Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Opus 36
Symphony No. 4 is dedicated to a rich widow called Madame von Meck. She commissioned music from Tchaikovsky and financially supported him. On condition of her support they agreed to never meet and communicated only by mail – they wrote 1100 letters!
As an attempt to suppress his homosexuality, Tchaikovsky married a student in July 1877 who declared she loved him.
However, Tchaikovsky couldn’t bear to be near her and tried to commit suicide around the time of writing his fourth Symphony.
Immediately after writing his fourth symphony Tchaikovsky went to stay by Lake Geneva in Switzerland with a male violinist, who inspired Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto. It is notable that the violin concerto is one of the happiest pieces he ever wrote – possibly due to his feelings towards the violinist.
Romantic music was an out pouring of emotion. Tchaikovsky was a deeply unhappy man but on the surface he suppressed this and appeared happy – see if you can hear this in the music.
Tchaikovsky often uses one whole section of the orchestra to answer another – this technique is called antiphony. It can create drama and musical dialogue.
Tchaikovsky wrote fantastic melodies with beautiful long lines – enjoy them!
Movement I: Andante sostenuto - Moderato con anima
The symphony opens with a theme using triplets played by unison horns and bassoons, which represents inescapable fate.
The strings enter with a dotted rhythm melody in 9/8, giving the music a feeling of unease.
Tchaikovsky ends this fff (fortisissimo) to create drama, but also notice how the whole orchestra is in rhythmic unison.
Movement II: Andantino in modo di canzone
This movement is in D flat minor and opens with a mournful legato oboe solo accompanied by pizzicato strings.
The opening melody is then passed around various instruments particularly the bassoon.
In the centre of this movement notice the key change to a brighter G major and the tempo speeds up. The music is marked piu mosso.
Movement III: Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato
Pizzicato strings open this movement; the effect is musically and visually stunning.
The strings play alone, followed by the woodwind and then the brass.
To finish Tchaikovsky uses the 3 orchestral sections in antiphony.
Note there is no percussion in this movement.
Movement IV: Finale: Allegro con fuoco
This movement follows on from the previous movement with as little break as possible, which grabs the audiences’ attention.
The tempo marking is allegro con fuoco and the dynamic is fortissimo giving this movement a celebratory feel.
This movement is technically challenging for the strings and wind.
Notice the uses of percussion, especially cymbals, to increase dramatic effects.
Near the end, the fate theme suddenly reappears, briefly reminding us of Tchaikovsky’s inescapable destiny
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY 1840-1893
Russian, Romantic composer.
As a student, Tchaikovsky studied composition, music theory, piano, flute and organ.
Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to incorporate ideas from Western composers such as Beethoven and Schumann.
Tchaikovsky wrote a variety of orchestral, chamber, solo and stage works, including operas and ballets – famously the ballets Swan Lake and the Nutcracker.
- Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini
- Bartók Concerto For Orchestra
- Bartók The Miraculous Mandarin
- Beethoven Egmont
- Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5
- Beethoven Symphony No. 9
- Berg 3 Pieces, Op. 6
- Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
- Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
- Britten In Memoriam Dennis Brain
- Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1
- Bruckner Symphony No. 4
- Debussy Images
- Debussy Jeux
- Debussy La Mer
- Mahler Symphony No. 6
- Mahler Symphony No. 7
- Mahler Symphony No. 9
- Mendelssohn Violin Concerto
- Messiaen Turangalîla-symphonie
- Mozart Horn Concerto No. 4
- Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No 2
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 3
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4
- Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2
- Ravel La Valse
- Ravel Piano Concerto in D
- Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major
- Schumann Symphony No. 1
- Schoenberg 5 Pieces
- Schoenberg Gurrelieder
- Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht
- Sibelius Karelia Suite
- Sibelius Symphony No. 2
- Strauss Don Juan
- Strauss Horn Concerto No.1
- Stravinsky The Firebird Suite
- Stravinsky Rite of Spring
- Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
- Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6
- Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D
- Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony
- Vaughan Williams London Symphony
- Vaughan Williams The Pilgrim's Progress