Music to take you on a journey

Music has always had a special power, to transport us to different times and places. Composers have frequently sought to try to convey the natural world around us through soundscapes that convey a specific place or location. We have selected some of our favourite pieces of music based on geographical locations to take you on a global music tour from the comfort of your computer/tablet/mobile phone. So, sit back, relax and stamp some spots in your musical passport.


Smetana Má vlast

Má vlast's broad appeal is mainly credited to Vltava – a breathtaking and evocative musical representation of the winding river traversing through Bohemia (now known as the Czech Republic) towards the city of Prague. Take note of the gracefully undulating woodwind passages harmonising with the persistent, driving strings, skilfully creating a delightful perception of movement across various sections of the river.

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Fingal's Cave

Mendelssohn The Hebrides

Distilling the sounds and sights of Scotland's wild coastline into a piece of music is no easy task, but Mendelssohn's work is a masterpiece of musical depiction. Inspired by an 1892 journey to the Scottish island of Staffa and its renowned Fingal’s Cave, The Hebrides was entirely sparked by the breathtaking Scottish scenery that had left an indelible mark on his soul.

And you can experience this phenomenal work live in 2024 at The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Other Worlds, Thursday 28 March.

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Belo Horizonte

Villa-Lobos Symphony No.6

Brazillian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos took geographic inspiration for composition in a very literal sense. Using the outline of the mountains near the city of Belo Horizonte (the Portugese for Beautiful Horizon), projecting it onto graph paper and transcribing the pattern into music. This topographical melody was then used by Villa-Lobos for the main theme of his Sixth Symphony.

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Strauss An Alpine Symphony

Heimgarten is a mountain in the Bavarian Prealps, and the inspiration for Richard Strauss' tone poem depicting a day-long mountain hike. Epic isn't big enough a word to describe the magnitude of this score, the huge scope of it's orchestration can literally be felt when we reach the summit of the mountain.

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Lilburn Overture Aotearoa

Like any good tour guide will tell you, it's important that your travellers return home at the end of their trip. So, we conclude with Douglas Lilburn's Overture Aotearoa. With its musical depiction of the country's natural beauty, it has been described by some writers as being what it would have been like to approach New Zealand hundreds of years ago.

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