The Full Works Concert - Wednesday 28 August 2013: Tchaikovsky

Magnificent performances of four works from the great and tragic Russian composer, Tchaikovsky.

Tonight Anne-Marie Minhall - sitting in for Jane Jones - focuses on three major works of the tragic Russian Romantic composer, Tchaikovsky.

The concert kicks off with his Capriccio Italien. Composed between January and May 1880, the work was inspired by a trip he took to Rome, during which he saw the Carnival. The work is full of Italian folk music and street songs and even uses at its opening a bugle call that the composer overheard played by a cavalry regiment outside his hotel.

Two great works follow that were written in the aftermath of Tchaikovsky's disastrous 1877 marriage to an infatuated young music student. Within a week of the wedding, he fled from his bride and suffered a breakdown, retreating to country estates belonging to his family or a few close friends.

In the autumn of 1880, Tchaikovsky composed two of his most popular works: the 1812 Overture and the Serenade for Strings. The Serenade is a tribute to Mozart, Tchaikovsky's favourite composer, paying homage to Mozart's serenades and divertimentos. This is a lusher work though than Mozart would have managed, more akin to Tchaikovsky's great ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. Listen out in particular for the two middle movements which are among Tchaikovsky's finest moments.

The Symphony No. 4 is an expression of Tchaikovsky's belief that his happiness would always be thwarted by external forces beyond his control. He described the introduction as the germ of the entire symphony. 'This is Fate,' wrote the composer, 'which prevents our hopes of happiness from being realized, which...hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles, a constant, relentless spiritual torment. It is invincible, inescapable. There is no recourse but submission to suffering.' The second movement expresses the melancholy of evening, the third a succession of images and thoughts that 'float through the brain as one falls asleep.' About the fourth movement, Tchaikovsky wrote, 'If there is no joy within you, turn to others. Go to the people. They know how to lose themselves in revelry and pleasure.... But no sooner do you abandon yourself to merriment than Fate reappears, reminding you of your suffering. The others pay no attention to your sorrow.... They still enjoy simple, primitive pleasures; join them, and life will yet be bearable.'


Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien
Yuri Termikanov conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra 

Tchaikovsky: Dumka Opus 59
Piano: Christoph Eschenbach 

Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C major
Christoph Eschenbach conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4 in F minor
Valery Gergiev conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra