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14. Ravel – Boléro, and Intro to Impressionism/Modernism

Maurice Ravel (ruh-VELL) was a French composer who lived from 1875-1937. He’s often categorized as one of the two great impressionist composers along with Claude Debussy (but more later on this label, which both composers disliked). Impressionism was not a major era in music, but it was perhaps an offshoot reaction against the excessiveness of Late Romanticism, which maybe then pointed the way to Modernism.

If Mozart was perfection, Tchaikovsky was the emotionalist, and Beethoven was the architect, then Ravel was the sound engineer. Ravel is second to none in manipulating tone colors and textures, creating sound effects, and painting soundscapes. He loved to exploit the variety of sounds and timbres possible from individual instruments, as well as engineer unusual and exotic sounds by combining the sounds of different instruments, sometimes in very unusual combinations.

Modernism is perhaps the least understood and least appreciated of the four major eras of music (and there were many different Modernist trends as well, making the term kind of a weird catch-all). You definitely need to approach Impressionist and Modern music differently than you would Tchaikovsky, for instance. We’re in a different world now, and music is now operating by different rules and assumptions than before. Ravel’s music can be kind of wild at times, but once you understand how to navigate it, I think Ravel is a lot of fun. Below is a chart that makes an unusual comparison, between Mozart and Ravel, who were born over 100 years apart from each other. Hopefully, this can help you to at least identify things that are going on as you listen.


Intro to Listening to Impressionist/Modernist Music:
Comparison of Typical Musical Features in Mozart vs. Ravel

Feature Typical of Mozart Typical of Ravel
Usage of instruments Usually limited to conventional “roles” Conventional roles thrown out the window, unusual combinations used
Use of Percussion Few percussion instruments, generally used for rhythmic purposes Wide variety of percussion instruments, many used in the mix with melodic instruments, sometimes even playing relatively prominent roles
Phrase structures

Symmetrical, ideas and phrases often measured into 2s, 4s, and 8s, etc. Not necessarily symmetrical – can be asymmetrical, can change suddenly
Tempo and meter Typically steady for the vast majority of a movement Could change and shift suddenly, and drastically
Tonality Clear sense of tonality – limited “color scheme” and clearly identifiable “primary color” Tonal center is present, but buried amid hugely varied “color scheme;” can go a very long way out before closing the arc and returning to the “primary color”
Role of Dissonance Dissonance as a device to create tension, instability, and emotion; always need be resolved back to consonance and stability Dissonances can stand without resolution, can even be building blocks of ideas
Harmonic Flow

Underlying harmonies and chords are highly “functional” – chord sequences occur in logical progressions; endings of sections can be clearly sensed ahead of time Prevalent usage of non-functional harmonies; phrases, sections, and entire pieces may close in unconventional and less predictable ways
Form

Standard forms prevalent (especially Sonata form), relatively easy to spot the boundaries Non-standard forms, not always easily apparent that there even is form

Listen on Youtube: Bolero

Ravel’s Boléro is perhaps the oddest piece that he ever composed. By his words, it’s “a piece for orchestra without music.” It’s almost a technical exercise of a composition, repeating the same material over and over with no development of it, only using different instruments each time, and gradually getting louder throughout. I’m going to forgo a full analysis of this piece (and you’ll see why), but there is one remarkable hilight for me – at 6:50, he mixes together this crazy combination of instruments: a french horn, 2 piccolos, and a celesta, and the sound he creates is one of the coolest color effects anybody has ever thought of, I think.

Next Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, 1st movement

13. Beethoven – Wrap-up and further listening

Ludwig van Beethoven inherited the Classical era, broke all the rules, and ushered in the Romantic era, changing music forever. He elevated the status quo like no other composer ever did – after Beethoven, you could not write a symphony without it being automatically compared to and evaluated against Beethoven’s. His musical innovations accelerated the evolution of European culture for decades to come – he was THE standard for about a century, all the way until, arguably, a Russian named Igor Stravinsky changed all the rules again, and ushered in Modernism.

Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies were not the only mark (or more like, impact crater) that he left in classical literature – he was one of the most versatile composers ever, second only to Mozart, only because Beethoven’s weakness as a writer of great melodies made him relatively weak in the genre of opera. But, Beethoven perhaps more than made up for that in his achievements in other genres: his concertos (especially those for violin, and his 5th piano concerto) are easily among the greatest. Many of his piano sonatas are primary works of standard piano repetoire. Of particular note, his late string quartets are some of the most profound works of music ever written – astoundingly innovative, artistically powerful, and so advanced that they’re practically visions of the future, which his contemporaries could not comprehend.

Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, I. Allegro ma non troppo (part 1)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, I. Allegro ma non troppo (part 2)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, II. Larghetto
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, III. Rondo. Allegro

A titan of a work among violin repertory.

Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, I. Adagio sostenuto
Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, II. Allegretto
Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight,” Op. 27 No.2, III. Presto agitato

One of Beethoven’s most famous piano sonatas. The first movement has a very commercialized popularity of it’s own. 3 very different movements – 1st movement dark and brooding; 2nd movement lighter and cheerier; 3rd movement fast fiery.

Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (part 1)
Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80 (part 2)

Known “colloquially” as the “Choral Fantasy.” A single-movement work, a sort of cross between a choral symphony and a piano concerto, done in free-form. The main melody, sort of (which takes awhile to appear) sounds remarkably like the “Ode to Joy” of the 9th symphony finale. This was kind of the “warm-up” to 9th symphony, perhaps – Beethoven was half-way to perfecting the “Ode to Joy” melody, and here is what he had come up with thus far. Maybe.

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” in E flat major, Op. 55 – I. Allegro con brio
(part 1)

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica” in E flat major, Op. 55 – I. Allegro con brio
(part 2)

Subtitled “Heroic” in Italian. The symphony that broke open the Romantic Era. An unprecedently innovative symphony, one which left half the audience baffled and the other half hailing a genius. Powerful, exciting, and twice as long as many symphonies of his predecessors. Was originally dedicated to Napoleon, until he made himself Emperor of France. Beethoven got mad and scratched out the dedication to him on the cover of his manuscript, and scratched so hard that he made a hole in the page. True story.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat, Op. “Emperor”, Op. 73 – III. Rondo. Allegro ma non troppo

The final movement of Beethoven’s 5th and greatest piano concerto.

Next: Impressionism! and Maurice Ravel

12. Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125, 4th movement

I sort of didn’t want to do another symphony by Beethoven, but his 9th symphony is widely considered the greatest work in all of classical music, which makes it hard to pass over. It’s popularly known for its “Ode to Joy” theme, but in full context, it’s an absolutely titanic work of art, which has become a symbol of the enduring human spirit and universal brotherhood, taking all the loftiest of adjectives. It is the first and greatest symphony to utilize a choir, and the words sung are an adaptation of a poem by the German poet Friedrich Schiller.

Lots of interesting history and factoids about this symphony:

– The longest (over 1 hour), and the largest (by instrumentation) symphony ever written at its time, and still today one of the longest ever

– “Officially” took 6 years to complete, though counting to when back-burner planning and sketching began, Beethoven spent 31 years on it

– When Sony was developing the compact disc, the length of the symphony was considered as a basis for how long they should be – it was decided that the CD should be at least long enough to hold the entire symphony

– Beethoven had long been completely deaf when he composed it, but still conducted the premiere performance of it

– The premiere performance received such a long ovation in Vienna that police had to break it up, because it was exceeding the customary length of ovation required for royalty

– Just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, American composer Leonard Bernstein conducted the symphony on back-to-back nights in Berlin, once on each side of the wall, with a special orchestra comprised of musicians from all over the world, and replaced the German word for “joy” (freude) to essentially make it “Ode to Freedom(freiheit)

– In Japan, is performed annually as a New Year’s Eve tradition

– Adapted to be the official anthem of the European Union

– Adapted as the Christian hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”

In terms of analysis and guided tour, this work is too huge for me to fully do it justice. The 4th movement alone (which contains the “Ode to Joy” part) is over 20 minutes long, and is vastly complex on many levels. One structural innovation about this movement is that it contains a “symphony within a symphony,” in that it has 4 distinct parts to it, which follow the conventions of a typical 4-movement symphony. With that, I’m just going to provide some hilights and explanations of the “first movement” of the overall fourth movement.

Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125, 4th movement, part 1

0:00 – A striking dissonant chord begins a brief but fiery introduction.

0:09 – Cellos and double-basses make this sort of “declaration.”

0:51 – An interesting sequence here: a flashback to the first movement (still and quiet feeling), which gets interrupted by the lower strings, followed similarly by interrupted flashbacks of the second movement (quick, chattery woodwinds) and the third movement (slower, warmer feeling).

2:39 The “Ode to Joy” theme is starting to surface, but once again, the lower strings interrupt. Beethoven also inserted hints of the melody in earlier movements, but it doesn’t fully come out until the 4th movement.

3:17 – Now it’s out, and we hear 4 different full iterations of the “Ode to Joy” theme, each built upon the same melody, but orchestrated differently each time (sound familiar?) – a) lower strings only, b) middle-register, I think including violas, c) violins, d) brass. Listen for how each iteration is harmonized and filled out differently, and how each is “bigger” and “brighter” than the previous.

