Spring Music Moment: Tchaikovsky’s ‘April’

Photo by Vasily Czechowski, Wikimedia Commons

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was approached by the editor of a Russian music magazine known as the Nouvellist with a commission – write one piece a month for a year and give our listeners something to look forward to. 

Tchaikovsky took the gig and rose to the challenge: he called his twelve-part piano cycle The Seasons (or Les Saisons, as it was published in French) and named each movement for a month of the year. He took a mood, activity, object, animal – a single focus to bring the months of the year to life. The Harvest in August, Song of the Lark in March and a beautiful little snowy flower for April. 

Tchaikovsky played with the end of snow season in St. Petersburg – he called April “Snowdrop.” His music reflects both the snowy remains of winter still on the ground, and the little blue flowers, named snowdrop, beginning to pop up as a sign of springtime.

And the same publisher that commissioned the work also suggested Tchaikovsky attach epigraph, or short quotes, to each movement, and the composer obliged. 

He included a few lines for each month by various Russian writers including Aleksandr Pushkin and Apollon Maykov, the man who penned April’s epigraph: 

“The blue, pure snowdrop-flower,
And near it the last snowdrops.
The last tears over past griefs,
And first dreams of another happiness.”

Tchaikovsky’s April, and the rest of his Seasons, are simple and to the point – just a couple of moments to sit back and escape into the joy of each month. 

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: celebrating April in this Springtime Music Moment on NWPB Classical. 

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Antonio Salieri, left, to Victor Borge, passing the baton down a line of a century of master keyboardists. CREDIT: via Wikamedia Commons

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