Nature, the Great Composers, and Other Fascinating Stories

“Rest, nature, books, music… such is my idea of happiness”
Leo Tolstoy

“Madison” by Ola Gjeilo (courtesy of Trym Ivar Bergsmo):

 

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without”
Confucius 

“Dawn” from “Winter Songs”  by Ola Gjeilo and 12 ensemble:

 

“Echoes in Rain” by Enya (courtesy of Mauro Lucio):

From prehistoric times, nature and humanity have been closely linked. Nomadic tribes and cave dwellers depended on the world around them. They danced to bring on rain or chanted to appease the wind, the sun, and forests. The ancient Egyptians played many instruments – drums, rattles, castanets, bells, and sistrum, in their worshipful rituals. In ancient Greek mythology, the music Muse, Euterpe (“giver of much delight”), was most respected, as she bestowed her musical ability on Orpheus. When his beloved wife, Eurydice, died suddenly, in desperation he went searching for her to the gates of the Underworld and played his lyre. His mournful singing moved even the gods and he could see his wife again.

Music and creativity in Ancient Greece (courtesy of TED-Ed):

 

A Chinese proverb reflects the symbiosis between nature, music, and humans:
‘A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.’

Nightingale singing at sunrise (courtesy of Wildlife World):

Beethoven –  wrote that he often preferred the company of a tree to that of a man and that his ideas came from his daily walks. Not surprisingly, in his greatly popular Symphony No 6 Pastoral, you can hear the call of a cuckoo. In the second movement, Scene by the Brook, toward the end is a cadenza for woodwind instruments that imitates bird calls. Beethoven helpfully identified the bird species in the score: nightingale (flute) quail (oboe) and cuckoo (two clarinets).

Scene by the Brook (II), Symphony No. 6 by Beethoven (courtesy of Edward):

 

Mozart‘s favourite place for writing his music was in the open garden with his pet starling on his shoulder, both whistling the notes from his compositions.

Lang Lang explains and plays an excerpt from the Violin Concerto No 17 in G Major:

The inspiration for the book Mozart’s Starling:

 

Wagner‘s inspiration came from his walks in the Swiss Alps.

“Edelweiss” (courtesy of tomy simson):

 

The list of the great composers inspired by nature’s beauty is long but here are some other examples:

Delibes – the immensely popular ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakmé is about Lakmé and her servant Mallika singing as they gather flowers by a river; this presentation is courtesy of gdoremi:

 

Delius – ‘The walk to the Paradise Garden’ from ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’ was written as an orchestral interlude.

Mendelssohn – Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) was created after his walks in the Scottish countryside.

Fingal’s Cave, Island of Staffa (courtesy of guydecervens):

 

Often regarded as the first “impressionist” composer, Debussy’s music was frequently inspired by nature. He wrote “There is nothing more musical than a sunset.” in the French publication Musica in 1903. “He who feels what he sees,” continued the pioneering composer, “will find no more beautiful example of development in all that book which, alas, musicians read but too little — the book of Nature.”

Debussy –  Preludes include the movements ‘Mists’, ‘Dead Leaves’, and ‘Bruyeres (Heather)’

“Bruyeres” (courtesy of Thespianists):

 

Bizet – An aria in his opera Carmen includes the lyrics: ‘The flower that you had thrown me, I kept with me in prison… I became intoxicated by its fragrance.’

Borodin –  wrote in his song ‘From my tears sprang flowers’; ‘Many blooming flowers spring forth from my tears, and my singing becomes joined with the chorus of the nightingales.’

Howells – he wrote a Christmas carol with the lyrics about the animals in the stable taken from the anonymous-century text.

Puccini – created the beautiful string quartet piece ‘Crisantemi’, inspired by the flowers Chrysanthemums. This was featured in my post “Do Plants Have Intelligence?”

Tchaikovsky – In his greatly popular ballet The Nutcracker there is a Waltz of the Flowers. A string of beautiful flowers performs a dance.

Vivaldi – the universally loved ‘Four Seasons’ has bird calls in ‘Spring’, and a swarm of wasps in ‘Summer’.

Johann Strauss II – composed the waltz medley ‘Roses from the South’.

Saint-Saëns – his cello solo ‘The Swan’ from The Carnival of Animals, was created for the ballerina Anna Pavlova. Here performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott:

 

Debussy – his famous ‘La Mer’ was created to global acclaim and was recorded by many orchestras. Charles Trenet composed an even more famous piece of music, a song recorded by many top singers, all praising the beauty of the sea.

This version is performed by Chantal Chamberland (courtesy of Gerda Kersseboom);

Joseph Kosma – was the composer behind the very much loved ‘Autumn Leaves’, a haunting, heartrending melody; this was featured in my post “Ode to Autumn.”

