Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies: A Celebration of Russian Music
1. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
The 1812 Overture is one of the most popular and well-known compositions by the Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The overture was written to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon in the War of 1812.
The overture begins with a solo violin playing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise”. This is followed by a fanfare played by trumpets and drums. The main theme of the overture is based on a Russian folk song, “The Red Sarafan”.
The overture ends with a grand finale which includes the firing of cannons. This final section is known as the “Volga Boatmen’s Song” and is based on a traditional Russian folk song.
2. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is one of his most popular and well-known works. The concerto was written for piano and orchestra and is in three movements.
The first movement, Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso, begins with a solo piano playing the main theme. The orchestra then joins in and the music becomes more agitated. The second half of the movement features a piano solo with the orchestra providing accompaniment.
The second movement, Andante cantabile con moto, is a slow and beautiful movement featuring a solo piano with the orchestra providing accompaniment. The third movement, Allegro con fuoco, is a fast and exciting finale featuring both the piano and orchestra.
3. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 is one of his best-known works and is considered to be one of his greatest achievements. The symphony is in four movements and was written for orchestra.
The first movement, Andante sostenuto – Moderato con anima – Moderato assai, ma rubato – Allegro vivo – Presto – Molto vivace – Prestissimo, begins with a slow and melancholic theme played by the strings. This theme is then taken up by the woodwinds and brass. The second half of the movement features a faster tempo with various themes being played by different sections of the orchestra. At times during this movement, Tchaikovsky quotation some parts of Schumann’s Symphony No 3 which give it an eerie feel hinting at fate or death fantasies that were going through Tchaikovsky head during that time
The second movement, Andante mosso quasi allegretto, features a solo oboe playing the main theme over a simple accompaniment from the strings. The third movement, Scherzo: Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro assai vivace, starts off with a fast and playful theme played by the strings. The woodwinds and brass join in and the music becomes more agitated. The fourth movement, Finale: Allegro con fuoco – Molto vivace – Presto – Vivacissimo – Allegrissimo – Presto – Maestoso assai e con tutta la forza delle corde e dei fiati è possibile (Alla breve – 4/4), begins with a slow and grandiose theme played by the brass. The woodwinds and strings join in and the music becomes more excited. The finale ends with a triumphant coda played by the full orchestra.