6:18 – After 4 full iterations, a closing section.

7:02 – Suddenly, we’re back to the start of the movement. The movement thus far basically repeats, minus the series of flashbacks, and the voices come in this time around. There are 4 solo voice parts and the full choir. The solo bass voice makes the same “declaration” that the cellos and basses did before, and the lyrics sung are saying something like, “not these sounds, but let us raise our voices in more joyful sounds.”

Continued – Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125, 4th movement, part 2

0:13 – First iteration with voices – starting with solo bass voice followed by full choir singing in unison. The lyrics in German, with English translation, can be found here.

0:54 – Second iteration with voices – solo voices singing in quartet, followed by full choir singing in parts.

1:44 – Third iteration with voices – solo quartet, followed by full choir, singing something more elaborate, on top of the underpinnings of the main melody. You could still sing along the “Ode to Joy” melody and it would fit in with the framework.

2:28 – Closing section, and buildup

2:46 – This chord feels very out of place – something is about to change…

2:55 – What do you do with something builds and builds, and becomes so big that you can’t get any bigger? Stop everything, have a bassoon start farting out a low note (pardon my language), and bring in the Turkish army? wth? That’s exactly what Beethoven did. And thus ends the “1st movement,” and i’ll end here.

The work continues on for awhile, if you want to keep listening i’ll leave you the part 3 link. But don’t forget that this is all the 4th movement, and there are still 3 others.

Continued – Beethoven – Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125, 4th movement, part 3

Next: Wrap-up of Beethoven and further listening

11. Beethoven – Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92, II. Allegretto

Beethoven was the composer who bridged the Classical Era and the Romantic Era, the point between them often pinpointed at 1803, when he unleashed his revolutionary 3rd Symphony. There are noted features about pieces in different times in Beethoven’s career, and his work is often divided into three periods:

– Early (largely following Classical style)
– Middle (pushing at or redefining the limits of Classical structure)
– Late (totally exploring uncharted territory)

A similar topic about Beethoven is that his style (taken as a whole) is the perfect marriage of Classical and Romantic ideals – he maintains the form, precision, control, logic, and balance of the Classical Era, while simultaneously expressing the drama, passion, and “hugeness” of the Romantic Era. His Seventh Symphony is classified as a middle-period work, and we’ll see this dualism in action.

Listen and Watch on Youtube:
Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92, II. Allegretto

0:15 – After a kind of mysterious opening chord from the woodwinds, the lower strings (violas, cellos, basses) introduce the main theme. One could say that there is not really a melody in this (yet), and perhaps Beethoven is drawing attention to the rhythmic pulse (long, short-short long, long) as the main idea. As we saw him use a “building block” approach in the first movement of his 5th Symphony, this rhythmic idea here will serve as the building block for this movement.

1:03 – Second iteration – As this movement progresses, we’ll see that Beethoven will take a strategy of “start with an interesting idea, and see how many different times we can reiterate it and develop it and keep things interesting.” So the second time now, the violins are added in, and a melody begins to emerge underneath in the cellos.

1:49 – Third iteration – The melody rises up to the violins, and now the orchestra starts to build in volume and intensity.

2:34 – Fourth iteration – Now, the whole orchestra is in it, and there are all sorts of ideas happening at the same time. Listen for the lower strings adding a new rhythmic idea, in some technical terms, they are playing a triplet figure, while other parts of the orchestra are playing in a duplet figure, so there is this 3-against-2 rhythmic tension. Listen to the violins soar at 2:52. And meanwhile, several instruments continue the “long, short-short long, long” idea. And with all these different ideas layered on top of each other, take note that you can yet hear each idea with perfect clarity. To me, the level of craftsmanship and quality of construction of this section is mind-boggling.

But let’s keep going – note how dramatic and emotional this section is. It’s so powerful. Huge and towering. Sort of fiery and angry. Yet, with a responsible conductor at hand to interpret Beethoven (And Leonard Bernstein here is among the best ever), the music doesn’t just take off and spin into an emotional frenzy – it’s all under complete control, which somehow, I think, actually adds to the emotional impact of this section, because the tension in all of this is sustained for so long, and it doesn’t give you that climax that would settle the matter – instead, it just keeps marching onwards in all of it’s power and intensity, while all firmly grounded to that first main premise. So here, I see that perfect balance of Classical control and Romantic fire. Lastly, with the violins soaring, timpani thundering, brass punctuating, lower strings lurking.. what is the emotion of this section? Is it anger? Desperation? A cry of the soul? I’ve listened to this many times, and i’m honestly not sure what it is. But i’ll say this, that this is a very complex emotional expression here, and this boggles my mind too. So Beethoven boggles both sides of my brain at once, which is yet mind-boggling in and of itself…

3:26 – How do you follow up something once it’s gotten so huge? Cool off, and go in a different direction – here, Beethoven switches from A minor to A major. Here, a little more lyrical. Yet, still with this yearning feeling about it, and not quite settled.

