May 29, 2020

‘Tis the Season for Tchaikovsky

It’s the beginning of June and soon summer begins. In the northern hemisphere, June is a lovely time to be outside. Tomoko herself enjoys gardening outside. She sees the garden as a metaphor for musicians; both take much work and much patience. “Labor is labor,” says Tomoko.

On her CD album “Touria,” Tomoko performs Tchaikowsky’s “June, the Seasons,” Opus 37b in g minor, composed in 1876. This piece is one of twelve short character pieces, reflecting the spirit of each month in Russia. “The Seasons” was commissioned by the St. Petersburg music magazine Nouvelist editor, the idea being that each monthly issue publish one month’s piece. Tchaikowsky was finishing his first ballet, “Swan Lake,” while her was composing these pieces – mainly to supplement his income. Nevertheless, each piece is a lovely little melodic masterpiece.

“June,” which is in the tradition of the traditional folk song barcarolle genre, has been very popular and arranged for a variety of musical instruments. “June” recall’s Mendelssohn’s Venetian gondola songs, but Tchaikowsky’s develops a more polyphonic theme. Furthermore, “June” has a more melancholy tone that reflects Russian sensibility. The lyrics that accompany “June” were written by poet Aleskey Pleshcheyev:
Let us go to the shore;
there the waves will kiss our feet.
With mysterious sadness
the stars will shine down on us.

Like Marin county where Tomoko resides, which experiences June gloom of foggy mornings that burn off by the afternoon, Tchkowsky’s “June” starts slowly and subdued, then opens up broadly for a moment like clouds parting for the sun, only to go back to its original tone and ending resolution of the day. It is no wonder that Tomoko chose this piece to perform.

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