Feature: A Sense of Place
Often composers and audiences look no further than the world around them for inspiration and evocative listening. Here's a selection of popular works associated with particular places...
Mendelssohn: Hebrides ('Fingal's Cave') Overture
A frequent visitor to Britain, Mendelssohn was inspired to write both this well-loved overture and his third symphony during a walking tour of Scotland.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No.2 ('London')
Vaughan Williams insisted that there was no programmatic narrative underlying this triumphant symphony despite its being a perfect musical depiction of its subject and the inclusion of 'sound effects' such as the chimes of Big Ben.
Berlioz: Harold in Italy
Based on Byron's 'Childe Harold', this may have been one of the very first instrumental demonstration pieces, having been commissioned to showcase Paganini's Stradivari viola.
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Written in 1880 for a planned theatrical celebration of Tsar Alexander II's silver jubilee, this highly pictorial work is in fact a subtle musical commentary on the interpenetration of the cultures of Russia and Asia.
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.5
Of all the many works commissioned by and/or dedicated to the European nobility during the 18th century, few are as evocative of their origins as the six lively concertos Bach wrote for the Margrave of Brandenburg.
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture
The composer himself regarded this celebration of Napoleon's catastrophic retreat from Moscow as a hastily-written piece of hack work. This fact happily failed to prevent the 1812 from becoming one of the most popular classical compositions of all time.
Gershwin: An American in Paris
Perhaps unexpectedly, this well-known work was initially an orchestral composition, then the inspiration for a memorable film, then a ballet. It has an autobiographical aspect, in that Gershwin greatly enjoyed his stay in Paris despite failing in his intention to find a composition teacher; Ravel, Stravinsky and Nadia Boulanger all turned him down rather than risk interfering with his style.
Smetana: Ma Vlast (Moldau)
Smetana's cycle of symphonic poems celebrating the myths and legends of his Czech homeland is justly regarded as his masterpiece.
Art Tatum: Begin the Beguine
The Latin American influence present in so much music never fails to transport you to its place of origin. This Cole Porter standard is a fine example.
WORLD MUSIC CHOICE
Traditional: Indigenous Australian Wongga Music
The ever-increasing diversity of world music recordings available provides us with a fascinating map of the musical world, with few territories more instantly recognisable than this.