4:53 – But, back to the main theme again, fifth iteration. Listen to the solo woodwinds holding the melody, with the strings adding a quiet rhythmic layer “chattering” underneath.

5:53 – Now, this gets really interesting. Beethoven takes the main idea and turns it into a fugue, which is neither Classical nor Romantic, but a Baroque idea. The Baroque Era preceded the Classical Era, and it’s champion was Johann Sebastian Bach, who we will get to sometime.

6:43 – After a repeated “hammering” on one note in some instruments, we’re led cleanly out of the fugue section back into the main theme, briefly (for a sixth half-iteration), and then it goes into the lyrical section again.

7:40 – Something starts to stir here, kind of signaling that we’re at the coda section now. The main theme gets choppped up, reduced, passed around a lot, and it gets very quiet. And then suddenly it builds up very quickly, and then ends almost as mysteriously as it began.

I (particularly) hope you enjoyed this movement. This is my single favorite Beethoven work (if i’m allowed to count individual movements), and the more I listen to it the more I discover and appreciate it. And by the way, Beethoven was just about totally deaf when he composed this. THAT’s mind-boggling.

Next: Not sure yet! Maybe one more Beethoven piece before I wrap up..

10. Beethoven – Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor (“Pathetique”)

Beethoven was the first major composer whose entire career was for himself, and not any religious or political institution – he lived in the beginning of the Age of the Individual. One major aspect of Beethoven’s lasting influence was that he put a new fuel into basically all of the existing genres of the time. Where piano sonatas and string quartets (to name a couple) had perhaps been upper class “living room” entertainment, Beethoven transformed the forms into grand, artistic, dramatic, soul-bearing expressions, which were meant for the concert stage and an audience of hundreds.

Listen on Youtube:
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, I. Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio

Things to listen for:
– The dramatic opening introduction – marked Grave (Italian tempo marking, indicating something like “slowly and solemnly”).
– The jump into the exposition – marked Allegro di molto e con brio (Quickly, with fire).
– Changes in dynamics (volume) – louder sections, quieter sections, crescendos (gradual increases), sudden sharp increases and decreases.
– Sections that build in tension, vs. sections that resolve tension.
– Recurring sections and themes

Structural timeline:
0:06 introduction – 1st theme
0:52 introduction – 2nd theme, reusage of 1st theme
1:51 exposition – 1st theme
2:24 exposition – 2nd theme
3:16 exposition – closing section
3:36 (repeat of exposition section)
5:21 reprise of introduction (not sure what to call this – Beethoven is going outside the box)
6:12 development
6:57 recapitulation – 1st theme
7:20 recapitulation – 2nd theme
8:07 recapitulation – closing section
8:30 coda? altered reprise of introduction
9:12 ending


Listen on Youtube:
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, II. Adagio cantabile

As was typical, big contrast between 1st and 2nd movements. Much more serene, melodic, smooth, less anxious. The Italian marking for the movement means something like “slowly and singing-ly.” One universal comment about Beethoven is that beautiful melodies didn’t come easily to him, like they did for Mozart and Tchaikovsky. This movement’s opening melody is among Beethoven’s most beautiful, I think, but I bet he really had to work on this one – sketch, redraft, tweak, try this, try that, revise again – and at the same time, work hard on getting the harmonies, moving inner lines, and underlying rhythmic texture and flow that were all just right, until the final product was perfect. Mozart was said to have taken “dictation from God,” but Beethoven had to build everything with his own hands, extensively working out ideas in his sketchbooks that he carried around at all time (something Mozart didn’t need to do). In all this, Beethoven is said to be the master “architect” of classical music, whose genius showed in how he “built” and “crafted” his works.

But, Beethoven’s toiling over this movement’s main melody (as I speculate of it) did do quite well – so well, that Billy Joel borrowed it. Listen to the chorus at 1:20:

Billy Joel – “This Night”


Finally, the closing movement of the Sonata:

Listen on Youtube:
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, III. Rondo – Allegro

Allegro means “quickly,” and a Rondo is a classical form or convention, in which there is a theme that returns several times. As you might expect, sometimes it returns identically as it is first heard, but other times it returns with some variation and goes other directions.

