tones

Focus on...Tchaikovsky

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I was listening to the "Romeo and Juliet" overture and was stunned all over again by both the the stunning brilliance of the music and the arrangement. To me, Pyotor Illych Tchaikovsky was the greatest tune writer the planet has ever seen. Think of those ballet suites, the symphonies (especially the last movement of the 5th, in which great tunes are used as throwaway lines), the (in)famous first piano concerto, which never quite lives up to one of the most magnificent openings in all music. All from, well, basically, a miserable git. Pete was both homosexual, epileptic and possibly manic-depressive. He entered into a marriage of convenience to silence the rumours - it was a disaster. He was saved by Madame von Meck who sponsored him (thus saving him from teaching to earn money, something for which he was manifestly unsuited), on the odd condition that they never met. (They were said to have passed on the street once, without realising it). His reaction to the ending of the arrangement was the 6th Symphony (Pathétique). In the end, he drank the water in St. Petersburg in the middle of a cholera epidemic and died as a result.

He had very fixed ideas about other composers - he thought Brahms was a nonentity, but he loved Mozart (hence the gorgeous Variations on a Rococo Theme). He refused to be overtly Russian, like "the Five", led by Rimsy-Korsakov, and thus became the first Russian composer with an international following.

So, Romeo and Juliet, by Herbie von K., a master of the Russian romantic repertoire:

[video=youtube;tnyC2uwJ4qg]

Agree that 'erb von K is great in this. Curious that he seems to have such an affinity with Russian and Italian music.

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'Fluffy' is always great with the Romantic repertoire.:D

Tones advocates "Romeo and Juliet' nicely enough. It's an unforgettable piece from Tchai, although personally I prefer "Francesca da Rimini" - the scoring is more vivid and atmospheric. For sure, I play it more often than 'R&J'.

SS

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The festive season is here.:oj:

Curled up on the couch enjoying 'The Nutcracker' (John Lanchbery) on my lovely valves. This music is indispensable for this season. 'The Forest of Fir Trees in Winter' is just about the most heart-warming piece of orchestral music for me.:cs:

Which is your favourite recording of this timeless music?:)

SS

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Yes, & it does bring back memories of childhood festive seasons.:)

Have my Dad's old LP from years back on EMI Music for Pleasure by a band known as the Hollywood Bowl SO.

It's a nice clear recording, but never been keen on the Mendelssohn Midsummer Night's Dream it's coupled with.

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Hmmm, not quite in same class as Dvorak or Schubert IMO ;-)

I'm hot & cold on Tchaikovsky.... too much over-florid sentimentality in much of his work IMO, I don't much like grown-men-crying sort of music! And I totally agree with Hanslick about his violin concerto, and feel much the same about 1st piano concerto.

However, his 6th Symphony is one of the greatest ever, and the 4th is definitely a high ranker too, but I find the 5th a bit laboured. His Hamlet overture is not nearly as well known as it deserves to be, and sounds very like a conscious effort to imitate Brahms's Tragic Overture - I don't believe Tchaikovsky held Brahms in low regard.

The Piano Trio is also a stonking masterpiece.

He didn't get it at all with Brahms ("a giftless bastard", if memory serves!). More worryingly, the late Beethoven quartets were lost on him as well.

His music is very accessible though, due to the beautiful melodies, striking orchestration, and emotional candour. I loved it when I was young, but soon grew out of it. Emotional candour becomes emotional incontinence and a certain mawkishness can grate. That being said, I can still enjoy a really great performance of the symphonies; I agree with the OP about HvK - even people who don't like him have to agree he was fantastic with Tchaik.

Dvorak and Schubert I would hold as examples of where Tchaik falls down. Both wrote very accessible music with beautiful tunes and so on, but with them it's underpinned with an intellectual rigour and a more finely balanced artistic control. The music never loses its shape. When the emotional temperature rises in a Tchaikovsky symphony, things start to fall apart; Schubert always has control, even when there's chaos on the surface. (Think of the andantino from the A major sonata, D 959!) Dvorak was a very different kind of composer, not much for despair and anguish, although very very talented.

I've drifted back into an appreciation of Tchaikovsky in more recent years, but I don't often find myself in the mood. He's better than I thought, but there's just so much stuff I'd rather listen to that he rarely gets a look in.

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