Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Seasons
January: At the Fireside
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his twelve character pieces for piano, The Seasons, at the same time that he was writing his popular ballet, Swan Lake. Each piece in The Seasons depicts a different month of the year in Russia. Although originally composed for solo piano, some of the movements have been orchestrated for different kinds of ensembles, although none of these were done by Tchaikovsky. For each month in 2021, Classicalexburns will be exploring the same month from The Seasons. So look out for these once-a-month instalments throughout 2021!
The publishers of The Seasons added approved epigraphs to the start of each score of the Russian original. January: At the Fireside has a small poem by Alexander Pushkin to represent the opening season:
A little corner of peaceful bliss,
the night dressed in twilight;
the little fire is dying in the fireplace,
and the candle has burned out.
Set in A major, January is set in 3/4 time and is marked ‘Moderator Semplice’. This opening season is expressive, warm and takes the listener on a gentle journey. Through nuanced quaver and semiquaver movements, Tchaikovsky weaves some rich textures together, whilst also balancing this out with sparse areas that are left to the imagination. The subtitle for this month is ‘At the Fireside’, which is also referenced in Pushkin’s poem. The warmness of the music, and the peacefulness of the twilight make this movement rather pastoral. January concludes quietly as the notes slowly fade into the night.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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