Playlist: WFMT Selects Classical Music to Help You Spring into Spring

By Keegan Morris |

Share this Post

Robert William Vonnoh. Spring in France. 1890. The Art Institute of Chicago.

You made it! The frigid, blustery days of winter have finally passed, and spring is here!

Now is the time to revel in leisurely strolls, sun-kissed picnics, and lush scenery. 14 WFMT staff members have shared music that captures the irrepressible spirit of spring!

Read about their selections below, or click here to listen to the full playlist.

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, by Felix Mendelssohn

I am quite certain I was a pirate or a sailor in a previous life; the sea and sailing are in my blood, and the call of the open ocean that every sailor must feel in the first awakenings of spring really resonates with me. The opening bars of Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage evoke the rising sun on the first spring morning at sea, and the spritely section that follows ripples and rolls like wind in the sails. The building excitement in the strings is the invigorating warm spring air as open ocean approaches, and the peaceful return to port is as welcome as the persistent light in a long spring evening. — Maggie Clennon Reberg, Program Host

Sonatine, by Maurice Ravel

There is no explicit link to spring in Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine for Piano in F-sharp minor. In fact, the first movement was composed for a competition sponsored by the Weekly Critical Review magazine. However, Sonatine was the only submission, and the competition was cancelled. However, this piece makes me envision images of spring. Perhaps it is Ravel’s delicate, shimmery use of perfect fourths and fifths that conjure pictures of flitting butterfly wings, and listening to it makes me imagine flower petals dancing in the warm spring breeze. — Mary Mazurek, Recording Engineer

Overture from Mountain Roads, by David Maslanka

Spring is when I think back to the end of the school year, and specifically, the wonderful mentors and friends who inspired me to pursue music. David Maslanka’s music has been an influential part of my life since high school, and I even had the opportunity to work with and learn from this deeply spiritual composer. The overture for his saxophone quartet, Mountain Roads, is uplifting and exuberant. Whether this music makes you think of blossoming nature or dear friendships, it is the perfect piece for a sunny spring day. — Michael San Gabino, Associate Producer and Program Host

Yet Another Poem of Spring, by Anthony Ritchie

Anthony Ritchie is a New Zealand composer and a past colleague of mine from when I worked at the University of Otago. In his early 20s, he wrote a suite of piano pieces, Poems of Spring, juxtaposing the beauty of Christchurch in spring with the hurt and anguish of a broken relationship.
Ten years on, he was in the midst of a brutal New Zealand winter when he had climbed out of a dark place in his life and into an emotional springtime, if not a literal one. The result was a life-affirming orchestral fanfare: Yet Another Poem of Spring. Take a few minutes and enjoy the ride! — Robbie Ellis, Program Host

"Ging heut' Morgen über's Feld" ("I Went This Morning over the Field") from Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, by Gustav Mahler

With lyrics by Mahler himself, inspired by German folk poetry in Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn), the character in this song embraces the wonders of nature as he walks across dew-covered fields one morning. He greets a finch, a harebell, and the sun, before realizing his joy will never be complete because of unrequited love. This song was a predecessor to Mahler's Symphony No. 1, and it appears as the central theme of the symphony's first movement. — Nate Beversluis, Web Developer

Blumine, by Gustav Mahler

When asked to choose a piece which evokes winter for me, I chose a movement from a Mahler symphony. Now, in contemplating spring, it's Mahler again! But this time, it’s a movement that the composer ultimately deleted from his Symphony No. 1, the so called Blumine or Flower movement. The delicacy of the reduced orchestral forces, the lyrical, heartfelt trumpet call which opens and closes the piece, the melancholy oboe, the poignancy of the harp, all come together to suggest a cool, colorful early spring day in the mountains, and a brisk hike among vast patches of wildflowers. I want to be there now! — Kerry Frumkin, Program Host

Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland

This music could be regarded as an American icon. Aaron Copland successfully bridged the (so-called) divide between classical and popular music, and his score for Martha Graham’s ballet has elements of both worlds. The folksong quoted near the end is a Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.” The ballet’s story concerns a farm couple and their wedding. It was originally scored for a small ensemble, which Copland expanded later for full orchestra. The original is charming, and not so often heard. — Andi Lamoreaux, Music Director

