Which music makes you feel the most Christmassy?
Do you have a beloved carol? A favourite modern Christmas song? There’s plenty to choose from, isn’t there.
Something I love for creating a wintry, snowy, festive mood is Sergei Prokofiev’s Troika.
Most people know this music as just a stand-alone piece. But it is in fact the fourth of a five-movement Suite (Op 60). Prokofiev wrote this music originally to accompany the film Lieutenant Kijé and created the Suite thereafter.
The Suite broadly follows the plot of the film:
- The Birth of Kijé – through a set of ridiculous circumstances, the name of Lieutenant Kijé comes to be entered by mistake on the roll of a military company. Rather than risk embarrassment, the officials pretend that such a person exists.
- Romance – the fictional Lieutenant falls in love! It’s an unhappy affair, though – this is Russia, after all!!
- Kijé’s wedding – since the Tsar prefers his soldiers to be married, the officials decide that a wedding had better take place, to a new love.
- Troika – the happy couple ride off in a traditional Russian method of horse-drawn transport
- Kijé’s burial – the officials finally rid themselves of the burden of their fictional charge. Now a General, Kijé dies a hero’s death.
Isn’t this just fabulous?!?
I have searched YouTube for the version of the Suite which I think represents the best listen for you. There is plenty of choice, but this is the one with which I was most happy. Ideally it would have been a performance by a Russian orchestra, but I could not find a complete version. And of those full performances to which I did listen, many were not up to the task of delivering a high quality rendition of the very difficult Troika. I was particular about this because it is, after all, one of the main reasons for highlighting the work.
So the London Symphony Orchestra it is. No bad thing.
If you want to skip straight to Troika, it starts around 11:34. But why not treat yourself and have a listen to the whole thing? It’s only 20:22 minutes.
By the way, if some parts of the first movement in particular sound a bit familiar, you might be recognising themes that were subsequently used as inspiration by Sting for his track Russians. Who knew? 🙂
Merry Christmas one and all, and I look forward to continuing the blogging journey with you in 2016.