Feel the Chill with Charles Kingsley’s Ode To The Northeast Wind

snowy sprucesIt is rare to encounter verse that places winter storms in a positive context, isn’t it?

Around 1900, the international writer Lafcadio Hearn gave lectures on English literature and poetry at the University of Tokyo, and I can think of no better introduction to this author and poem than the one he gave. Read more

You’ve Never Heard the Seasons in Sonic Panoramas Like This

In 1799, William Blake wrote “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way . . . But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” In 1816, John Keats wrote that no matter how still a summer day or winter night may be “the poetry of earth is never dead.” If you’re an avid gardener or a lover of the outdoors overall . . . and you’ve never heard Haydn’s large-scale treatment of the seasons for chorus and orchestra . . . isn’t it about time to find out what you’ve been missing?

This is a piece as much of our time as it was of its own. Long before Keats and Blake were alive, and in a culture far different from theirs, Confucius famously observed, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” Versions of The Seasons are available in German and English, so you can’t use the language barrier as an excuse! For recommendations, skip to the bottom, or keep on going if you’d like to find out how early The Seasons became famous, when the oratorio crossed the Atlantic, what it was like to write, or why this piece represents the epitome of Enlightenment values.

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images of country life during the four seasons from Flemish baroque painter Sebastian Vrancx
Allegories of the Seasons, date unknown
Sebastian Vrancx (1573-1647)

On June 12, 1799, while working on this oratorio, one of the greatest composers in history wrote to his German publisher about–would you believe?–his concern that he was losing it: Read more