The 10 greatest sunrises in music

Jeremy Nicholas Thu 18th January 2018

Jeremy Nicholas listens to his favourite musical depictions of sunrise

No 1

Ravel Daphnis et Chloé

Scene 3 of the ballet, commissioned by Diaghilev (who didn’t like what he heard), opens with a sunrise and 'Daphnis prostrate at the grotto of the nymphs'. The second of the two suites which Ravel drew from the score also opens with this section.

 

No 2

David Matthews The Music of Dawn

Composed 1989-90, this 30-minute score for large orchestra evokes the pale sunlight of early dawn, ending in a blaze of noon. It was inspired by a painting of the same name by the artist Cecil Collins, which appears on the cover of the Chandos disc.

 

No 3

Mascagni Iris

Act 1 of this 1898 opera set in Japan opens with opera’s most spectacular sunrise replete with tam-tams, cymbals, drums and bells. The chorus greet the new day with cries of 'Calore! Luce! Amor!'. Sadly, the eponymous heroine ends up drowning herself in a sewer.

 

No 4

Richard Strauss Alpine Symphony

Commenced in 1911 and completed in 1915, Strauss’s depiction of a daylong mountain climb begins with 'Night'. It takes just under two minutes for the sun to burst forth over the composer’s beloved Alps.

 

No 5

Nielsen Helios Overture

Written during a 1903 holiday in Greece and named after the Greek God of the Sun, the Overture depicts the sun over the Aegean Sea rising, in Nielsen’s words, 'with a joyous, exultant song. It traces its golden arc and sinks peacefully back into the sea'.

 

No 6

Grieg 'Morning' from Peer Gynt

From the incidental music for an 1876 production of Ibsen’s play, this sunrise, the prelude to Act 4, appears not in Norway but in Africa. It is most familiar as the opening number of the first of two suites that Grieg later fashioned from the score.

 

No 7

Haydn 'Sunrise' Quartet

The Quartet in B flat, Op 76 No 4, from the set of six composed in 1796-97, is nicknamed the Sunrise because of the rising theme over sustained chords that opens the work. Two further (brief) Haydn sunrises are in The Creation and Symphony No 6, Le matin.

 

No 8

Arne 'The Glitt'ring Sun' from The Morning

The opening movement of the fifth of Arne’s Six Cantatas for solo voice, memorably and movingly recorded by Emma Kirkby with the Parley of Instruments on a now-deleted Hyperion recording 'Dr Arne at Vauxhall Gardens'.

 

No 9

Delius 'Daybreak' from Florida Suite

The first of four movements composed in 1887 after Delius’s spell as manager of an orange grove in Florida, 'Daybreak' features a version of the same tune, 'La Calinda', later used in his opera Koanga.

 

No 10

Puccini Turandot

A work that ends with a sunrise. Calaf has won his princess and, as dawn breaks, the crowd sing 'Amor! O Sole! Vita! Eternità! Luce del mondo è amore' – to the tune of 'Nessun dorma'.

 

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Gramophone. To find out more about subscribing to Gramophone, please visit: gramophone.co.uk/subscribe

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