By Gabriel Prynn, cellist
The Seasons by Tchaikovsky are a key work in the solo piano literature. This concert will be a very rare occasion to hear Alexander Goedicke’s transcription of these wonderful pieces for piano trio.
Goedicke’s transcription of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, written nearly a century ago, does not exist in any modern edition, which makes this event even more exceptional.
Imagine that you are living in the Russian capital city of St Petersburg in 1876. As so often in that vast unmanageable land, it is an era of political and intellectual ferment. Fifteen years on from the Emancipation of the Serfs, the country’s tortured past and uncertain future remain hot topics for discussion in cultured circles and the press.
For the time being, however, it was reasonable to suppose that Russia would continue gradually to modernize and that its growing middle class would continue to acquire the bourgeois habits of the West — such as listening to classical music, playing the piano and singing at home. If you belonged to that class, you might well have been a subscriber to the monthly musical-theatrical journal Nuvellist (the title is borrowed from the French for short-story writer). And if you were, then you would have found printed in your January 1876 issue the first of a cycle of twelve pieces commissioned from Tchaikovsky by the editor of the journal, Nikolay Matveyevich Bernard (the rest appeared in successive issues that year). They are known collectively as The Seasons, or, less confusingly, as The Months (the original Russian, Vremena goda, better translates as ‘seasons’, however).
Each piece was given a subtitle and accompanying verses written by well-known writers, including Tolstoy and Pushkin.
For this concert, we have chosen the movements that best suit the occasion:
January : By the fireside
A little corner of peaceful bliss,
the night dressed in twilight;
the little fire is dying in the fireplace, and the candle has burned out.
At the lively Mardi Gras soon a large feast will overflow.
In your loneliness do not look at the road, and do not rush out after the troika. Suppress at once and forever the fear of longing in your heart.
Once upon a Christmas night the girls were telling fortunes: taking their slippers off their feet and throwing them out of the gate.
Lovisa – a Nordic trio
Jean Sibelius is well known for his symphonies and for his Violin Concerto. However, his numerous chamber works have yet to receive the wider public recognition and attention they deserve. The Trio Fibonacci gave the North American premiere of his Trio Korpo last year, transcribing from the manuscript with permission from the Sibelius family.
Although still not quite a part of the standard piano trio repertoire, and too rarely heard in our concert halls, we will conclude our Christmas concert with a slightly more well-known example of a youthful Sibelius composition: his Trio Lovisa.
Sibelius wrote this trio for violin, cello and piano in the summer of 1888 at the villa of his aunt in the Finnish village of Lovisa, his favourite summer retreat, hence the work’s title.
Jean Sibelius was an accomplished violinist, and his siblings were all musicians too, so his piano trios were written for the family trio in fact – Jean on violin, his sister on the piano and his brother on the cello. It is a surprisingly mature work. The opening movement is full of warmth and cheerful rhythms. The middle movement is soft and melancholic. The final movement seems to suggest the restlessness of a young soul.
The title of this concert is of course Nordic Stars, and Sibelius is a composer who naturally comes to mind when we think of wintery Nordic landscapes. We are delighted to share this fresh and sparkling composition with our dear audience and help to prepare us all for the Christmas season!