March Slav was composed in 1876 for a charity concert to support the war in the Balkans. It was completed in the remarkably short time of 5 days and was encored twice at its first performance! The themes are based loosely on Serbian folk songs and there is also a reference to the Russian national anthem. The mood is funereal in style at the opening but this gives way to a very triumphant style by the end.
Tchaikovsky's extremely popular ballet, The Nutcracker, was first performed in December 1892. Earlier in the same year the composer extracted several movements from the ballet to form a concert suite. The first performance of the suite was conducted by the composer and the suite was immediately received with huge enthusiasm.
In 1723 Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741) composed four concerti for violin and small orchestra entitled The Four Seasons. Winter is the fourth of these. Each concerto is comprised of three movements and paints sound pictures of the particular season. In this one we hear music describing harsh winter winds and icy snows, enough to make teeth chatter, in the first movement, a cosy scene by the fireside watching the falling rain (second movement) and the harsh winds, ice and snow return in movement 3.
The opera, Zampa, was first performed in Paris in 1831 and over the next 50 or so years enjoyed frequent performances and remained extremely popular. Since the dawn of the 20th century the popularity of the opera has waned somewhat but the overture has continued to be one of the composer's most famous works and is a staple of the orchestral repertoire.