Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No 5 & The Storm
Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (May 7 [O.S. April 25] 1840 – November 6 [O.S. October 25] 1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. While not part of the nationalistic music group known as "The Five", Tchaikovsky wrote music which was distinctly Russian: plangent, introspective, with modally-inflected melody and harmony.
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64
Symphony No. 5 was composed between May and August 1888. It was first performed, under Tchaikovsky's own baton, in St Petersburg on November 6, 1888. It is in four movements:
1. Andante — Allegro con anima (E minor)
2. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza (D major)
3. Valse: Allegro moderato (A major)
4. Andante maestoso— Allegro vivace (E major ? E minor ? E major)
Like Symphony No. 4, the Fifth is a cyclical symphony due to the recurrence of the "motto" theme in more than one movement. Unlike the Fourth, however, the theme is heard in all four movements, a feature Tchaikovsky had first used in the Manfred Symphony, which was completed less than two years before the Fifth. The "motto" theme itself is derived from a passage in Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar—significantly, a passage using the words "turn not into sorrow". The motto theme has a funereal character in the first movement, but gradually transforms into a triumphant march, which dominates the final movement. Tchaikovsky was attracted to this particular theme because the topic of the Fifth Symphony is Providence, which is closely related to Fate, the theme of the Fourth symphony. The changing character of the motto over the course of the symphony seems to imply that Tchaikovsky is expressing optimism with regard to fate, an outlook that would not return in his Sixth Symphony.
Some critics, including Tchaikovsky himself, have considered it to be an insincere and even crude ending, but the symphony has gone on to become one of the composer's most popular works. The second movement, in particular, is considered to be classic Tchaikovsky: well crafted, colorfully orchestrated, and with a memorable melody for solo horn. For some reason, possibly the very clear musical exposition of the idea of "ultimate victory through strife", the Fifth was very popular during World War II, with many new recordings of the work, and many symphonic performances during those years.
Overture in E minor, Op. 76 The Storm (Groza)
Composed and scored during the summer of 1864 at Trostinets. This was Tchaikovsky's first significant orchestral work, written while he was studying at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
In the spring of 1864, Anton Rubinstein, under whom Tchaikovsky was studying composition, set his students a summer assignment to compose a large-scale orchestral piece - an overture to an opera. Tchaikovsky, who was already at that time thinking of composing an opera to Aleksandr Ostrovskii’s drama The Storm, chose this as his subject.
A rough programme of the overture was noted down by Tchaikovsky on the manuscript score of his orchestration of the Adagio and Allegro brillante from R. Schumann’s Symphonic Studies. Its contents were as follows:
Introduction: Adagio (Katerina's childhood and her life prior to her marriage). (Allegro), intimations of the storm; her yearning for true happiness and love (Allegro appassionato); her spiritual struggle - abrupt change to evening on the bank of the Volga; again a struggle, but tinged with a sort of feverish happiness; portent of the storm (repetition of the motif of the after the adagio and its further development), the storm; climax of desperate struggle and death
In a letter to Aleksandra Davydova from Trostinets of 28 July 1864, Tchaikovsky wrote: "Tell Vera Vasil'evna that my Storm is rumbling along, and she may run the risk of hearing it at the Russian Musical Society".
On finishing the overture, Tchaikovsky sent the score to Herman Laroche.
Laroche gave his own account of this event: "In the summer of 1864, Petr Il’ich had to write a large overture, for which he chose himself the programme of Ostrovskii’s The Storm. The orchestra he employed was ‘heretical’, with bass tuba, cor anglais. harp, tremolo and divided strings, bass drum and cymbals. He was probably optimistic in nurturing the hope that the requirements of the programme would exempt him from any punishment for failing to follow the usual guidelines. In any event, by the start of term, or perhaps somewhat earlier, he finished his work. I cannot recall the reason now, but he asked me to stand in for him, and sent me the score by post with a message to show it to Anton Grigor'evich. A few days later, Rubinstein told me to come and listen to his judgement. Never in my life did I receive such a dressing-down for my misdemeanours as on that day (as I recall, it was a beautiful Sunday morning), listening on behalf of someone else".
The Storm overture was never performed during the composer's lifetime. It was heard for the first time only on 24 February 1896 at Beliaiev's third Russian Symphony Concert in Saint Petersburg, conducted by Aleksandr Glazunov.
The Storm is often confused with a later piece: Opus 18, composed in 1873, called "The Tempest. (in Russian, "Burya"). This is based on Shakespeare's play. The confusion comes because the two Russian titles have often translated to the same word in various languages.
*Antoni Wit, conductor
*Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra