Piano music for the new season
Welcome the arrival of spring with this selection of atmospheric piano pieces inspired by or evocative of springtime.
Christian Sinding: Rustle of Spring
No playlist of piano music for Spring would be without this charming late-Romantic piece. Composed in 1896, it depicts the intoxicating, exuberant energy of the natural world re-awakening after the winter. Sinding achieves this through sparkling arpeggio figures, mainly in the right hand, and a lyrical, melody in the left hand which sings like a hymn of joy.
Rimsky Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee
As the weather grows warmer, bees and other insects begin to make an appearance. This popular virtuoso piece by Rimsky Korsakov, originally scored for orchestra, is often played as an encore and is intended to illustrate the rapidly changing flying pattern of a bumblebee, darting from flower to flower.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Lilacs
Around 1908, Rachmaninoff began to receive bouquets of lilacs at his performances from an anonymous admirer. As he toured the world playing at various prestigious concert halls, the fragrant smell of lilacs would join him as the anonymous bouquets continued to be sent. Finally, in 1918, a Madame Felka Rousseau revealed herself as the sender of the lilacs. Her only wish was that Rachmaninoff would return to play in Russia.
Lilacs is Rachmaninoff’s own transcription of his setting for piano and voice of a poem by Ekaterina Beketova. A delicate melody, full of sensitivity and nuance, is enhanced by lush harmonies and elegantly crafted dynamics to create an emotional depth and intensity that reflects the pain and longing expressed in the original song. The middle section is characterised by a more intense and passionate musical language, which builds to a powerful climax before subsiding into a tender and reflective coda.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: 12 Songs, Op. 21: No. 5. Siren’ (Lilacs) (version for piano) (Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano)
Ludovico Einaudi: Primavera
A timeless piece which beautifully combines hope, nostalgia, sadness, and joy in Ludovico Einaudi’s distinctive minimalistic style. Composed in 1997, it appears on Uno, the first album Einaudi released.
Jonathan Harvey: Birdsong Concerto with Pianosong
Inspired by some 40 vibrant birds of California, this work for piano and small orchestra uses samples of real birdsong to create a mesmeric and intriguing soundscape. It’s a beautiful, inventive dialogue between music and nature, and a fitting homage to Olivier Messiaen’s love of birdsong.
Olivier Messiaen: Le merle noir (the Blackbird)
French composer Olivier Messiaen was a keen ornithologist who transcribed and recorded birdsong en plein air. Such was his attention to detail that individual birds are clearly recognisable in his birdsong-inspired piano music. This piece comes from Messiaen’s Petites Esquisses d’Oiseau, a suite of six short bird pieces, composed in 1985 and dedicated to his wife Yvonne Loriod, who premiered the work in 1987.
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Olivier Messiaen: Petites esquisses d’oiseaux (Little Sketches of Birds) – No. 2. Le merle-noir (Blackbird) (Yvonne Loriod, piano)