• Ian Passmore

Music that doesn't suck, No. 34: The Snow Maiden

Merry Christmas, friends! One of my favorite pieces to program this time of year is the “Dance of the Tumblers” from The Snow Maiden. It’s a highly effective opening piece, but an absolute barn-burner of an encore. Now, many of you familiar with classical music might be thinking: “Yeah, sure…the Rimsky-Korsakov. People play that little piece all the time—it’s fun!” Well yeah, it is fun…but that’s not the piece I’m talking about!! I’m talking about a different “Dance of the Tumblers” taken from a different Snow Maiden.

You see, two different versions of The Snow Maiden were produced less than ten years apart from one another. The original play by Alexander Ostrovsky—with incidental music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky—was premiered in 1873. And the far more popular opera by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov—based on the exact same Ostrovsky play—was composed in 1880-81. Each of those works contains its own, distinctive “Dance of the Tumblers!”

I’ve included both dances below; let me know which is your favorite. I think my choice is clear :)

-- Tchaikovsky, "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden (1873), featuring the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi...

-- Rimsky-Korsakov, "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden (1880-81), featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy...

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