Friday, February 1, 2013

A Meditation on February; Inside the Seasons by Tchaikovsky

The Russian magazine "Nouvellist" commissioned Tchaikovsky to write twelve short piano pieces inspired by the each of the twelve months. The corresponding music appeared in each publication in 1876. Collected in publication later the work became "The Seasons," Op. 37a.

Tchaikovsky is thinking in terms of Carnival; of lively Mardi Gras and the "large feast that will overflow" according to the epigraph by Pyotr Vyazemsky that was chosen by publisher Nikolay Bernard.

But this is no ordinary event. The piece is tricky and even its fleeting quiet passages bring little relief. It is a concentrated and restless sound world. This performance by pianist Daniela Negrini is a lovely expression of simultaneous dualities; fanfares and kaleidoscopic activity coincide with the focus and stillness of her physical expression. Her performance exposes inner tensions behind the celebratory exterior of this music.

The English writer Nicholas Breton (1545-1626) knew of these tensions and wrote about February in his book "The Twelve Moneths."

"It is now February," wrote Breton, "and the sun has gotten up a stride of his climbing, the valleyes now are painted white."

But then Breton's prose becomes as still and focused as Daniela Negrini. "The Ayre," writes Breton, "is sharp and piercing, and the winds blow cold."

"Physick now hath work among weake bodies, and Apothecaries drugges are very gainfull: There is hope of a better time not farre off, for this in it selfe is little comfortable: and for the small pleasure that I find in it, I will thus briefly conclude of it: It is the poore mans pick-purse, and the miser’s cut-throat, the enemy to pleasure, and the time of patience. Farewell."

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