Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

The Seasons, for piano, Op. 37

    Description by Robert Cummings

    The suffix "bis" at the end of an opus number often means the piece is an arrangement or adaptation of another work. In this case it was appended by Tchaikovsky's publisher, linking it to the then-recently published Grand Sonata in G Major for piano, Op. 37, although no sound musical relation exists between the two works. Here, Tchaikovsky wrote 12 separate pieces as part of a commission from Nikolai Bernard, publisher of the monthly music magazine, Novelliste. The composer was to provide an appropriate piece for each of the 12 issues of the magazine, a work reflecting feelings or images associated with the month in the title.

    January, subtitled "At the Fireside," has an intimate mood, tinged with regret and gentle playfulness, and featuring an attractive Schumann-esque main theme. February ("Carnival") is festive and joyous, the music jaunty and hardly divulging images of snow and dark nights. March ("The Song of the Lark") reverts to a mood similar to that heard in January, but featuring sparser textures and a greater sense of melancholy, as though a feeling hovers that winter will not soon end. April ("Snowdrop") is bright and seems to usher in spring, albeit a spring with a few clouds and rain storms.

    The fifth piece here, May ("Starlit nights"), is sweet in its ascending arpeggios, though its theme turns stately on the lower register of the keyboard. The brief middle section is lively but does not break the generally intimate feeling. June ("Barcarolle") has become one of the most popular pieces from the set: its melody is memorable, sounding Chopin-esque in its sweet gloom and mixture of happiness and sadness. July ("The Song of the Reapers") is the briefest of the 12 pieces, but manages several mood swings, moving from the proud to the industrious, then to the playful, maintaining a joyous demeanor throughout.

    August ("Harvest") is busy and a bit hectic in the outer sections, but the central portion is simple and lyrical, unhurried and calm. September ("The Hunt") is regal in the fanfare-like music of the first part, but then turns demure for a time while the more garish elements from the opening gradually infiltrate to retake center stage. October ("Autumn Song") is another popular piece, with a life of its own apart from this set. Its slow main theme is melancholy, featuring a refrain-like phrase of mostly ascending notes that is the heart of its sad nature.

    November ("Troika") is hardly less popular than June or October. It is bright in mood and direct in its expressive language, and offers a playful, mischievous middle section. December ("Christmas") is almost childlike in its charming waltz, the music seeming to yearn for orchestral dress and placement in one of the composer's ballets. Typical performances of this whole set can range from 35 to 45 minutes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. January (At the Fireside). Moderato semplice ma espressivo in A major
    2. February (Carnival). Allegro giusto in D major
    3. March (The Lark's Song). Andantino espressivo in G minor
    4. April (Snowdrop). Allegretto con moto e un poco rubato in B flat major
    5. May (White Nights). Andantino in G major
    6. June (Barcarolle). Andante cantabile in G minor
    7. July (Song of the Reaper). Allegro moderato con moto in E flat major
    8. August (The Harvest). Allegro vivace in B minor
    9. September (The Hunt). Allegro non troppo in G major
    10. October (Autumn Song). Andante doloroso e molto cantabile in D minor
    11. November (Troika). Allegro moderato in E major
    12. December (Christmas). Tempo di valse in A flat major

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Decca 4834417
    2019 Calliope CAL 1859
    2019 Ars Produktion ARS 38273
    2018 ABC Classics 4817517
    2018 ABC Classics ABC 4817519
    2018 Chandos CHAN 10991
    2018 Erato / Warner Classics 567111
    2018 Piano Classics PCL 10157
    2018 Centaur Records CRC 3606
    2017 Centaur Records CRC 35293540
    2017 Melodiya MELCD 1002474
    2017 Melodiya MELCD 1002488
    2017 Naïve AM 215
    2016 Sony Classical 88875132601
    2016 Mirare MIR 308
    2016 BIS BIS 2140
    2015 Sony Classical 88875117612
    2015 Sony Classical 88875117582
    2015 Paraty 315132
    2015 Stradivarius STR 37003
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794646
    2014 Brilliant Classics 94931BR
    2014 Aparte AP 087
    2014 Hyperion CDA 68028
    2014 Supraphon SU 41332
    2013 Entertainment Group 14132
    2013 Berlin Classics 0300538BC
    2013 Newton Classics 8802195
    2013 Skarbo DSK 1125
    2013 Melodiya MELCD 1002096
    2012 Syrius SYR 141443
    2012 Northern Flowers NFPMA 9997
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Phaia Music PHU 024
    2011 AFEA Records / Zebralution
    2011 Fidelis Records 1
    2011 Universal
    2010 Dynamic / Dynamic Italy 665/1-7
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Genuin 10169
    2010 Guild 5172
    2009 Brilliant Classics 9014
    2009 Classical Records 111
    2009 Bridge 9283
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 X5 Music Group 15618
    2008 Chandos 8349
    2008 Apr 5662
    2008 Erato 4696751
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 Ondine 782
    2008 Naxos 8570787
    2008 Audite 92569
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93297
    2007 Arte Nova Classics 340290
    2007 Brilliant 93180
    2006 Ondine ODE10825
    2006 RCA 78861
    2006 Evgeny Svetlanov Foundation 69221
    2006 MDG 6041397
    2006 MDG 9041397
    2005 Virgin Classics 82055
    2005 Erato
    2005 MSR Classics 1131
    2005 Transart Live 135
    2005 Calliope 9347
    2004 Virgin Classics 62358
    2003 Plaza Mayor 181462
    2003 Naxos 8553510
    2003 Intim Musik 080
    2001 Glissando 27
    2001 Glissando 779032
    2001 Orfeo 128001
    2001 Concerto Royale 206247
    2000 Opus 111 OPS30-304
    2000 Virgin 61636
    2000 Classico 329
    1999 Ivory Records IC70903
    1999 Chandos 9719
    1999 Decca 466562
    1999 Delos 3255
    1999 Claves 509414
    1998 EBS 6033
    1998 Sony Music Distribution 60689
    1997 Aca Digital 20054
    1997 Chandos 9514
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 34029-2
    1996 Four Winds 3002
    1995 Rca Red Seal 62520
    1995 Virgin 45042
    1995 Chandos 9309
    1994 United Recordings 88008
    1994 Vox CDX5087
    1994 Naxos 550233
    1993 Erato 2292-45969-2
    1993 Dorian 90102
    1992 Erato 45512
    1990 Tacet 025
    Multisonic 310271
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    Manchester 244-05
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 192
    Kvadro-Disk
    Denon Records 18003
    IMP Classics 976
    Musicaimmagine Records 10009
    PopeMusic 1017
    Mezhdunarodnaya-Kniga 418008
    Melodiya 1000201
    Tacet 25
    Mezhdunarodnaya-Kniga 418022
    Manchester 106
    Naxos 550233
    Officina della Musica 91014
    Brilliant 93180/16