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Tchaikovsky, Part I

This week we'll explore the world and music of the great Russian Romantic, including his symphonies, ballets and life at the Moscow Conservatory.

Program 1

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Russia in 1940, and was very taken with the work of Mikhail Glinka, one of the first composers to create a true Russian style of composition. As a child, Tchaikovsky listened to Glinka's Kamarinskaya many times.

After Glinka, five Russian composers known as The MIghty Handful, banded together, but left Tchaikovsky out of the loop because of his European conservatory education. The five were Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin.

As a child, Tchaikovsky was very close to his mother, a French pianist. She gave him piano lessons and he fell in love with music.

Tchaikovsky's piece The Storm is performed towards the end of the program. This is a tone poem inspired by a play of the same title by Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky. This piece wasn't performed until 1896, after several years after Tachaikovsky's death.

Glinka: Kamarinskaya
Pittsburg Symphony/Steinberg
EMI 67249

Tchaikovsky: Impromptu in E-flat Major, Op. 1 No. 2
Boyev, p.
Etcetera 1164

Tchaikovsky: Scherzo a la Russe, Op. 1 No. 1
Wild, p.
Ivory Classics 64405-70901

Tchaikovsky: String Quartet in B-flat Major
Borodin Quartet
Teldec 90422

Tchaikovsky: The Storm (Groza) Op. 76
Detroit Symphony/Järvi
Chan 9587

Tchaikovsky arr. Riley: “None But the Lonely Heart,” Op. 6 No. 6
Philharmonia Orch/Domingo; Domingo, ten.
EMI 55018


Program 2

At age 4, Tchaikovsky started piano lessons and he quickly became better than his teacher. This pattern continued throughout the rest of his life. Tchaikovsky's family moved around before settling in St. Petersburg when he was 12 years old. Once there, he began classes at the School of Jurisprudence. He was there for seven years until he graduated and got a job working at the Ministry of Justice.

After three years at the job, Tchaikovsky traveled to western Europe in 1851 and decided that he wanted to study composition. He returned home and enrolled in the very new St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Tchaikovsky wrote his first symphony at the age of 26. It is called Winter Dreams. The contention between The Mighty Handful and Tchaikovsky continues as they think his sound has too much western influence.

Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Hapsal Op. 2 No. 1: The Castle Ruins
Boyev, p.
Etcetera 1164

Tchaikovsky arr. Kreisler: Souvenir de Hapsal, Op. 2 No. 3: Song Without Words
A. Sitkovetsky, v.; O. Sitkovetsky, p.
Angel 57025

Tchaikovsky: “A Summer Love Tale,” Op. 6 No. 2
DeGaetani, ms.; Kalish, p.
Arab 6674

Tchaikovsky: “Otchevo (Why?),”Op. 6 No. 5
Leiferkus, bar.; Skigin, p.
Conifer 51268

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 in g minor, Winter Dreams
NY Phil/Bernstein
Sony 47631
11:51, 20:34


Program 3

In 1868, Tchaikovsky met a Beligian soprano named Desiree Artot and he soon became very taken with her. He was considering mariage and dedicated his Romance in f minor to her. However, she ended up marrying a Spanish baritone, and it seems that the loss influenced Tchaikovsky for some time afterwards.

Nikolai Rubinstein was the one to break the news of Artot's marriage, but Tchaikovsky didn't seem to harbor any resentment towards him. He even wrote a Serenade for Nikolai Rubinsein's Saint's Day (birthday) in 1872.

Tchaikovsky was a big influence on future Russian composers, including Igor Starvinsky who saw him at a performance in St. Petersburg just a few years before his death. Later, Stravinsky wrote a ballet called The Fairy's Kiss based on several of Tchaikovsky's early melodies.

The program ends with the performance of a few movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2, The Little Russian.

Tchaikovsky: Romance in f minor, Op. 5
Pletnev, p.
Phil 456931

Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11, I & II
Borodin Quartet
Chan 9871

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Saint’s Day
Chan 9190

Tchaikovsky: Morceaux for Piano, Op. 10 (excerpt)
Laredo, p.
Essay 1026

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 in c minor, Op. 17, I & III
CBS 39359



Program 4

In 1873, Tchaikovsky wrote The Snow Maiden, and it has largely been forgotten since. The premiere was conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky was interested in creating an opera about the story, but Rimsky-Korsakov beat him to it. Tchaikovsky was very upset and wouldn't go see it.

Next, we check in with one of Tchaikovsky's Russian competitors, Modest Mussorgsky. Here is the prelude to his opera, Dawn on the Moscow River from Khovanshchina.

In response to all the pressure to write distinctly Russian music, Tchaikovsky turns to the west and takes his inspiration from Shakespeare. Here is an early version of Romeo and Juliet, written as a duet for two singers.

Finally, we hear Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Piano and and Orchestra No. 1 in b flat minor. This is one of his most famous pieces and it was premiered in October of 1875.

Tchaikovsky: The Snow Maiden (excerpts)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Järvi
Chan 9324
1:39, 5:29

Mussorgsky: Dawn on the Moscow River fr. Khovanshchina
Decca 460977

Tchaikovsky: “Do You Hear the Nightingale?” fr. Romeo & Juliet
Scottish Nat’l Orch/Järvi; Lewis, ten.; Murphy, s.
Chan 8476

Tchaikovsky: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in b flat minor, I
RCA Symphony Orch/Kondrashin; Cliburn, p.
RCA 55912

Program 5

Though the piece wasn't an immediate success, it is now. Here are the second two movements of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.

Next, we hear the Serenade Melancolique that was written for the Hungarian violinist and teacher Leopold Auer. Auer tutored many virtuoso violinists including Jascha Heifitz, Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman and more.

The program concludes with a movement from Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3, his Polish Symphony, and with five excerpts from his 1877 ballet Swan Lake.

Tchaikovsky: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in bflat minor, I (excerpt)
RCA Symphony Orch/Kondrashin; Cliburn, p.
RCA 55912

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1, II & III
Berlin Phil/Abbado; Argerich, p.
DG 449816

Tchaikovsky: Sérénade Mélancolique, Op. 26
LA Phil/Wallenstein; Heifetz, v.
BMG 60927

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29, Polish, V (+ IV excerpt)
Philharmonia Orch/Muti
Brilliant Cl 99792
7:50 + 2:17

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Suite, Op. 20a (excerpts)
Vienna Phil/Levine
DG 437806



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