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

July is the month of intense heat and leisurely summer afternoons. My favorite pieces this month also have that slow, meandering pace. While the July edition appears later than originally planned, the music remains the same. So go grab a cold glass of iced tea and have a listen! What better way to spend your evening?

1) “Gymnopedie” no. 1, by Erik Satie (This Youtube link is a video of all Satie’s Gymnopedies; the first is the one that applies here.)

Now THIS one I know! It’s the epitome of summer’s slow tempo. Think swinging on the front porch, maybe a light breeze…. Put this one on your do-nothing playlist.

2) “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” op. 43, Variation no. 18: Andante cantabile, by Sergei Rachmaninoff

I was in serious danger of not giving my full attention to this one, but after my mom commented on how much she loves this piece, I got curious and took another listen. I’m super glad I did, because there is no other way for me to describe this music other than painfully beautiful. It’s euphoric, sad, hopeful, and tender all at the same time, like nothing I’ve heard before. Looks like I found a new favorite!

3) “‘Bess you is my woman now‘” from Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin

In his controversial opera, Porgy and Bess, Gershwin fully embraced the musicality of black, Jewish, and other immigrant communities in New York City. This version of the opera’s love song is sung by the one-and-only Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald (whose voice I happen to be obsessed with, by the way). It’s so tender and soulful, and the sentiments are universal to couples in love everywhere…

4) “The Homeless Wanderer,” by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou

Written by an Ethiopian nun, you can’t help but mellow out a little bit while listening to this jazz piece. Those who grew up with a piano in the house will understand that this music reminds me of my childhood self, experimenting with sound. I let my fingers run up and down the keys, playing with the combinations they’d make. It certainly wasn’t music to my mom’s ears, but I’m taken back to those imaginative childhood moments while enjoying this grown-up, but no less creative version.

5) “Gran Vals,” by Francisco Tarrega

For those who have read my other “Year of Wonder” posts, you have probably noticed by now that I have a weakness for the Spanish guitar. A trip to Portugal and Spain several years ago sealed the deal on that one. This traditional piece was played by the blind Francisco Tarrega. Although to play it blind must have been incredibly difficult, perhaps it wasn’t so bad. After all, I definitely close my eyes a lot when I listen to Spanish guitar!

Bonus Song!

Eternal Source of Light Divine“, by George Frideric Handel, sung by Elin Manahan Thomas

Another one I couldn’t pass up…. For those of you who follow the doings of British royalty, you may recognize this as the piece to which Meghan Markle walked down the aisle. While the new Duchess of Sussex is not a favorite person of mine due to her politics, watching the latest royal wedding with this song in it was a special experience. Plus, just listen to that soprano! Her voice is just so clear!

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