Everything TCHAIKOVSKY - on Classical TV


The life and music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - all online at Classical TV... 








Chamber music from the Kuhmo Festival: Tchaikovsky Quartete Movement in B Flat. Perfromed by the Borodin String Quartet




Tchaikovsky's String Quartet no 3 performed by the Borodinn String Quartet







Tchaikovsky is one of the world’s most popular composers, but some people think his music doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Michael Clive is of those people — and he nominates a Tchaikovsky orchestral fantasy as one of the most charmingly joyful works ever composed.


Poor, perennially underrated Tchaikovsky.


Really? The man whose beloved ballet scores are admired for their fantastic dramatic expressiveness and rhythmic precision, and whose operas, symphonies, concertos and tone poems remain wildly popular from one generation to the next?


Well, yes. Born in 1840, Russian and romantic to his very bones, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was melancholy and conflicted throughout his life. In death, he is one of a few stars in the classical pantheon — Puccini is another — who are more widely enjoyed than critically appreciated. In fact, when Tchaikovsky is on the program, a veiled disdain can often be detected in the reviews. Tip: the next time you see his Pathétique symphony (No. 6) described as “sentimental” or his Piano Concerto No. 1 called “bombastic,” think “aching” or “dramatic” instead. Then imagine the critic going home, drawing the blinds, and enjoying these works with the same unalloyed pleasure they bring to the rest of us.


For performers, there’s nothing guilty or secretive about appreciating Tchaikovsky’s music. Conductors admire the dense, polished, intricately allusive construction of his symphonies; instrumentalists affectionately call them “blowfests” since they give every orchestral section a chance to play music that is always technically challenging, and gratifyingly loud at least some of the time. As for singers, they treasure Tchaikovsky’s way of projecting romantic passions in spectacular vocal lines against a sweeping orchestral tapestry. His operas Pique Dame and Eugene Onegin, which can be electrifying theatre, have spiked in global popularity as performers everywhere become more adept at idiomatically Russian-style productions.


The influences of time and place combined strangely for Russian composers of Tchaikovsky’s era. After centuries of relative cultural isolation within Russia, Catherine the Great’s flirtation with Western European culture (and with the arts of France in particular) spurred a great awakening to the traditions of European classical music there; the great problem for Russian composers of Tchaikovsky’s generation, under the ad hoc leadership of Mily Balakirev, was to bring Russia’s tremendous legacy of indigenous music to the frontiers of European musical refinement. Tchaikovsky, who was well-born and -educated, was deemed insufficiently Russian — which, in light of the Russian folk tunes and wintry moods suffusing his work, seems like a curious assessment today.


Among twentieth-century critics even the juridical Nicolas Slonimsky, himself Russian by birth and an authority on Russian music, could be dismissive of Tchaikovsky. “[His] music was frankly sentimental,” says Slonimsky; “his supreme gift of melody, which none of his Russian contemporaries could match, secured for him a lasting popularity among performers and audiences.” Well, sure. Melody is all very well, if you like that sort of thing.

For severe, Parnassian musical sensibilities like Slonimsky’s, the real problem with Tchaikovsky’s music is that its opulent surface beauty and up-front emotionalism present no interpretive ambiguity — no obstacle to accessibility. But that doesn’t make it “easy” for the composer, the performer or the listener.


Take, for example, his opus 45, an orchestral fantasy called Capriccio italien. A scant ten minutes long (about the scope of a single symphonic movement), it’s a programmatic piece, presenting his recollection of a festival day in Rome. Without a word of text, it creates an astonishingly detailed depiction of time, place and event, bursting with charm and joyful exuberance — from the sound of a bugle at dawn to one last, breathless tarantella at the end of a long day. Analysis of the score shows superb deftness in the scoring, adventurous modulation, and remarkable coloristic effects. But understanding Tchaikovsky’s mastery of these techniques is more a matter of heart than of mind. A brilliant composer is taking you to Rome for a day; to hear what’s happening in Capriccio italien, you’ve got to let yourself go. You’ve got to open yourself to sheer sound and feeling and, yes, sentiment.








Read the music review: Itzhak Perlman conducts lush Tchaikovsky

In Davies Symphony Hall on Wednesday night, that meant the heartfelt and orchestrally lush outer movements of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" Symphony, which the San Francisco Symphony played superbly under Perlman's baton.


The New York Times relates a surprising performance by Karita Mattila for Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at The Met; writer Anthony Tommasini dubs Mattila's first number "a revelation," and a far cry from her recent portrayal in Strauss's Salome.


A review of the Boston Ballet's Sleeping Beauty, a production that brought new life to the 1977 Ninette de Valois production, originally staged for The Royal Ballet.


Paramount Theatre in Illinois will host a Tchaikovsky Ballet Spectacular in March, 2010 - a chance to see the acclaimed Tchaikovsky Ballet and Orchestra perform Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.








Let's all be thankful this career move didn't take: Despite his obvious musical talent, Tchaikovsky's family enrolled him as a child in the Imperial School of Jurisprudence to train to become a civil servant - a position Tchaikovsky held for just three years.


Tchaikovsky later studied music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, an institution that espoused Western styles; Tchaikovsky's association invited critical lambastes from a group of Russian nationalist composers known as The Five. Talent is talent, though, and in 1869 Tchaikovsky collaborated with The Five's leader to produce Romeo and Juliet - which The Five raved about (go figure).


A bit of a muddy theorem, but Tchaikovsky was probably gay (by today's standards, anyway); several biographers, including Tchaikovsky's brother, point to Tchaikovsky's servent and nephew as close homosexual partners. In letters to his brother, Tchaikovsky made references to "succumbing" to his "natural inclinations" and "true nature."


Whatever his "inclinations," however, in 1877 Tchaikovsky married a former student Antonina Milyukova; the marriage fell apart after a few months, which drove Tchaikovsky to an emotional breakdown. He extracted great opera from the strife, at least: Tchaikovsky wrote his masterpiece Eugene Onegin during this trying time.


Tchaikovsky died in 1893, though scholars contest the cause of his death: some theorize Tchaikovsky died of cholera after drinking a pot of unboiled water during an epidemic; others assert Tchaikovsky committed suicide as part of a sentence Tchaikovsky's Imperial School alumni imposed on him because he was gay.







As part of All-Time Classics, we bring you "Six Degrees of Mozart" ... for Tchaikovsky. The great Mozart's musical, and sometimes personal, influence is pretty much everywhere imaginable. See where Tchaikovsky falls in the web of Mozart:


* When he was five, Tchaikovsky was moved to tears when he heard Zerlina's aria "Vedrai, carino" from Don Giovanni.


* Tchaikovsky worshipped Mozart above all composers and wrote to a friend about the adagio of the G Minor String Quintet, K. 516: "No one has ever known as well how to interpret so exquisitely in music the sense of resigned and inconsolable sorrow."


* Tchaikovsky's Orchestral Suite No. 4 in G, "Mozartiana" (1887), is a tribute to Mozart. Tchaikovsky referred to Mozart as a "musical Christ."


* Though he studied to be a civil servant, Tchaikovsky moved to dedicate his life to music upon hearing Mozart's Don Giovanni again when he was a teenager.


* In 1875, Tchaikovsky translated the libretto of Le Nozze di Figaro into Russian for a student performance at the Moscow Conservatory.


* Night, a Tchaikovsky vocal quartet with piano accompaniment, in B-flat major (1893), is based on music from Mozart's Fantasie in C minor for piano (K. 475).






Tchaikovsky Research


Classical Net - Tchaikovsky


Peter Tchaikovsky







"Peter Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich, Russian Master," from Favorite Classical Composers