Schubert – composed one of the most well-loved songs ‘Die Forelle’. It was performed by many soloists, among them Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. I love this song with a passion because you can just ‘see’ and hear the happy trout splashing in the stream. I also won a book prize for knowing all about this song during a quiz at a school concert. I still have this book with a dedication on the front page.

“Die Forelle” (The Trout) by Schubert (courtesy of Yury Revich):

 

Delacroix the painter wrote about Chopin‘s music: ‘It mingles with the songs of the nightingales and the scent of roses.’

There is a multitude of interesting facts connected with music. I include here a few. The Greek Muses gave the name to the word museum.

In 1797 in Langelsheim (Germany) a baby boy was born into a poor family. One of twelve children, he was baptised as Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg. During the preparations for the battle at Waterloo, Private Stenweg found a few bits of wood and some wire, and build a lyre and played it to raise the morale of his comrades. Forty years later he emigrated to the United States with his wife and seven of his nine children. After changing his name to Henry E. Steinway, he founded in 1853 a piano-making factory. This was the birth of Steinway, the best piano in the world. I understood why when I watched a tour of the Steinway factory in a fairly recent documentary. The attention to detail of all the craftsmen working there was unprecedented in our time.

The Making of a Steinway (courtesy of Steinway & Sons):

 

 

“The Heart Asks Pleasure First / The Promise” (Edit) by Michael Nyman from the film “The Piano” (courtesy of Michael Nyman – Topic):

 

The emergence of concert halls brought virtuoso piano players to the fore. One of many eccentric players was Henri Herz who before the concert would assure his American audience that he was indeed a virtuoso piano player. He was known for his spectacular settings at the concert halls. In one he stated that there were 1000 candles illuminating the concert hall. One man instead of listening to the music counted all the candles and on finding that there were ‘only’ 992, got up and loudly demanded his money back. This made Herz even more popular among the public.

Soon America started sending their own virtuoso piano players to Europe. One of them was Léopold de Meyer, who while talented had somewhat odd habits. Before the beginning of his concert, he would sit among the public. When the moment came when he should be already sitting at the piano, he would run forward among the chairs, and then with a huge jump would land on the podium. After taking his morning coat off, and inviting the audience to do the same, he would light a cigar and then proceed to play. When he finished his program, he would continue to impress the audience by doing imitations on the piano of bell ringing, and loud cattle mooing, all this by banging the piano with his fists, elbows and even his nose.

Interesting was the career of the famous pianist Liszt. He was worshipped to the point that after a concert the horses of his carriage were taken away so the crowd could pull ‘chosen by the gods’ to the hotel. This was interrupted on the way by hysterical women who tried to pull out at least a few hairs from his head; while some were fainting, others would race home to write Liszt letters professing their undying love and a desire to throw themselves under his feet in supplication.

A mini-biography of Liszt (courtesy of Biography):

 

Liebestraum No. 3 by Liszt, performed by Lang Lang on Steinway & Sons Spirio:

 

Liszt’s main rival Thalberg made so much money that he retired earlier and bought land and a mansion in Italy and for the next 15 years grew vineyards for wine. His mansion was stuffed with exquisite carpets, priceless objects of art, and the best furniture. The only piece of furniture missing was a piano.

When Rachmaninov was asked who is the best pianist in the world, he replied: ‘ There is Josef Hofmann’. Who? You may well ask. The pianist Josef Hofmann (1876 – 1957) was born near Krakow in Poland. His father was a composer, conductor, and professor of piano at a Conservatory. It is not surprising that young Josef learned to play the piano at three years old. At eight he was playing to spellbound audiences. As a young man, he was not only a virtuoso piano player but a composer and a prolific inventor. He was referred to as ‘twice the Genius’, and had over 70 patents. They included the invention of windscreen wipers, based on the pendulous movement of the metronome. The Ford car company began mass production of windscreen wipers. Among his other numerous patents, there are pneumatic shock absorbers for cars and aeroplanes, proto-GPS and a solution decreasing the resistive drag of piano keys, still used in Steinway pianos. It was his idea for the well-known spiral-shaped heater for boiling water, an electric clock, and even the motorboat. He spent most of his life in America and is regarded as a Polish American pianist.

I am running out of space and have to stop now but with one last thought – isn’t life in all its glory and diversity – unmissable and beautiful?

