Vivaldi and Glazunov were not the only composers to depict the seasons musically. In 1875, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write a set of twelve short character pieces for piano, The Seasons, Op. 37 a. Each piece is related to a month of the year. You might expect June to depict sunny optimism, but Tchaikovsky’s music is a melancholy barcarolle. The score contains this epigraph by nineteenth century Russian poet, Alexey Nikolayevich Plescheev:
Let us go to the shore;
there the waves will kiss our feet.
With mysterious sadness
the stars will shine down on us.
There are some interesting examples of beat displacement in this piece which are reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music. (He was finishing Swan Lake at the time, along with the tone poem, Francesca da Rimini). We hear this in the haunting coda section, where the gloomy bass line seems ready to sink into despair.
Here is Sviatoslav Richter’s recording:
- Tchaikovsky, The Seasons, Op. 37 a, b, Sviatoslav Richter, piano iTunes, Amazon
- additional recordings by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lang Lang