Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - The Seasons, Op. 37a (Autumn Song)

Portrait of Tchaikovsky by Nikolai Dimitriyevich Kuznetsov
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, the first day of Autumn.  The occasion calls for a composition of note, and today's is one that is not just timely, but is particularly interesting.

Tchaikovsky of course needs no introduction (although you can get one from previous posts here, here, and here).  Those posts are some of his most famous music; today's is obscure, but is a little heard delight from the very beginning of his career.

In 1875, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to compose a series of twelve short piano pieces, one for each month of the year.  These were collected in The Seasons, which were published with short poems from famous Russian poets.  The poetic snippet for October (Autumn Song) was from no less than Tolstoy himself, capturing the famous Russian pessimism:
Autumn, our poor garden is all falling down,
the yellowed leaves are flying in the wind.
It is said that it is enormously difficult to translate poetry from one language to another, and this is a great example of that dictum.  Still, the music is very nice, and you almost never hear this performed. Most of the songs are light fare, but a few (including this one) give a glimpse into his soon to be composed epic operas and ballets.  Sergei Rachmaninoff particularly liked the one for November, Troika, and while The Seasons was mostly forgotten in the West, Rachmaninoff's interpretation kept it alive in Russia - from whence it returned to these shores.  We own Rachmaninoff a hearty thank you for this.


libertyman said...

Perfect expression of the feelings as autumn approaches. Cooler here in NH this morning. Autumn remains my favorite season though.

Thanks for introduction to this piece.

libertyman said...

As the well rounded individual I know you to be, perhaps a series on painters, sculptors and watercolorists could be posted. I looked up Nikolai Dimitriyevich Kuznetsov and he is a wonderful artist. I never would have heard of him except for your blog. He reminds me of Childe Hassam.

I always look forward to your posts.