DAY 1: Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 Pathétique Mvt. I - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This movement of Tchaikovsky’s last symphony is over 18 minutes long and therefore will not fit an audio post or a single youtube clip. So this is Part 1 of 2.
History: This symphony was composed between February and August of 1893. Tchaik wrote to Vladimir Davydov that February that he had recently destroyed a symphony he had worked on all autumn, because he had found something better. He called it “an enigma to all—let them guess; the symphony will be entitled A Programme Symphony (No. 6)… The programme itself will be suffused with subjectivity, and not infrequently during my travels, while composing it in my head, I wept a great deal. Upon my return I sat down to write the sketches, and the work went so furiously and quickly that in less than four days the first movement was completely ready, and the remaining movements already clearly outlined in my head.” Tchaikovsky died 9 days after the premiere of his final symphony.
Dedication: The composer dedicated his final work to Vladimir Davydov, his favorite nephew and speculated lover. He had great discussions with Vladimir about the intricacies of this symphony. Davydov inherited all of the royalties of Tchaikovsky’s works after his death and later committed suicide in his former home. Although Tchaikovsky’s sexuality is only speculation, much of his sixth symphony deals with not being accepted. (his death, though originally thought to be cholera was later speculated as suicide) He himself says it best in a letter to his Anatoly: there is “nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature."
Musical Highlights: The first minute or so with bassoon melody is haunting and very foreboding. It gradually builds tension up until about 3:56 when the "love theme” is introduced, bringing light and passion into this emotion stricken movement. The composer plays with this love theme as well as hints of reminiscence from the dark beginning melody. This section of the piece ends with a cadenza-like feel from clarinet and bassoon.
Why I picked it: Not only does this show a complex variety of passion and grief, this movement must be one of my favorite orchestral works. I promise most days won’t have as much intensity as this one!