My Autumn is bathed in Italian light. That late September light of the Sienese countryside, when the sun resists the sped up passing of the days in sumptuous sfumato. My Autumn is the color of Respighi singing in the gardens of Rome and those of Richard Strauss writing September from a hotel in Montreux while the sun lingers in the west, at the bottom of Lake Leman. Autumn, the end of love, the end of eras. The dying light of Western culture can be heard in the final scene of Le Chevalier à la Rose (1911), before the First World War comes to take everything away. Autumn is also Brahms' Andante, which transforms the song of the lark into a dreamy violin.
“Colchiques dans les prés” and “Autumn Leaves” are all time classics. They are reminiscent of sharpened pencils and the beginning of the school year when a benevolent teacher might sound something like Mouloudji, a somewhat forgotten French singer. And every playground moves with Django’s gypsy swing.
Autumn is, and always has been, Vivaldi, heard here under the crazed bow of Daniel Hope evoking Max Richter. Vivaldi wasn’t the only one to paint this season though – Joseph Haydn, Darius Milhaud, and Astor Piazzolla also turned their hands to capture its colors.
In Autumn, colors explode as the leaves and mushrooms appear. Finding these delicious treats takes an eye and some concentration. And, depending on which species you find, it sometimes means opening the doors of perception. Here, in the woods, Rameau’s hunting party passes by. His emblematic horns are fantasised about by Anton Bruckner in the hallucinatory scherzo of his Eighth Symphony.
Autumn’s signature smell is that of petrichor – that mysterious scent lifted into the air by the first drops of rain. According to Debussy and Ravel autumnal rain is more of a wet blanket than a deluge. For Autumn is not only about melancholy. As the French singer Marie Laforêt says, it is also the season in which the blossoms of tomorrow are prepared.