Morning can be a time for a slow start – a reflection on the day to come, a slow sip of a warm beverage, waiting for the sun to make its appearance. We’ll ignore those mornings we used to have of the rush for work, the hurried breakfast if we were lucky, and then the commute. Never a chance to stop and look and listen.
In his 2006 work, Morning’s Embrace, American composer Joseph Schwanter (b. 1943) seems to poise us between the rushed and relaxed states. A low pedal point offset with a six-note arpeggio is the core of the work and all the rest are changed in timbre and environment. Schwantner was imagining the intensely vibrant early morning sunrises he would have in New Hampshire, where a morning mist would be pierced by the sun in a variety of hues and colors. Through the fog, the sun is coming.
Joseph Schwantner: Morning’s Embrace (Nashville Symphony Orchestra; Giancarlo Guerrero, cond.)
A morning of a very different character is in Arnold Bax’ Morning Song, nicknamed Maytime in Sussex. Arnold is giving us the rolling hills and downs of Sussex, England, in May. Written for the pianist Harriet Cohen as an official composition for his position of Master of the King’s Musick for the 21st birthday of then–Princess Elizabeth, the work is sunny and genial, elegant and classical in its themes and orchestration.
Arnold Bax: Morning Song, “Maytime in Sussex” (Ashley Wass, piano; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; James Judd, cond.)
Frederick Delius (1862-1934) started off with music as his hobby, with his day job in the family wool business. In 1890, he created his Small Tone Poems, a set of three pieces on different themes. Summer Evening and Winter Night are not for us. We want Spring Morning, a piece very much in the rhapsodic style that Delius handled so well. His music lines, sensual and evocative, welcome us to the day appearing before us.
Frederick Delius: Spring Morning (Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra; John Hopkins, cond.)
Greek composer Alkis Baltas (b. 1948) sings his morning to a text by poet Yannis Ritsos – and for this morning evocation, he’s written something almost like a lullaby – serene and dreamy.
Alkis Baltas: Morning Star (Vassia Alati, soprano; Athens Academica Orchestra; Nikos Tsouchlos, cond.)
We don’t think of concertos as morning pieces, let alone violin concertos, but in An Eventful Morning Near East London, composer Robert Fokkens presents the violinist with an ‘extremely demanding’ and ‘fiendish’ work, as the soloist here wrote. She also said, ‘The finger patterns are so fast and difficult I can virtually feel them creating new neural pathways in my brain….’ We can only imagine what was happening. Things are much more fraught in the morning in the city than in the country, it would appear.
Robert Fokkens: An Eventful Morning Near East London, “Violin Concerto” (Harriet Mackenzie, violin; English Symphony Orchestra; Kenneth Woods, cond.)
In his evocation of morning in Morning Aura, Greek composer Mano Achalinotopoulos brings together the sound of the sea with the sound of the light on the sea. Using clarinet, synthesizer and electronics, he places us on the beach to experience the sea and the sunrise.
Mano Achalinotopoulos: Morning Aura (arr. T. Prebble for clarinet, synthesizer and electronics) (Manos Achalinotopoulos, clarinet; Tim Prebble, synthesizer and electronics)
There’s a lot more morning music, but perhaps we should close with the one piece that most people associate with morning, taken from Edvard Grieg’s music for Peer Gynt. In a thousand Warner Brother cartoons, morning is signaled in this way.
Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 – I. Morgenstemning (Morning Mood) (Malmö Symphony Orchestra; Bjarte Engeset, cond.)
The wide variety of mornings from around the world may inspire us to change our mornings!
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