Symphony No. 3 (Tchaikovsky)

Symphony No. 3 (Tchaikovsky)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29, written in 1875, is the only of the seven Tchaikovsky symphonies (including Manfred) in a major key. Like its two predecessors, it carries a nickname, the "Polish." This name is in reference only to the recurring Polish dance rhythms prominent in the symphony's final movement, and has zero pertinence whatsoever to the rest of the symphony's musical material.


The work is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani and strings.


Like Robert Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony, the Third Symphony has five movements instead of the customary four. It also emulates the "Rhenish's" suite-like formal layout, with a central slow movement flanked on either side by a scherzo. [Keller, 344.] The entire symphony runs approximately 50 minutes.

# Introduzione ed Allegro (D minor → D major)
#: This movement, in common time, begins with a slow funeral march opening in the parallel minor . The movement then accelerandos and crescendos up to a key change back into the parallel major, where, in a typical sonata-allegro form, after the exposition in the major key it modulates to the dominant, before repeating the theme from the key change and then returning to the tonic at the end instead of the dominant, with a developmental section in between before the recapitulation. The movement closes with a coda, which occurs twice (essentially back to back) and accelerandos to an extremely fast tempo towards the very end.
# Alla Tedesca (G minor/B flat major)
#: In a sort of ternary form, this begins as a waltz, and then after a trio consisting of a many-times-repeated triplet 8th note figure in the winds and strings, after which the beginning up to the trio is basically repeated again. The movement closes with a brief coda consisting of string pizzicatos and clarinet and bassoon solos.
# Andante (D minor/Bb major/D major)
#: Also in 3/4 time, this movement opens with all winds, notably a flute solo. This movement is the most romantic in nature of the five, and it is roughly a variation of slow-sonata/ternary form without a development, although the traditional dominant-tonic recapitulation is abandoned for more distant keys, the first being in Bb major (the subdominant to F) and the recapitulation in D major (the parallel major to D minor). This movement is atypically more lyrical than the second. Between the two is a contrasting middle section, consisting of material closely resembling the repeated eighth note triplet figures in the trio of the second movement. The movement closes with a brief coda with string tremolos, and a repeat of the wind solos accompanied by string pizzicatos from the opening of the movement.
# Scherzo (B minor)
#: In 2/4 time unlike as regular scherzo, this movement is effectively in 1 due to the speed. This is unusual and unique to this symphony, as scherzi in classical music are traditionally in fast triple meter or some other meter based on sets of 3, although the name scherzo (literally meaning 'joke' in Italian) does not in itself imply this metric convention. Like a scherzo, however, the movement is in ternary form, and after a prolonged 'question and answering' of 16th note figures between the upper strings and woodwinds, there is a trio in the form of a march, which modulates through a number of different keys, starting with G minor, before returning to the relative major to the tonic B minor of the movement, D major. The entire opening of the movement up to the trio is then repeated, and the movement closes with a brief reprise of some of the trio's march material. The entire movement has muted strings, and there is a trombone solo at the exposition before the trio and the recapitulation after the trio, the only appearance of the trombone in the symphony outside of the first and last movements.
# Finale (D major)
#: This movement is characterized by rhythms typical of a polacca, a Polish dance, from which the symphony draws its name. The opening theme is effectively a variety of a rondo theme, and it returns several more times in the movement, with different episodes in between each occurrence: the first is fugal, the second is a wind-choral, and the third is a section in the relative minor, B minor, where some of the second movement's trio's triplet figures make another reprise. There is then another longer fugal section, a variation of the main theme which modulates into a number of different keys along the way. It is characterized by staggered entrances of the theme, before another variation on another reprise of the main theme slows dramatically into a slower chorale section featuring all the winds and brass. There is then a section with another variation on the original theme up to the original tempo, and then a presto in 1 which drives to the end, which concludes with 12 D major chords over a long timpani roll, and then 3 long D's, the third of which is a fermata in the last bar of the symphony.


* Keller, Hans, ed. Romert Simpson. "The Symphony" (New York: Drake Publishers Inc., 1972), 2 vols. ISBN 87749-244-1.


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