Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Biography

Born: May 7, 1840; Russia   Died: Nov 6, 1893; Russia   Period: Romantic
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky was the author of some of the most popular themes in all of classical music. He founded no school, struck out no new paths or compositional methods, and sought few innovations in his works. Yet the power and communicative sweep of his best music elevates it to classic status, even if it lacks the formal boldness and harmonic sophistication heard in the compositions of his contemporaries, Wagner and Bruckner. It was Read more Tchaikovsky's unique melodic charm that could, whether in his Piano Concerto No. 1 or in his ballet The Nutcracker or in his tragic last symphony, make the music sound familiar on first hearing.
Tchaikovsky was born into a family of five brothers and one sister. He began taking piano lessons at age four and showed remarkable talent, eventually surpassing his own teacher's abilities. By age nine, he exhibited severe nervous problems, not least because of his overly sensitive nature. The following year, he was sent to St. Petersburg to study at the School of Jurisprudence. The loss of his mother in 1854 dealt a crushing blow to the young Tchaikovsky. In 1859, he took a position in the Ministry of Justice, but longed for a career in music, attending concerts and operas at every opportunity. He finally began study in harmony with Zaremba in 1861, and enrolled at the St. Petersburg Conservatory the following year, eventually studying composition with Anton Rubinstein.
In 1866, the composer relocated to Moscow, accepting a professorship of harmony at the new conservatory, and shortly afterward turned out his First Symphony, suffering, however, a nervous breakdown during its composition. His opera The Voyevoda came in 1867-1868 and he began another, The Oprichnik, in 1870, completing it two years later. Other works were appearing during this time, as well, including the First String Quartet (1871), the Second Symphony (1873), and the ballet Swan Lake (1875).
In 1876, Tchaikovsky traveled to Paris with his brother, Modest, and then visited Bayreuth, where he met Liszt, but was snubbed by Wagner. By 1877, Tchaikovsky was an established composer. This was the year of Swan Lake's premiere and the time he began work on the Fourth Symphony (1877-1878). It was also a time of woe: in July, Tchaikovsky, despite his homosexuality, foolishly married Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, an obsessed admirer, their disastrous union lasting just months. The composer attempted suicide in the midst of this episode. Near the end of that year, Nadezhda von Meck, a woman he would never meet, became his patron and frequent correspondent.
Further excursions abroad came in the 1880s, along with a spate of successful compositions, including the Serenade for Strings (1881), 1812 Overture (1882), and the Fifth Symphony (1888). In both 1888 and 1889, Tchaikovsky went on successful European tours as a conductor, meeting Brahms, Grieg, Dvorák, Gounod, and other notable musical figures. Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890, and The Nutcracker in 1892, both with success.
Throughout Tchaikovsky's last years, he was continually plagued by anxiety and depression. A trip to Paris and the United States followed one dark nervous episode in 1891. Tchaikovsky wrote his Sixth Symphony, "Pathétique," in 1893, and it was successfully premiered in October, that year. The composer died ten days later of cholera, or -- as some now contend -- from drinking poison in accordance with a death sentence conferred on him by his classmates from the School of Jurisprudence, who were fearful of shame on the institution owing to an alleged homosexual episode involving Tchaikovsky. Read less
Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony... / Nelsons, Birmingham
Release Date: 06/09/2015   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 895151   Number of Discs: 1
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Tchaikovsky: Complete Orchestral Suites / Marriner, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 06/26/2012   Label: Brilliant Classics  
Catalog: 94372   Number of Discs: 2
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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5… / Thomas, San Francisco
Release Date: 05/12/2015   Label: San Francisco Symphony  
Catalog: 0062   Number of Discs: 1
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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5 / Nelsons, City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 07/28/2009   Label: Orfeo  
Catalog: 780091   Number of Discs: 1
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Serenely Cedille - Bach, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Etc
Release Date: 01/24/2006   Label: Cedille Records  
Catalog: 8001   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique"

 

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 1. Adagio - Allegro non troppo - Andante - Moderato mosso - Andante - Moderato assai - Allegro vivo - Andante come prima - Andante mosso
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 2. Allegro con grazia
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 3. Allegro molto vivace
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 4. Finale: Adagio lamentoso - Andante
About This Work
Tchaikovsky composed this music between February and August 1893, and conducted the first performance on October 28 of that year in St. Petersburg. Already in 1890 Tchaikovsky had written to his patroness of 13 years, Nadezhda von Meck, about a Read more possible "program symphony." By 1893 he was ready to follow through on the idea, dedicated to his nephew Vladimir Davidov, the "Bobyk" (or "Bob") of many diary-entries and letters during the 1880s. After a successful premiere, however, he was not satisfied with Program Symphony (No. 6) on the title page. Several days later Modest suggested "patetichesky," which in Russian means "1, enthusiastic, passionate; 2, emotional; and 3, bombastic" (rather than "pathetic" or "arousing pity," as in English). Pyotr Il'yich was delighted by the suggestion: "Excellent, Modya, bravo, patetichesky!" He wrote this onto the score, and sent it the same day to his publisher, Jurgenson. Two days later, however, he had qualms and asked Jurgenson to suppress subtitles -- to issue the work simply as Symphony No. 6, dedicated to Bobyk. One week later, he was dead. As for Jurgenson, he could not resist the opportunity in 1893 to publish No. 6, in elegant Lingua Franca, as Symphonie pathétique. The sobriquet has stuck ever since.

