Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and we’re sure you have all your sheet music at-the-ready to celebrate the special ladies in your life. We thought we’d take the opportunity to explore the classical musical influences of another sort of maternal figure… mother nature.
From the obvious, like birds chirping and raindrops falling, to the more abstract, like the sound of river water swiftly rushing over a rocky bed, natural sounds and patterns have influenced classical composers throughout history.
Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” for example, pulls inspiration from each of nature’s stages to create a 4-concerto work that’s become a beloved Baroque repertoire staple. (Download our sheet music collection for the most recognized movements, just $5.99 right now!) In the first concerto, “Spring,” leaves rustle via second violins, a dog barks to the tune of repeated viola notes and a spring dance erupts thanks to the whirring basses. In Vivaldi’s second concerto of the piece, “Summer,” diminished chords lead to a full-out thunderstorm. An “Autumn” horn call signifies the start of hunting season, and “Winter” pizzicato notes evoke frigid sleet while the warm violin solo hums by the fire inside.
The artistic representation of natural imagery was fashioned during Vivaldi’s Baroque era, and it influenced many of his successors, including the nature-loving Ludwig Van Beethoven. Beethoven often enjoyed escaping the bustle of Romantic-era Vienna to stroll the countryside. It was during these escapes that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 was composed. Symphony No. 6 is comprised of five movements, the first of which depicts a lively stream, and the fourth of which features a gradually building thunderstorm, complete with driving rain, electrifying lighting and more.
Perhaps the most overt connection between music and nature is displayed in the Impressionist works of Claude Debussy, who was quite outspoken about his love of nature. Regarding his early “Deux Arabesques, ” Debussy said he was influenced by the Baroque era “when music was subject to the laws of beauty inscribed in the movements of Nature herself.” And the legend’s most beloved work, “Claire de Lune,” conjures a misty moonlit scene.
Of course, there are many additional beloved classical pieces throughout history that draw from the natural world. Frederic Francois Chopin’s “Prelude in Db Major (Raindrop Prelude)” stars repeating A-flat ‘rain drops’ throughout. Get the sheet music for Chopin’s “Prelude in Db Major” FREE with our iOS and Android apps. Mimicking the animal world, “Morning Mood” from Edvard Greig’s ‘Peer Gynt’ offers bird chirps welcoming the sun rise, while Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Flight of the Bumblebee” follows the insect’s frantic aerial journey. Or, consider a musical journey beyond the Earth with Gustav Holst’s other-worldly “The Planets.” Download piano sheet music for the cheerful Jupiter and, new to Musicnotes, the fiery Mars.
What are you favorite nature-influenced classical music pieces to play? Is there a work that you find especially moving to listen to? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.