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Spring Break Playlist

April 9, 2014

It’s been a hard winter, both in the frozen East and Midwest, and in California, which must weather it’s worst drought in a decade this year. But spring has come, the season of hope, and love. And SFCV offers its own paean to beautiful weather and optimism in a playlist designed to lift your spirits and get your body moving.


1. Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila (Mikhail Glinka); London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, conductor.
Glinka’s undisputed masterpiece gets performed far too little, except for the overture, which burns the fingers of violinists (how fast can you play scales?) and contains the rousing, festive music from the opera’s finale.

2. Allegro vivace Symphony No. 8 in F Major, 4th movement, (Beethoven); New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, conductor.
One of Beethoven’s most probing and intellectual symphonies, but it just sounds like ingratiating fun. Be amused, be very amused.

3. “California,” Rufus Wainwright, off the album Poses.
Just saying the word “California” signifies optimism. Wainwright’s song, if you listen to the lyrics, is making fun of the instant images California provokes, it’s refrain line “You’re such a wonder that I think I’ll stay in bed” contradicting those mindless images. But the tune adds its own level, taking off from the easygoing California surf music of the 1960s.

4. “Good Vibrations,” The Beach Boys.
This song, with its unusual opening and verse structure (in E-flat Minor), and a last break that seems to go nowhere deliberately, and the use of the theremin, was pretty revolutionary in the pop world of the 1960s. But we’ve pretty much lost sight of that now.

5. “Come On, Eileen,” Drexys Midnight Runners.
SFCV succumbs to the pull of the culture around us. This song makes dozens of spring break playlists. No reason, except that it’s a classic, upbeat pop tune.

6. Sinfonia in C (Georg Friedrich Telemann); Berlin Baroque Soloists, Rainer Kussmaul, cond.
Yes, spring inspired people in the 1700s too. Here’s a springlike Baroque piece not written by Vivaldi.

7. “Portena Primavera” from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (Astor Piazzolla); Lara St. John, violin, Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, Eduard Marturet
This fantastic piece is Argentinean tango master Piazzolla’s response to Vivaldi’s famous work. The orchestra here is the inspiring top-level orchestra of Venezuela’s “El Sistema” music education system.

8. Allegro vivace from Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”)(Mendelssohn); Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, conductor.
Anybody going biking over spring break? This classic has been used in dozens of movies, never more memorably than in 1979’s Breaking Away.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.