A Year of “Wonder”-Ful Classical Music: March

Time for March’s edition of Year of Wonder! This month featured a lot of international composers, with these five songs making the top of my list. And it’s March 31st, so let’s all give a toast to the birthday boy: J.S. Bach!! Go forth and enjoy some music!

1) “Carmen Suite No. 1/ 3: Intermezzo, by Georges Bizet

I have a CD called Romantic Harp II, and I’ve listened to it for years. It was only this month that I discovered that this beloved melody is from Carmen! Look at me, listening to opera from the age of 6, and I didn’t even realize it! I always imagined a small bird trilling away on a tree branch. Flutes seem to inspire that kind of imagery, and quite appropriate for the start of spring, don’t you think?

2) “Concerto for two trumpets in C major 1: Allegro, by Antonio Vivaldi

Ahhhh, Vivaldi. Another musician that fired up my imagination as a kid. Although his “Four Seasons” will always hold a special place in my heart, this piece in particular screams of medieval Venice. I had a cassette tape (wow, what are those?) from a series called Classical Kids, and each tape told a little fictional story about a composer. “Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery was a favorite. Haunting violins? Gondolas? Mysteries shrouded behind Venetian masks? I was sold, hook, line, and sinker…..

3) “Nocturne No. 5 in B flat major,” by John Field

This was the selection for St. Patrick’s Day, and tis’ Irish to be sure! As author Clemency Burton-Hill explains, the Irish are often credited with inventing the nocturne, and frankly it’s not surprising. Theirs is a musical culture, so it’s no wonder that this lilting melody speaks to the Irish inside me! Also, composer John Field was greatly admired by Chopin. Pretty impressive if you ask me!

4) “Cello Suite no. 1 in G major 1: Prelude,” by J.S. Bach

I listened to this one and said, ” Hey! I know that! It’s the Viking River Cruise commercial!” Poor Bach must have been doing a face-palm from on high. Sorry Johann! In all honesty, however, this piece really showcases what a cello can do. Its deep and sonorous sound is actually really relaxing. And who knew that the cello was considered a poor man’s instrument! Bach makes it sound rich indeed….

5) “Ambre,” by Nils Frahm

This piece took me by surprise. Written by a “German millennial” who likes to play around with electronic and vintage equipment to create different sounds, I was hesitant. Was this going to sound like some freakish techno twist on classical music? Quite the contrary. It is certainly on the more modern end of the spectrum, but the piano is wonderful. I defy you to listen to this and not think of raindrops…..

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