Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Seasons
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. August: Harvest has a small poem by Aleksey Koltov at the front of the score:
The harvest has grown,
people in families cutting the tall rye down to the root!
Put together the haystacks,
music screeching all night from the hauling carts.
Set in a dark B minor tonality, August: Harvest is a jaunty number that sees Tchaikovsky’s more intricate writing come forward. The lilting and changing time signatures add to this effect as the piano rips through each melody with precision and power. The quick changes in character are nuanced and perhaps not always full-realised. Powerful unison sections ties the themes together effectively. A quiet central section explores Tchaikovsky’s harmonic language, but only scratches the surface before bounding back into the opening theme once more. The eighth instalment of The Seasons concludes boldly and in a classic Tchaikovsky style.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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