A cup of hot tea, the scent of pumpkin pie, a blanket and a book. For many, autumn is the most beautiful season. In fact, the season has inspired a wide range of composers to write works celebrating its warm colors and tones, chilly weather, and perhaps a dash of melancholy.
We’ve put together a list for you of some of those works. Listen to them when you find yourself contemplating the radiant colors of the fall leaves–or somewhere in California, dreaming of them.
Arnold Bax: Symphony No 2, November Woods
“I put a great deal of time (and emotion) into the writing … it should be very broad indeed, with a kind of oppressive, catastrophic mood.” This is the 20th century English composer’s own description of his work. The symphony depicts the deconstructive nature of late autumn and the dark sky just before a storm.
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Autumn Gardens
Autumn Gardens is a nature portrait in which the revered 20th century Finnish composer pictures the season’s magical atmosphere, and the shadows it casts on the landscape.
Frederick Delius: North Country Sketches: Autumn
The English composer’s work consists of four movements. The first two, “Autumn” and “Winter Landscape,” depict the crispness, the fall colors, and ultimately the desolation that characterizes the Yorkshire landscape during these seasons of the year.
Ludwig Van Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15
The third and longest movement of this iconic late Beethoven quartet is known as the “Holy song of Thanksgiving”. Somehow, this profoundly moving hymn sounds timeless, untethered from any specific sense of style or historical period. Beethoven’s works from this late period will be contemporary forever.
Sergey Prokofiev: Autumnal Sketch
This is one of the composer’s earliest works, and it’s characterized by a sense of dark clouds encroaching on a peaceful landscape. The first theme even recalls the foreboding tone of Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Seasons: September, October, November
In this composition, Tchaikovsky celebrates the uniqueness of each month of the year. In “September”, hunters jump on their horses and get lost in the woods. As “October” arrives, the autumnal colors of the leaves are now falling to the ground, waiting to be blown away by the wind. In “November”, winter approaches and shades of gray become the new palette.
Joseph Joachim Raff: Symphony No. 10, “To Autumntime”
The little-known German-Swiss composer has written a symphony that is a compelling mix of sound and atmosphere. He grasps the many moods of the season: the crisp feeling of autumn, a calm and nostalgic vibe, as well as a more energetic hunting call.
Edward Grieg: In Autumn
Grieg’s music reflects the folk traditions of his native Norway, In this Overture-Concerto, he depicts autumn as a time for harvesting and a hint of decay, revealing the fascinating cycle of time.
Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Autumn
The Four Seasons is Antonio Vivaldi’s most famous work. In the “Autumn” section, his music tells us stories about peasants celebrating the pleasure of a happy harvest with dances and songs and hunters, at the break of dawn, setting forth with horns and guns.
Joseph Haydn: The Seasons: Autumn
“I know no subject more elevating, more amusing, more ready to awake poetic enthusiasm, philosophical reflection, and moral sentiment, than the works of Nature” –Scottish poet James Thomson
Haydn’s oratorio, scored for chorus, orchestra and vocal soloists, paints a picture of thundering storms, sunrises and sunsets, creatures of the woods, and the breathtaking sounds of the harvest, the hunt, and the wine-soaked celebrations that follow.
Do you have any other quintessential autumnal pieces? Let us know below!