Melodies to uplift your mood: Antonio Vivaldi, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninov and more

Byvu lita

Jun 16, 2023

We often turn to music in times of trouble to help lift our mood.

Cabin fever setting in? Or maybe that third espresso for the day hasn’t kicked in yet.

We’ve pulled together a playlist and album of classical music you told us was guaranteed to lift your spirits instantly. Martin Buzacott shares six of his favourites.

Lift Spirits playlist

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

There’s a reason why Vaughan Williams’s definitive example of English pastoralism continues to top popularity polls around the globe. It’s because it makes YOU feel like the lark, wheeling and gliding, soaring ever upwards into the heavens. Freedom and joy have never been captured so perfectly in music. And to add to the pleasure, George Meredith’s poem which inspired it contains the lines: “And ever winging up and up,/Our valley is his golden cup/And he the wine which overflows/To lift us with him as he goes.” So,sip a glass of your finest as you listen, and let your imagination escape the bonds of earth.

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2

Feeling depressed? Rachmaninov was too, for several years in fact, until brilliant care from a psychotherapist helped him to put the pieces of his mind back together again. And at the start of this glorious Piano Concerto, the first work he composed after therapy, you can actually HEAR the wellsprings of mental health starting to flow again. By the time the orchestra swings in behind the piano, you and the music are being reborn, as this irresistible musical force sweeps you away to a better place where pure melody reigns.

Aaron Copland: “Hoedown” from Rodeo

Every so often, we all have to remind ourselves simply to “giddy-up” and get on with it. And when you hear Aaron Copland’s fabulous, hilarious Rodeo, you just can’t help smiling, dancing, and finding the inner cow-person you never even knew you were. Based on an authentic folk-fiddler’s tune from Kentucky, this American ballet masterpiece will have you boot-scootin’ into your wardrobe looking for that ancient pair of Levis, the size-too-small riding-boots, and the moth-eaten Akubra that Uncle Chas left behind at Christmas five years ago. So get your hands away from your chin and stick your thumbs in your pockets, because Hoedown is gonna have you dancin’ swell, pard’ner.

Dmitri Shostakovich: “Waltz No.2” from Jazz Suite No.2 

What is it about Shostakovich’s “Waltz No.2” that makes it sound like you’re doing something wicked when you dance to it? The triple-time seems nothing special on the surface, but somehow it gets you in, and then when the main tune arrives, it’s like that dirty-secret that your school-friends used to let you in on when you were down behind the sheds at the oval. And you relish it just as much. You want to hear it again, you want to know more about it, and you want to share it with others. In fact, you’re so excited about it that you’ve already forgotten that you were supposed to be feeling down before you heard it.

Elena Kats-Chernin: “Eliza Aria” from Wild Swans

When a major bank chooses a piece of music for its advertising campaign, you just know it has to have the feelgood factor in multiples of thousands. And that’s exactly what happened when Lloyds TSB in England took Elena Kats-Chernin’s kooky, hypnotic earworm and made it famous. It’s like no other music you can imagine, kind of bubblegum-meets-scat-meets-Queen-of-the-Night and to hear it is to love it and to laugh – not at it, but with it. Because “Eliza Aria” is all about generosity of spirit and a celebration of the originality and creativity within us all. Silly, brilliant, breathtaking, and a reason for living, all at once.

Antonio Vivaldi: Anything

Okay, okay, “Vivaldi’s music is so yesterday, right?” “Not that old warhorse The Four Seasons AGAIN!” “Hey, have you heard that Vivaldi didn’t write 600 concertos but the same concerto 600 times?” No doubt you’ve heard people saying these things about the Red Priest. With apologies to Dr Johnson, “She who is tired of Vivaldi is tired of life.” But there’s an easy remedy. Start listening to Vivaldi again, like really listening. It’s sheer genius and in suitably explosive performances, The Four Seasons still sounds like the splitting of the musical atom. And there are 600 other concertos by him that will also blow your mind and transport you instantly into a musical happy place.

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