During the work's incubation Tchaikovsky was in rare good spirits, pleased with his boldness and fluency, especially in the trailblazing finale, a drawn-out Adagio of funereal character. Where others still wrote conventional slow movements, he hit on the idea of "a limping waltz" in 5/4 time. And he made the scherzo a march that builds to such a pitch of excitement that audiences ever since, everywhere, applaud at the end.

A lugubrious Adagio prologue begins with a bassoon solo in E minor that makes its way upward through the murk of divisi string basses, followed by a nervous little motif that blossoms into the main theme of an Allegro ma non troppo sonata-structure in B minor. The memorably sighing, mauve-hued melody that dominates this movement is actually its secondary subject. A crashing orchestral tutti sets up the passionately agitated development section, followed by a condensed reprise and a brief, calmed coda.

Tchaikovsky's marking for this D major "waltz" movement is Allegro con grazia -- a song and trio with extended coda whose mood may be wistful, even melancholic midway, but whose spirit is balletic, to the extent of echoing Nutcracker's "Waltz of the Flowers," composed a year earlier. The March-Scherzo, Allegro molto vivace in common time, has an elfin character at the start. It is a sonatina (exposition and reprise without development) that quick-steps to an explosive climax but always returns to tonic G major.

Another sonatina (symphonic developments were Tchaikovsky's bête noire) is anchored in B minor, although the tragic second theme enters in D major. The overall mood is inconsolably grieving, but not "pathetic." Ultimately, the music returns to those murky depths in which the symphony was born some 40 minutes earlier -- without, however, benediction or hope.

-- Roger Dettmer
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Conductors

Ensembles

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky


WORKS
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 In B Flat Minor, Op.23 - 1. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso - Allegro con spirito
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 In B Flat Minor, Op.23 - 2. Andantino semplice - Prestissimo - Tempo I
Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 In B Flat Minor, Op.23 - 3. Allegro con fuoco
Allegro moderato
Canzonetta: Andante
Allegro vivacissimo
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - 1. Miniature Overture
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - March
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - Dance Of The Sugar-Plum Fairy
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - Russian Dance (Trepak)
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - Arabian Dance (Coffee)
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - Chinese Dance (Tea)
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - Dance Of The Reed-Pipes (Merlitons)
Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a - 3. Waltz Of The Flowers
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 In E Minor, Op.64 - 1. Andante - Allegro con anima
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 In E Minor, Op.64 - 2. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza - Moderato con anima
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 In E Minor, Op.64 - 3. Valse (Allegro moderato)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.5 In E Minor, Op.64 - 4. Finale (Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 1. Adagio - Allegro non troppo - Andante - Moderato mosso - Andante - Moderato assai - Allegro vivo - Andante come prima - Andante mosso
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 2. Allegro con grazia
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 3. Allegro molto vivace
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.6 in B minor, Op.74 -"Pathétique" - 4. Finale: Adagio lamentoso - Andante
Moderato assai quasi andante
Tema: Moderato semplice
Variazione I: Tempo del Tema
Variazione II: Tempo del Tema
Variazione III: Andante sostenuto
Variazione IV: Andante grazioso
Variazione V: Allegro moderato
Variazione VI: Andante
Variazione VII e Coda: Allegro vivo
1. Pezzo in forma di sonatina: Andante non troppo - Allegro moderato
2. Walzer: Moderato (Tempo di valse)
3. Elégie: Larghetto elegiaco
4. Finale (Tema russo): Andante - Allegro con spirito
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 1. Scene - Swan Theme
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 2. Valse In A
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 3. Danse des petits cygnes
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 4. Scene
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 5. Danse Hongroise (Czardas)
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Op.20 Suite - 6. Scène finale.
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite, Op.66a - Introduction - The Lilac Fairy
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite, Op.66a - Pas d'action: Rose Adagio
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite, Op.66a - Pas de caractère: Puss In Boots
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite, Op.66a - Panorama (andantino)
Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty, Suite, Op.66a - Valse


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