Beautiful nature around the world (courtesy of Annemieke van Leeuwen):

 

The beauty of planet Earth (courtesy of legolasdk):

 

How Music Can Plant Trees (courtesy of TreeSisters):

 

 

,

39 thoughts on “Nature, the Great Composers, and Other Fascinating Stories

  1. Absolutely delightful write! A good amalgamation of beautiful pictures, musical pieces and quotes. It’s indeed amazing how nature, animals, music and humans are so intimately connected. I especially loved the piece “Chantal Chamberland”. It was wonderful to listen to. Overall, an enjoyable post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Spectacular post Joanna and love the composers and pictures you shared with us. I’ll be back to listen to more later💖💖👏👏👏👏

    Like

  3. Thank you, Cindy, for your very kind comments! I am very happy that you like the music!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. you’re so welcome and thank you. Love it!!! xo 💖

    Like

  6. Thank you, SamSahana, for your generous comments! I am glad that you like the music too!
    Joanna

    Like

  7. its a pleasure. 💖💖💖

    Like

  8. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  9. Wonderful post , Joanna. Loved the pictures and music. I really enjoyed the picture of the nightingale singing. Fabulous.💕

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you, Grace, for your wonderful comments!! The birds singing is my great pleasure!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated,

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful! What a delightful way to end this week, reading your post and listening to beautiful music! Now I can retire for the weekend and observe the stream of life “in blissful peace”. Dear Joanna, have a beautiful weekend and thank you 🤗💝🌹💖🍀🙋‍♂️😘

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you, Ashley, for your generous comments!! You are always so kind to me!
    Have a beautiful weekend too!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Purely pleasant and perfectly figured out facts of peaceful life dear Joanna. I truly wanted some peace n here I got by listening to the lovely music of chirping birds and the play of Piano along with beautiful pictures of the nature. Though I couldn’t read the entire post, heartfully enjoyed the pleasant pictures n music. Thanks a ton for sharing n spreading the peace n positivity to the world. Loves to you ❤ 🙏🙏

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you, Suma, for your kind comments, I am glad that you could listen to some of the music.

    Joanna

    Like

  16. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  17. Hi. Our planet is a wonder, too multifaceted and complex for anyone to know fully. And, as you beautifully show, it is an endless source of inspiration.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Thank you for your kind comment. Nature has been always my inspiration.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What a spectacular post, Joanna! You made my day. It was a complete entertainment this morning with nature and music for more than one and half hours. I enjoyed every bit of the post. Your idea of combining nature with music is superb, and logical too.

    It’s heartening to know about your book prize for Die Forelle song. You’re in fact a music lover too. Stories are all fascinating, particularly The Making of Steinway, mini-biography of Liszt and 1000 candle story of Herz.

    All videos are awesome, but nightingale’s singing and piece by Chantal Chamberland stood out for me. Beautiful nature of Annemieke impressed me with its tune, visuals and melody. In all, it’s a fantabulous post, Joanna. Loved it thoroughly. Thank you once again!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Dear Kaushal, with your wonderful comments you made my day too!! I wanted offer this week some entertainment
    as post-pandemic relief, and I am so happy that you liked my post!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you again, Kaushal. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It’s my pleasure. I really enjoyed it.

    Like

  24. You’re welcome, Joanna!

    Like

  25. A most interesting and beautiful post, Joanna. Nature is indeed inspiring. 🌞

    Like

  26. Thank you, Lisa, for your kind comment. I know that we are likeminded, and I love that!!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  28. This blog is becoming nature’s home coming. This post is filled life’s dedication to receive all what our universe has to offer and Joanna is that chosen prophet. Every word, image, sound, letters, waves all collectively making that word which is hard for most humans to ignite in others. Evolution. That insight with which Joanna is carrying us along is way of her to direct us to love, peace which are one and the only bed rock of a content day and life.

    Rest, nature, books, music; only if we humans try arranging this for us, i think we can create what Joanna and other great Philosophers call Symphonies. Looking at the arrangement of this essay, of the performances, the Piano musicals; i am amazed and literally curious how much the depth of the writer must who in these posts gives us just one glimpse of her immense love from all walks of life.

    These sounds and songs are so enthralling that i am not over yet, or may be i havent’t even started hearing. May be the writer is also carrying us to learn to hear the right notes, the right melodies. I also see sun setting as i write this, and there is no other feeling than to surmise this as the most beautiful music.

    She is nothing else but nature more. My care, strength and lots of love to the writer.

    Narayan x

    Like

  29. Dear Narayan, you are telepathic, as just a few minutes ago I was willing you to write if possible. With Ashley and Kaushal, you are the part of the elite of readers whos comments are so wonderful that I crave to read them!! Thank you!! Of course, you are right, I love music, all kind of music.
    Nature is always my inspiration, but here I wanted to add some humor, and judging by your response, I have been successful ,

    My thanks and love to you too!

    Joanna x

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Thank you again, Dear Narayan! Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna x

    Like

  31. What a gorgeous post.. Love the photos and the music!! Absolutely enjoyed this one. Have a blessed week and hope you have been well, Joanna ❤️❤️❤️🤗🙏

    Like

  32. Thank you, Diana, for your wonderful comments! Thank you, I am well, and all the best to you too!

    Joanna

    Like

  33. Thank you again. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Like

  34. Thank you Joanna for a great post filled with beautiful music and such interesting facts. Loved it ❤️

    Like

  35. Thank you, Henrietta, for your wonderful comment, and for taking time to read it on your special day! It is amazing when Fate gives you the man of your dreams!

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you again, Henrietta. Greatly appreciated.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

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