The Seasons, Op. 37a
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky is known and loved through so many types of compositions, mostly large – symphonies, the B-flat-minor Piano Concerto, three ballets, Overture-Fantasy Romeo and Juliet, opera, the Violin Concerto, etc. But one category is missing from the list, and that is solo piano. Our great Russian was clearly not partial to the piano as a vehicle for his particular kind of expressiveness. Other than numerous shorter works, the character piece Dumka, and a couple of avoidable sonatas, there is the series of compositions known as The Seasons.
In 1876 the composer was asked to write a piece each month that would be published in the St. Petersburg magazine Nuvellist. Tchaikovsky apparently considered that an easy kind of commission, so he agreed and when it came time to begin, he told his servant to prod him each month and tell him it was time for another piece. The system worked well; when he got the word a monthly piece was due, Tchaikovsky went to work and very quickly wrote a selection for the publication.
Inasmuch as The Seasons consists of twelve works written for each month of the year, the collection should rightly be called “The Months.” But it’s not, so we accept the title with which the pieces were written, The Seasons.
Some of Tchaikovsky’s months hold lyrical moments, for example June’s “Barcarolle” and March’s “Song of the Lark.” November’s “Troika” and August’s “Harvest” become expansive technically. But whatever their pianistic and musical identity, all the months say Tchaikovsky.