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8. Tchaikovsky – Wrap-up and further listening

June 9, 2011

Tchaikovsky’s music is among the most exciting and memorable in all of classical music. His tendencies are quintessential to the Romantic era – emotionally charged, unboundedly expressive, powerful and explosive (or tender and delicate). Today, he is one of the most popular composers, though interestingly, music critics of the past spoke of his music in very harsh terms – “anti-intellectual,” “devoid of artistic merit,” “degenerate.” I definitely don’t agree with the extreme-ness of those opinions, one consensus weakness of Tchaikovsky is that he wasn’t a good developer of the musical material that he came up with, and that his sense of structure and craftsmanship were comparatively unsophisticated. On the other hand, few composers were able to generate so much great melodic material as Tchaikovsky could, and produce piece after piece driven by great melodies, combined with his vivid imagination and tone coloring, and sense for the dramatic. For these reasons, Tchaikovsky’s popularity endures.

I have this “theory” that where in Mozart’s music he is always singing, in Tchaikovsky’s music he is always dancing. Where Mozart seems to elevate in his vocal music, Tchaikovsky’s waltzes often feel like the orchestra is about to come alive and dance right off the stage. Among the below are a bunch of the waltzes I have in mind.

Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 – I. Allegro moderato (1 of 2)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 – I. Allegro moderato (2 of 2)

The first movement of the the violin concerto. Known as one of the most technically difficult violin concertos ever written.

Piano Concerto in B-flat, Op. 23 – I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso (not complete)

The beginning of the first movement of his piano concerto, one of the most popular ever. The melody just after the intro is one of the best anyone has ever thought of.

Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42 – III. Melodie

On the other end of the spectrum, a much smaller-scale piece for violin and orchestra. This one is just a little gem.

Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture (Love theme)

I hate to give just an excerpt (especially one from the middle of a piece), but the piece is kind of huge, and you really need to hear this part – nobody could have done this better than Tchaikovsky (did you know he wrote this?).

Swan Lake, Op. 20 – Waltz

The waltz from Tchaikovsky’s first ballet, Swan Lake. If you liked the Nutcracker, you may like Swan Lake too.

Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66 – Waltz

Decades before the Disney company was founded (and the movie put words to this one), Tchaikovsky wrote this. Love the grand entrance of this one.

Symphony No. 5 in e, Op. 64 – III. Valse

The waltz 3rd movement from Tchaikovsky’s great 5th Symphony. One of my favorite pieces of all.

Symphony No. 4 in f, Op. 36 – IV. Finale

The huge finale ending to Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. Supposedly, has the most cymbal crashes per minute of any piece ever written. I’d believe that.

Next: Beethoven, and his 5th Symphony


From → Guided Tours

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