Structural timeline:
0:01 Rondo theme introduced
0:24 Second theme, part A
0:56 Second theme, part B
1:15 Dramatic closing of Second theme
1:22 Rondo theme
1:43 Third theme
2:20 Another big closing of a section
2:40 Rondo theme
2:51 Development of Rondo theme, leading into restatement of second theme
3:50 Rondo theme, with substantial alterations
4:16 Dramatic closing, with a nice “slam” on the bottom note
4:33 Coda – One more brief usage of Rondo theme (in major tonality) before it ends.

Next: 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony

9. Beethoven – Symphony No. 5, Op. 67, I. Allegro con brio

It’s not hard to break the rules and try to be original, and see what you can come up with. It’s a bit harder to break the rules, be taken seriously, and have people following you on your new ideas.

It’s far rarer, perhaps once-in-a-century, to break the rules, become the new standard, and have people still measuring themselves against your ideas 75 years after you died. Beethoven kind of did this. Really.

Ludwig van Beethoven (BAY-toe-ven) was born in Germany in 1770, and lived until 1827. To much consensus, he was the most influential composer who has ever lived – he single-handedly opened the way for the Romantic Era in classical music, by infusing new ideals into the existing forms that he inherited from the Classical Era (as were idealized in Mozart).

One main area that he did this in was in the genre of the symphony. Firstly, a symphony is a work for an orchestra, typically written in 4 movements, and with further conventions on the nature of each of the 4 movements. Haydn wrote 104 of them, and Mozart wrote 41. Beethoven wrote only 9, but in those few, he redefined what the symphony could be, and ultimately, all symphonists to come would have to contend with the new standard that Beethoven set. We’ll look at one of the two most famous of his symphonies, the one which begins with perhaps the most famous four notes in all of classical music. This one deserves a more detailed analysis.

Beethoven – Symphony No. 5, Op. 67, I. Allegro con brio (Fast, with fire)

[0:21] Arturo Toscanini was one of the iconic conductors of the early 20th century, and I can’t think of any other phrase in classical music that is nearly as iconic as this 4-note statement. Throughout this movement, listen for how Beethoven takes this idea, repeats it, puts it in different places, turns it around, transforms it, extracts more and more out of it. You could say that this entire movement is built around this one simple building block.

[1:07] A French horn announces the start of a contrasting section, formally known as the 2nd theme of the expostion section. It’s brighter and more lyrical, compared with the stormy and serious opening. Listen carefully for the recurring short-short-short-long in the lower strings, that little rumble underneath the lyrical stuff. And then, the 4-note motif by the whole orchestra brings us to a clear end of this section at [1:45].

[1:50] The French horns again announce a new section, but with a different “attitude” than last time. In sonata form (a convention that this movement is structured in), the section that follows the exposition is the development section. This is where things get interesting, where material from the exposition gets transformed in more new ways. It starts out similarly with the upper strings, but then starts to deviate and “explore” further out than before.

[2:24] The violins restate the french horn theme from [1:07].

[2:35] A big “conversation” between strings and woodwinds/brass. If you trace it, Beethoven is using a reduced form of the [1:07] french horn theme, just pulling out the 2 “middle” notes. And then, he reduces it down to 1 note. And wow, listen to what he can do with so little – Beethoven could be remarkably efficient with his “materials.”

[2:55] Sudden spikes and drops in volume like this have Beethoven written all over them. Beethoven had kind of an angry, impulsive personality, and it’s theorized that he may have had bipolar disorder. If this is not too much of cheap pop psychology, maybe this feature is a manifestation of his serious mood swing-iness.

[3:03] Closing the development section with the 4-note motif again, Beethoven brings us into a recapitulation section, which will be similar to the exposition, but with some amount of differences.

[3:28] An odd little feature of this movement, and one that turned heads – a mini-cadenza by the oboe.

[4:00] The recapitulation section often has the 2nd theme again, in a different key (or “color”).

[4:44] So it sounds like it should start to wind down here, but Beethoven launches us into another round of closing development. This is called the coda, and Beethoven is is largely credited for making this coda section a prominent idea in usage of sonata form.

[5:45] One last time before it’s over. And keep listening for the 4-note motif.

[6:07] No applause between movements, even if the ending is exciting! Hold applause until all 4 movements are complete. Those who clap are noobs and will be subject to shushing.

A mini-recap of Sonata form:

1. Exposition – primary theme portion, followed by secondary theme portion
2. Development – can go all over the place
3. Recapitulation – primary and secondary themes, with some differences
4. Coda – like a shorter second development section, which ends the movement

Next: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”

8. Tchaikovsky – Wrap-up and further listening

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