises?
Do you try to go with the flow, listening to sunny, summer-themed pieces like my colleague Anastasia? Among her favorites are Samuel Barber's Summer Music, George Gershwin's sultry "Summertime" and Les Nuits d'Ete (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz.
Or do you try to beat the heat with music that is subliminally cool? When it gets really steamy, I tend to look northward to pieces that just sound chilly to me, like Jean Sibelius' Fourth Symphony, which opens with slow, frigid phrases in the cellos and basses, or Frederic Chopin's "Winter Wind" etude and its sudden blast of arctic air.
What's on your summer playlist? Let us know in the comments section.