For Earth Day 2017, celebrate one of Mother Nature's most beautiful expressions of the human experience.
Saturday, April 22, marks the 47th international Earth Day, as celebrated by almost 200 nations across the planet. The world’s most celebrated secular holiday has its roots in 1970, when a few nature-conscious college folks banded together in peaceful demonstrations against the mass consumerism, environmental ignorance, and fossil fuel consumption of the 1960s. The date in late April was chosen for its academic flexibility, as it was between spring break week and finals for many American university students.
Those students were hardly the first admirers of the outdoors, and composers throughout the centuries have expressed that admiration in music. The list of timeless pieces directly inspired by nature could go on and on: Vivaldi’s The Tempest at Sea Concerto, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Copland’s An Outdoor Overture, and so many others. And for Earth Day, I wanted to share three of our favorite albums – each featured as a CD of the Week – that are perfect for celebrating the great outdoors.
There may be no better manifestation of a perfect summer day in music than the serenades by Brahms and Dvorák. Both composers greatly admired the outdoors, and that pastoral allure is perfectly encapsulated with the warmth of these pieces. Just a glimpse at the album artwork of this record brings you to the BSO’s summer home at Tanglewood, searching for the perfect spot to set up on the yard for an evening concert. The Boston Symphony Chamber Players recorded chamber versions of these large, orchestral works, and the grandeur of the pieces is translated into a lively conversation among friends.
No, that’s not a typo – violinist Daniel Hope’s newest release is titled just that, and with good reason. For Seasons does contain one of the most inspiring performances of Vivaldi’s beloved The Four Seasons concerti made to date, but it’s the second half of the album that really makes this a wonderful and unique tribute to nature. Hope supplements the four concerti with thirteen short works that he feels best illustrate each month (twelve months, plus a post scriptum track). He further enhances this classical concept album with physical pieces of art, primarily photographs and paintings, that also depict each month. Together, the four Vivaldi concerti and thirteen short pieces arc together to tell the story of nature and time, and it makes for perfect listening in any month.
Every winter, I look forward to the first warm spring day when I set off on an aimless walking journey around our great city – it’s a tradition. Invariably, my soundtrack for walking around and enjoying nature is John Field’s set of eighteen piano nocturnes. Field was a great pioneer of character pieces: short works crafted to invite the listener to compose their own unique images. To me, each of them serves as the perfect outdoor soundtrack, no matter the season. Field even subtitled one the works as the Grand Pastorale Nocturne, showing that he too was a great admirer of nature.
So, for this year’s Earth Day, celebrate by plopping down near the biggest tree you can find, listen to some of these tracks, and give thanks to all Mother Nature has provided us, from erratic New England weather to the gorgeous sounds of the music we get to play each day.