A Classical Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday that always seems to sneak up on me.  

Come October 1, I’m scheming about Halloween costumes and jammin’ to The Ghostbusters theme song at work.  It’s mid-November now, and I’ve already mentally written my Christmas lists and am buying those gotta-have-em holiday songs on iTunes.  I’m an admitted birthday fiend and celebrate April as “my birthday month”.

Maybe one of the reasons I love Thanksgiving is its ability, every year, to surprise me.  Its arrival seems to perfectly counter the previous hectic weeks and those universal bemused wonderings of “is it November already?”  Thanksgiving reminds us to slow down, let go of what doesn’t serve us, and cultivate gratitude for the blessings in our lives.  It also provides a guilt-free pass to enjoy a second helping of Mom’s cranberry sauce with your brother’s favorite stuffing {or, in my case, third helpings of brussels sprouts}.

In the (likely) case you also are a Thanksgiving fan, and perhaps a classical music fan, here are eleven classical tracks for this eleventh month:

1.) String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132: III. Molto adagio (Beethoven)

Beethoven composed this string quartet following a life-threatening illness and many see it as his song of thanks for his recovery. This third movement is often known as The Heiliger Dankgesang, The Song of Thanksgiving.

2.) The Four Seasons, Concerto 3: L’Autumno: Adagio molto: Ubriachi dormient (Vivaldi)

Vivaldi also wrote Sonnets for each movement of the Four Seasons.  For this movement: “The mild pleasant air makes all abandon dance and song; this is the season that invites all to the sweet delights of peaceful sleep”.

3.) Canon in D Major (Pachelbel)

The reasons why Pachelbel composed this now-famous piece are still unknown.  Some believe it was composed for a wedding in 1694 – appropriate, as this is now a wedding standby (what better day is there to give thanks than a wedding?)

4.) String Quintet in G: Adagio (Brahms)

On a vacation to Italy in the spring of 1890, the 57-year-old Brahms decided to retire. Before he quit, Brahms wanted to complete one last work. That summer, in the Austrian Alps, he wrote this string quintet.  When he sent a final correction of it to his publisher in December, Brahms proclaimed: “With this note you can take leave of my music because it is high time to stop.”

5.) Cello Suite No. 1, 5. Menuett (Bach)

6.) Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BMV 1006: Preludio (Bach)

7.) The Seasons, October: Song of Autumn (Tchaikovsky)

The Seasons is a set of 12 character pieces written by Tchaikovsky for solo piano.  The following is a translation of the poetic epigraphs contained in the Russian edition:

“Autumn, our poor garden is all falling down,the yellowed leaves are flying in the wind”. -Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy

8.) The Seasons, November: Troika (Tchaikovsky)

{See above}.

“In your loneliness do not look at the road, and do not rush out after the troika.  Suppress at once and forever the fear of longing in your heart.” -Nikolay Nekrasov 

9.) Firebird – Berceuse (Stravinsky)

The story of the Firebird Suite (composed in 1910) is based on a Russian folk tale and is divided into five movements.  When Katscheï and his followers are exhausted, the Firebird lulls them to sleep.

10.) Fantasia in F sharp minor, Op. 28, “Sonate Eccossaise”: I. Con moto agitato: Andante (Mendelssohn)

11.) Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”: IV. Ode to Joy (Beethoven)

Beethoven’s Ninth is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven’s greatest works, and is considered by some to be the greatest piece of music ever written.  Check out this video from Osaka, Japan of a 10,000-member choir performing Ode to Joy, dedicated to the tsunami victims.  Just try to watch without getting chills (I can’t!)

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! xo

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