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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his Fourth Symphony, the Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, between 1877 and 1878, dedicated to his patroness and 'best friend' Nadezhda von Meck.
Following his catastrophic marriage to former student Antonina Miliukova, lasting a mere two months, Tchaikovsky made a start on his fourth symphony. After emerging from a profound period of writer's block, struggling with his sexuality and battling with a heavy bout of depression, it's perhaps unsurprising that the music is urgent, supercharged and violent at points. Even the opening bars of the first movement are intended to represent a metaphor for Fate, or, as poor old Tchaikovsky put it: "the fatal power which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness".
Between the moments of anguish and melancholy, Tchaikovsky proves he knows how to write a great tune - even the plaintive oboe melody at the beginning of the second movement, the Andantino in modo di canzone , swells with a poignancy and optimism, helped along by lush strings and booming brass.
The Finale, complete with frenzied plucking from the strings and rushing scales bursting through the texture, is certainly a highlight. The doom-laden Fate theme comes back once more - a cyclical feature Tchaikovsky went on to use in the two symphonies that followed, Manfred , and Symphony No. 5, completed in 1885 and 1888 respectively.