Aguas da Amazonia, by Philip Glass

Aguas da Amazonia by Philip Glass is a composition that pulls me from the depths of winter and paints a verdant picture of spring. Each movement of this ballet score is named for a different major tributary to the Amazon River. The composer worked with members of the Brazilian instrumental ensemble Uakti, who recorded the music on instruments of their own creation. The lush, and at times, unfamiliar sounds of percussion, wind, and string instruments evoke the trickle of rainforest streams as they mingle and merge to form wild rapids surging through the Amazon basin. — Joshua Sauvageau, Chief Engineer

Boticelli's Primavera

La Primavera from Trittico botticelliano, by Ottorino Respighi

Italian composer Ottorino Respighi lived in the 20th century but was often drawn to great works of the past for inspiration, including the visual arts. Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli’s enigmatic painting of spring, Primavera, is a vivid display of flowers, plants, and mythological figures. Respighi used his own paintbrush of orchestral colors to recreate Botticelli’s vibrant depiction of spring in music. The hope of the season is captured in this miniature masterpiece filled with birdsong, refreshing breezes, and the revitalizing warmth of the sun. — Lisa Flynn, Program Host

Violin Concerto Op. 5, No. 2, by Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Virtuosic, fun, and a great way to welcome the warmth of spring is the Violin Concerto Op. 5, No. 2 by Chevalier de Saint‐Georges, who was a composer, master violinist, champion fencer, and soldier. Saint-Georges' exciting and colorful life is heard in all of his works, especially his violin concertos. This work is full of melodic imagination and features a furious and harmonic solo violin, played expertly here by Rachel Barton Pine. Always a showman, Saint-Georges pulls out all the stops for the violinist. This is a piece of music you won’t soon forget. Perfect for welcoming that sunshine! — Daniel Goldberg, Producer

Alone, by Giovanni Sollima

While not explicitly about spring, Alone for solo cello by Giovanni Sollima evokes it for me because it begins slowly and then springs forward with increasing energy and optimism. I first heard this piece by Ben Lash, one of the students I hosted on Introductions, and have enjoyed it ever since. — David Polk, Program Director

Piano Sonata No. 16: III. Rondo, by Mozart (arranged for two pianos by Grieg)

Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16, “Sonata Facile” will be instantly recognizable to many listeners for its signature first movement, but the charming Grieg arrangement of Mozart’s bite-sized final movement is my favorite. The slightly offset rhythmic quality of this adaptation evokes a sense of a spirited, joyous airiness. This interpretation by Piotr Anderszewski and Martha Argerich is everything a good spring day should be: playful, exuberant, and above all, full of life. — Keegan Morris, Digital Producer

The Birds, by Ottorino Respighi

Spring is in the air with fresh scents, gentle breezes, and the return of birds. Respighi’s suite for chamber orchestra The Birds (Gli Uccelli) comes to my mind. A composition with the instrumentation of a Haydn orchestra, The Birds is a whimsical score that gives the musicians a chance to call out, scratch the dirt like a chicken, and soar through the air. The five movements are all transcriptions based on the works of Baroque composers — "Preludio,” by Pasquini; “The Dove” inspired by Gallot; "The Hen," after Rameau; "The Nightingale," from an English folksong; and "The Cuckoo," another Pasquini. Through the beauty and humor of this work, you can feel the warmth of Respighi’s heart. — Cydne Gillard, Producer

Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, by Bela Bartók

When I hear the last movement of Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, I think of this passage on the coming of spring from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina:

“[A] warm wind sprang up, storm clouds swooped down, and for three days and three nights the warm, driving rain fell in streams. On Thursday the wind dropped, and a thick gray fog brooded over the land as though hiding the mysteries of the transformations that were being wrought in nature. Behind the fog there was the flowing of water, the cracking and floating of ice, the swift rush of turbid, foaming torrents; and on the following Monday, in the evening, the fog parted, the storm clouds split up into little curling crests of cloud, the sky cleared, and the real spring had come.” 

— Candice Agree, Program Host

Enjoy the full playlist below!

What's your favorite classical music to usher in spring? Let us know in the comment section!