Monday, 3 December 2012

Four Christmas Sleighrides

I was looking back at a couple of Christmas posts on this blog and found that for some reason this one was not working.  So  I had another look at it and decided to ‘repost’ as it is seasonal.
I was doing a little bit of research into Frederick Delius’s Drei Symphonische DichtungenWinter Nach – Schlittenfarht, which is better known to enthusiasts of the composer as Winter Night- Sleigh Ride from Three Small Tone Poems. It has always been a favourite piece of mine, since coming across it on an old Thomas Beecham disc. The results of my investigation may appear on these pages [it never happened!] or in other places in due course, however whilst doing a web search I came across references to at least three other pieces that have to do with sleigh, troika, and snow travel!
The first (not chronologically) ‘Sleigh Ride’ was composed by Leroy Anderson between 1946-48 and has become one of the most potent evocations of the Seasonal Landscape. Yet, strange to tell, this music was conceived during July during a heat wave whilst the composer was living in Woodbury, Connecticut. It was first recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra, under the baton of Arthur Fiedler in 1949. A year later Mitchell Parish added the words that have become so familiar to generations of listeners, although the reference to ‘pumpkin pie’ in the last verse would suggest that this piece is more about Thanksgiving than Santa Claus!

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his piano work The Seasons during 1875 and 1876 shortly after he had completed his famous 1st Piano Concerto and whilst he was working on Swan Lake. The twelve short pieces for piano were based on the months of the year. The eleventh, for November is subtitled Troika. The Russian edition of the score is prefaced with the following short verse:-
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.
It is an attractive piece that is worthy of the composer, even if it does not display the same genius as the two major works.

I have never been a fan of Prokofiev’s music although there are many works that I enjoy. The music for the 1934 Russian film Lieutenant Kije has largely slipped through my radar, however I have always been attracted to the evocative Troika sequence, which is the fourth of a five movement suite. Troika has all the magic of a fairytale winter landscape complete with the three horse open sleigh!

And lastly, the Delius. Suffice to say that I have [still] not completed my investigations yet. However, it is important to realise that although there are a number of Delian fingerprints in this short tone poem, it is not entirely typical of the composer’s later works. The piece first appeared as a piano work at a Christmas soiree in Leipzig in 1897. The composer played the work to Grieg, Halvorsen and Sinding in what Grieg described as “with the greatest talent…”
The work was orchestrated in 1889.

Watch/listen to all four pieces on YouTube:-
Leroy Anderson Sleigh Ride
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky The Seasons November ‘Troika’ in an historic video performance by Lev Oborin
Sergei Prokifiev Troika from Lieutenant Kije
Frederick Delius Sleigh Ride with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd-Jones

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was delighted yesterday when the Delius Sleigh Ride was played on Sirius/SM Holiday Pops......Paul from Ohio