6 Pieces of Classical Music About Snow

Classical Music About Snow
Classical Music About Snow

From delicate piano melodies to sweeping orchestral movements, classical composers have found inspiration in the imagery of snow, using music as a medium to convey the sensations, moods, and narratives associated with this natural phenomenon

So, let us immerse ourselves in the melodies and harmonies that bring the enchantment of snow to life, and discover the timeless allure of classical music about snow.

Classical Music About Snow

1. Lieutenant Kijé Suite (Op.60) by Sergei Prokofiev

Dating back to 1933/34, this piece began life as Prokofiev’s first attempt at a film score for the Belgoskino Film Studios in Leningrad, Russia.

The Suite we know today was a by-product of the film score and divided up into five titled sections as follows: Birth of Kijé; Romance; Kijé’s Wedding; Troika; and The Burial of Kijé.

As it turns out the recycling of the original film score into the suite was not a task for the faint-hearted. It took Prokofiev’s great skills to re-orchestrate, develop thematic material and generally give the work a touch of panache.

It is the fourth movement, Troika (three-horse Russian sledge), that Prokofiev composed to evoke the fun of a fast sleigh ride through the snow. The opening of the piece is a little darker than expected and can include a part for a solo baritone voice.

Soon, the ride is underway with sleigh bells, pizzicato strings and piano that bring momentum to the piece. Its music Prokofiev intended to be popular, accessible and comprehensible which it undoubtedly is.

2. Transcendental Study No.12; “Chasse Neige” by Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt was well known for his virtuosic ability as a pianist. His Transcendental Etudes are a fine window into this phenomenal technical facility. There are twelve studies in total, each one drawing on the abilities of the pianist.

An initial set of the works was available in 1837, but Liszt revised the works, as he often did, to produce a definitive version in 1852. The pieces are dedicated to Carl Czerny who taught Liszt and composed numerous studies for piano. Many of these remain the foundation for piano technique today.

The twelfth Etude is written in B flat minor. The title means snow-whirls and the constant movement the pianist has to maintain for a large proportion of the piece in their right hand captures this nicely.

It is an extremely demanding piece to perform, perhaps the most challenging of the set. Flurries of chromatic scales at the octave and in contrary motion give way to thundering chords in both hands.

Thematic material passes from one hand to the other edging ever closer to the climactic point where the piece just stops. It’s not a gentle wintery experience by any means but one full of twists and turns that show the season’s colder side.

3. The Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov

(Old Russian animation of the opera)

(The Snow Maiden Suite)

This was an irresistible work that had to be included in the article. Here we have a Russian Folk tale brought to life in a four-act opera. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the opera in only one year between 1880 and 1881.

At the heart of the work is the power and influence of nature. There are mythical, mysterious creatures that appear throughout the opera that the composer ably calls to mind with his score.

This is done not only through the orchestration but also by employing an operatic technique Wagner used so effectively; leitmotif.

Rimski-Korsakov’s music is highly creative, colourful and beautifully crafted for the story. The Suite that the composer adapted from the opera is in four sections beginning with the Introduction; Dance of The Birds; Procession of Tsar Berendey and Dance of the Skomorokhi.

The Snow Maiden herself has different versions. One variation is of a girl called Snegurka who is made of snow. Another story tells of a childless couple who make a snow doll that comes to life. Other tales tell of the Snow Maiden the daughter of Spring The Beauty who is in love with mortals.

4. The Seasons (Op.67) by Petipa-Glazunov 

The world of Russian ballet is incredibly diverse and fascinating. This four-act ballet was composed by Glazunov in 1899 and given an impressive first performance by none other than the Imperial Ballet in St Petersburg. Russia.

Glazunov scores the ballet for quite large orchestral forces with a diverse array of percussion.

The first tableau is titled A Winter Landscape and it is here we discover some mystical characters like Hail, Snow and Hoar-Frost. These wintery sprites are having a wonderfully chilly time with a gathering of snowflakes when a pair of gnomes light a fire making them all vanish.

The other tableaux are A Landscape Covered with Flowers; A Landscape of Flowering fields of Wheat; A Landscape in Autumn and finally, The Sable Sky.

5. The Snow is Dancing (From Children’s Corner) by Claude Debussy

Debussy had a single daughter amicably nicknamed Chou-Chou to whom this music is dedicated. Children’s Corner is a suite of short pieces Debussy composed between 1906 and 1908.

Each of the six pieces has an English title and this snow-inspired composition is the fourth in the collection. The entire suite is immensely popular with pianists and audiences alike although the music is not as easy to mast as the title might suggest.

Snow is Dancing presents quite a few technical challenges. Firstly, the need to keep the flowing semiquavers dancing effortlessly along is paramount but these must not intrude on the childlike melody that Debussy weaves through this figure.

Momentary darkness arrives as the lower register of the piano sounds, but before long we find ourselves dancing again in the flurries of falling snow.

6. Des pas sur la neige (From Préludes; Book One) by Claude Debussy

Another beautiful piece by Debussy for solo piano is this short work that is part of his first book of Préludes.

Whilst it is reasonable to draw links with the works of Bach, Chopin or Shostakovich each of who composed Preludes for keyboard, Debussy’s set follows no particular pattern.

Each of the books contains twelve preludes that were composed at lightning speed between December 1909 and February 1910 and 1912 – 1913 for Book Two.

Footsteps In The Snow is the sixth prelude in book one. Its tempo is triste et lent. The character is pensive, brooding and quite unlike the piece listed above.

D minor is the key centre for the piece that slowly rotates around the hesitant opening interval. Warmth creeps in as Debussy adds richer, deeper chords but the piece never settles or fully resolves.

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