Mendelssohn wrote the incidental music, Op. 61, for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1842, 16 years after he wrote the Overture. The Nocturne was one of three purely instrumental movements, which are often played as a unified suite or as independent pieces at concert performance or on a recording. A nocturne is a work inspired by, or intending to evoke, the night, which has led some composers to emphasise the dark aspects of the form (see, for example Chopin's Op.27, No.1). Mendelssohn, however, opts here for quasi-religious serenity.
'The Last Rose of Summer' is a poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore, who was a friend of Byron and Shelley. Moore wrote it in 1805 while at Jenkinstown Park in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Sir John Stevenson set the poem to its widely known melody, which was published in December 1813 in volume 5 of a collection of Moore's work called 'A Section of Irish Melodies.'
'The Four Seasons' ('Le quattro stagioni'), written around 1718–20 are a collection of four concertos, each of which evokes a season of the year though the quotation of related poetry. It is one of the earliest examples of 'programme music,' i.e. instrumental compositions that evoke an extramusical theme or story. The first movement of 'Summer' evokes the languid heaviness that precedes a thunderstorm:
Under a hard season, fired up by the sun Languishes man, languishes the flock and burns the pine We hear the cuckoo's voice; then sweet songs of the turtledove and finch are heard. Soft breezes stir the air, but threatening the North Wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearing violent storms and his fate.
The second movement of Vivaldi's 'Summer' from 'The Four Seasons' (1718−1720) continues the evocation of a languid summers day (as begun in the first movement). There now, however the irritation of 'gnats and flies' that 'buzz furiously around,' represented in the score by the dotted semiquavers in the Adagio sections, whilst the thunder now more ominously threatens in the sections marked 'Presto.'
The fear of lightning and fierce thunder Robs his tired limbs of rest As gnats and flies buzz furiously around.
Debussy wrote his celebrated symphonic poem 'Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune' ('Prelude to an afternoon of a Faun') in 1884. Its ambiguous harmony, brilliant orchestration and subtlety of form has led to the work being considered by Paul Griffiths, Pierre Boulez and others as the well-spring of 'modern' music. The work is an evocation, though not programmatically so, of the sensual poem of the same name by Stéphane Mallarmé. Though not specifically intended to evoke the season of summer it is everywhere shot through with the iridescence and torpor of that season.
Though Berlioz wrote some fifty songs, 'Les Nuits d'ete' ("Summer Nights") witten in 1841 (orch. 1843 & 1856) is his only song collection. It consists of setting of six poems by Pierre Gautier on the theme of love, its progress and redemption. Though the second movement certainly contains something of the languid warmth of summer it is not, in fact, explicitly seasonal, instead telling the story of a girl dreaming of a rose she had worn to a ball. The musicologist D. Kern Holoman has called it '"among the most perfect expressions of French Romanticism."
John Playford (1623–1686/7) was a publisher and occasional composer who is today best remembered for his book 'The English Dancing Master' (1651). It is a collection of country dance tunes together with dance instructions. The first volume was made to be physically small so that dancers could hide the fact that they were cribbing from it. The book became extremely popular, eventually being expanded to 3 volumes, with the 18th and final edition published in 1728. 'Upon a Summer's Day' is one of the most popular dances from the collection, still performed and played today.
Sommerabend ('Summer's Evening') is the second piece in Grieg's tenth and final book of his 'Lyric Pieces' piano collection (book 1 published in 1867, book 10 in 1901). Like many other of the pieces in this collection it is quasi-programmatic, the lethargic main melody suggest something of the ennui of summer, the rushing quavers perhaps the first patterning of rain that presages a summer squall.