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Current time:0:00Total duration:13:47

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4, analysis by Gerard Schwarz (part 1)

Video transcript

tchaikovsky fourth is an amazing work written at a remarkable time in Tchaikovsky's life he was 37 years old he was teaching at the Moscow Conservatory he had just written Swan Lake one of his great ballets the first piano concerto one of the greatest piano concertos I mean it was a fantastic time for him at the same time he married a young woman who was in his class at the Moscow Conservatory she was chasing him she was in love with him she wrote a note eventually he decided that to stop all the rumors about his homosexuality it would be great to marry her and it would be a nice platonic relationship and and she would understand and everything would be great well it didn't quite go that way she didn't quite understand and the marriage only lasted for nine weeks and he supposedly had a nervous breakdown at the conclusion of that marriage and the marriage was annulled but at the same time another woman came into his life Nadezhda phone neck Madame phone neck was a widow then quite wealthy she was a great music lover and a great lover of Tchaikovsky's music and she decided to give him a monthly stipend this lasted for 14 years Tchaikovsky was able to quit teaching and devote himself to music and then he wrote the fourth symphony and dedicated it to fund MEK the extraordinary thing is that the two of them never met they only correspond it but because of that correspondence of some 500 letters we really have a feeling for what Tchaikovsky was thinking at every moment even though this symphony is not a programmatic symphony if you read the letters it does seem that way many people believe the first movement which is the most difficult to most complicated the longest was very programmatic Tchaikovsky of course like every composer said no it's a symphony on its own you don't have to have a program to have a great symphony that said in his letter Stephane that yes it had a program and the program was basically that fate is always hanging over our shoulders it's always there and fate isn't wonderful it's reality there are dreamlike moments in our lives and glorious moments but always looking over our shoulder we have fate and we call it a struggle with fate because this opening theme played by the horns and then extended by the lower breast and the upper breast is that fate motive at the end the horns make a decrescendo they get softer playing the same material the extension of the fake motive is in the clarinet and bassoons I think it's important that he makes that bridge orchestration from the brass to the woodwinds to the first theme of the first movement which is played by the violins and cello this is the dream motive it's beautiful it's soft he says that it should be played in the temple of a walls but he doesn't write it as a walls yet it does have that feeling in a way of a walls but not one that's grounded the way I Johann Strauss walls would be this material that he uses is is developed right away building up dynamically building up orchestration aliy very often which our country does in this movement as he really has the woodwind section which is piccolo two flutes two oboes two clarinets 2 bassoons as a section and then here's the brass section which is two trumpets for horns three trombones and tuba as a section the strings as a section the percussion really he uses especially at the end of the symphony there are more cymbal crashes and I think and any others one symphony ever ridden but he uses that as a help to get us to the frenzy that he's looking for at the end of the last movement the second theme is introduced by a bridge section there's a little conversation between the clarinet and bassoon then the bassoon does the transition to the clarinet playing the second theme the clarinet plays the melody and every time the melody comes to a little stop there's a little interjection from the flutes second planet from the bassoon and it happens constantly like that until the second part of this theme comes in with the cellos where it's the chose in a sense of extending that clarinet after the cellos extended more than the woodwinds extended a little bit later the violins come in and all they do is so they take a little part of that that cello melody just that part and they do it as a whole nervous section so it takes a little bit of that melody and it plays and then there's it's answered by the woodwinds and again this is the same kind of thing that is developed and he develops that marvelously and then we start the development section and of course in the development section the composer uses his imagination to change things change things harmonically melodically varied the dynamics vary the orchestration anything he can think of to keep us interested in excited to see what's going to be coming next it becomes a little more aggressive and louder and more passionate and the fate motive comes in that fate motive is always looking over our shoulders the fate motive is always played by the brass sometimes double by the woodwinds but it's a brass motive it's a trumpet motive or it's a horn motive and that comes up and sure enough when the when the development is going really well and very excited he has to put that fade in to remind us this bills again tremendously to what should be the recapitulation that bringing back to the beginning the first theme he does this in a remarkably interesting way and instead of having it be as a dream it's it's powerful its aggressive it's in some ways glorious but in some ways ominous after that there is very little of an introduction to the second theme and this time with so many great composers instead of having the clarinet play that theme now the bassoon plays it and the extension of the theme before played by the cellos is not played by the horn again this is developed as one would expect and the fate motive comes back in to remind us that it's not so wonderful and then he writes a little new material again it's somewhat dreamlike but in a very different style from the opening violin melody and that little melody becomes the material in a very quick way for the coda