Music for today – Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no.1 ‘Winter Daydreams’

by Ben Hogwood

With the weather taking a sharp turn for the colder in the UK today, thoughts turn to wintry music. An underrated gem in this area is the first symphony of Tchaikovsky, which the composer subtitled Winter Daydreams.

This is a tuneful and highly appealing work from 1866, showing the influence of Mendelssohn but also revealing Tchaikovsky’s own individual grasp of symphonic form, and his aptitude for writing programme music.

The full subtitle of the first movement is Dreams of a Winter Journey, while the second movement, Land of Desolation, Land of Mists, is the emotional heart of the symphony with a yearning slow theme. The cool, slight melancholy of the untitled third movement Scherzo is swept away by a jubilant Finale, bringing Tchaikovsky’s first symphonic structure to a satisfying end.

There was much more to come, of course! You can enjoy the symphony in a performance from the Berlin Philharmoniker and Herbert von Karajan below:

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