Staff Picks: the Songs of Summer '17

May 23, 2017

Here at the WCRB office, sunshine has us dreaming of lazy days spent outside by the Charles or at the beach, surrounded by friends and, of course, our favorite tunes. What are those perfect summer melodies? We asked our staff to choose some classical "summer jams" - pieces that represent the sound of summer to each of us - and have we got a playlist for you!

Read on for a comprehensive survey of the best music to take with you all summer long, whether you're trying to beat the heat or soaking up the sun.

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Alan McLellan: Frederick Delius - In A Summer Garden

I look forward to Summer as the time when I might be able to sit somewhere in the great outdoors and enjoy a quietly beautiful scene.  Delius’s “In A Summer Garden” captures that mood perfectly.  Delius’s friend Eric Fenby described taking him for walks in the garden at the Delius house in Grez-sur-Loing, near Paris.

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Rani Schloss: Thomas Morley - Now is the Month of Maying

You’ve probably seen the “it’s gonna be May” meme every April 30 for the past few years, and with good reason. But for me, nothing says “it’s gonna be May” (or June, or July) quite like The King’s Singers singing Thomas Morley. I dare you not to think of sunshine and green grass and frolicking through a meadow when you hear this.

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Colin Brumley: Thibaut Garcia

As a guitarist, I tried to be unbiased with my summer pick. But I failed. The 22-year-old French guitarist Thibaut Garcia released his album Leyendas last year, which was featured as our CD of the Week in October. The album is fully dedicated to works by Spanish and Argentine composers, and the tunes throughout recount tales passed down through many generations. I do love a good one-on-one, musician-to-listener classical album, and in the summer, there’s nothing quite like a simple melody dancing in the breeze – that’s what it’s all about. See a trailer of Leyendas:

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Chris Voss: Felix Mendelssohn - Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49; Songs Without Words, Op. 30 No. 6

It's a warm summer night, just after dark, and the window sits fully ajar, wafting sounds of the city into the room. Overhead, the ceiling fan squeaks rhythmically, and above it all soars the magic, lyric Romanticism of Mendelssohn. The evening is perfect: just the right balance of heat and breeze, of quiet and clamor. The "Songs without Words," as well as the  Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, are creature comforts for me. So as summer gets underway this Memorial Day weekend, promising many warm nights, I look forward to lying by the window, eyes closed, blissfully enjoying these beautiful works, and letting time inch by. 

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Tyler Alderson: Hector Berlioz - Nuit d'Ivresse, from Les Troyens

"Summer lovin', had me a blast..." Sorry, Grease fans, not going there. But there's nothing better than a lazy summer night and someone to share it with, as Dido and Aeneas once found out. Leave the heartbreak (and dramatic death scene on top of a burning pyre of your former lover's mementos) for another day, and listen to Berlioz's gorgeous love duet:

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Cathy Fuller: Isaac Albéniz - Sevilla

I’ll never stop dreaming of  my long-ago summer days at the ocean, full of breezes and sunshine.  And I’ve since discovered that there’s something magical about Spanish piano music that reminds me of that simple summer joy.   Alicia de Larrocha can turn a piano into a kaleidoscope of color and dance, and her recording of Spanish Encores is simply a treasure.  Morning, noon or night, it brings a sigh and a smile.

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Larry King: Felix Mendelssohn - Fingal's Cave/Hebrides Overture

The summer radio dial is full of weekend countdown programs;  the top 500 countdown for Memorial Day Weekend, or America's Greatest Hits for the Fourth of July, or the End of the Summer Countdown for Labor Day.  Nothing speaks more clearly to me than Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture."  It's all about the the summer season, the sea and the natural beauty of the surrounding environment that we all enjoy here in New England.  The piece is sensuous, graceful and very descriptive.

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Brian McCreath: Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 3

When Gustav Mahler wrote his Third Symphony, he called the opening movement “Pan Awakes. Summer Marches In.” He eventually withdrew the titles for all of the movements of the piece, but “Summer Marches In” sticks with me, with the mysterious, the disturbing, and the majestic all coming together in a unique vision of the world. This performance features the legendary Claudio Abbado and one of the great summer festival orchestras, at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland.

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Kendall Todd: Antonin Dvorak - String Quartet No. 12, Op. 96, "American"

Dvorak's "American" string quartet is one of those joyful, vibrant pieces that put me in a a good mood whenever I hear them. Maybe it's because I once performed this piece outside on a blisteringly hot day, but there's something about the opening measures that just sounds like a jaunty stroll through a sunny park. As the piece goes on, a storm develops, but like the very best summer days, the sun comes out again, and you're left to finish your walk with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

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Laura Carlo: Frederick Delius

I don't like frantic music in the summer. The hotter, more humid it is...the more I gravitate to soft, cooler sounds. "Classicool" anyone? Frederick Delius' "Song of Summer" is a perfect evocation of lazy, hazy days of summer.  Best way to listen to this is while on a hammock, cool drink in hand. And if you have another 35 minutes on that hammock, treat yourself to his "Florida Suite," particularly  the second section, titled "By the River."

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