Monday, September 15, 2014

The Seasons..... but not Vivaldi's.

I am pretty sure that most Americans are familiar with at least some of the melodies or phrases from Vivaldi's masterpiece, The Four Seasons. Composed in 1725, this set of four violin concertos is one of the most recognizable works in all of classical music. It has been transcribed for just about every instrument known to man, used in films, TV shows, commercials, and internet podcasts. It is a devastatingly brilliant work of art. SO what does this have to do with Tchaikovsky???
Well, thanks to Sirius XM satellite radio, Channel 74, I was introduced to another work called The Seasons by none other than one of my favorite composers, Peter Tchaikovsky. I caught a glimpse of the radio and saw The Seasons on the screen, but after a few moments I said, "hey...this isn't Vivaldi! What the.....? What I was hearing was a work for solo piano. And it was not remotely similar to Vivaldi's robust baroque style. Chalk it up to what I say all the time....there is so much music out there that I know little or nothing about. How wonderful it is to "discover" new music.
So I Googled The Seasons by Tchaikovsky. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Seasons was commenced shortly after the premiere of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, and continued while he was completing his first ballet, Swan Lake.[2]
In 1875, Nikolay Matveyevich Bernard, the editor of the St. Petersburg music magazine Nouvellist, commissioned Tchaikovsky to write 12 short piano pieces, one for each month of the year. Bernard suggested a subtitle for each month's piece. Tchaikovsky accepted the commission and all of Bernard's subtitles, and in the December 1875 edition of the magazine, readers were promised a new Tchaikovsky piece each month throughout 1876. The January and February pieces were written in late 1875 and sent to Bernard in December, with a request for some feedback as to whether they were suitable, and if not, Tchaikovsky would rewrite February and ensure the remainder were in the style Bernard was after. March, April and May appear to have been composed separately; however the remaining seven pieces were all composed at the same time and written in the same copybook, and evidence suggests they were written between 22 April and 27 May. The orchestration of Swan Lake was finished by 22 April, leaving the composer free to focus on other music; and he left for abroad at the end of May. This seems to put the lie to Nikolay Kashkin's published version of events, which was that each month the composer would sit down to write a single piece, but only after being reminded to do so by his valet.[1]

This has become one of my favorite pieces. I have posted a link to a nice performance of The Seasons from YouTube Two legendary composers, working 150 years apart, using the same inspiration....the Seasons.

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