Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wintertime with Lauridsen and Tchaikovsky

This month we are looking at seasonal music on Clef Notes and this week brings us to the dark, cold months of wintertime. But perhaps winter could be a little less bleak if accompanied by the sounds of seasonally appropriate music such as Morten Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Songs.

Morten Lauridsen is known for his choral music works that move the soul. Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Lauridsen was commissioned to write a piece for the school’s centenary in 1980. Mid-Winter Songs was the result, originally composed for choir and piano. He later wrote a version for orchestra and chorus.

Students in Lauridsen’s classes enjoy beginning each class with poetry read out loud by their professor. Poetry inspires Lauridsen’s work and it was the work of poet Robert Graves that provided the perfect winter imagery for the composer’s Mid-Winter Songs.

Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #1 “Winter Dreams” is another wintery example that comes to mind, although the piece is not exactly programmatic for the season. It’s possible that when the composer gave it this nickname, he was symbolically referring to his current season of life. The First Symphony took Tchaikovsky quite a while to complete, causing him much stress, insomnia, and even a nervous breakdown! He feared criticism from his former teachers and felt that composing a symphony was quite an undertaking (and I would have to agree!)

Do you have a favorite piece to accompany your hot cocoa on snowy, winter days? Let me know by commenting below! 

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