Symphony No. 6 (Tchaikovsky)

Symphony No. 6 (Tchaikovsky)

The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathétique", Op. 74 is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final symphony, written between February and the end of August 1893. The composer led the first performance in St. Petersburg on October 28 of that year, nine days before his death. The second performance, under Eduard Nápravník, took place 20 days later at a memorial concert. [Steinberg, 635.]


The Russian title of the symphony, Патетическая ("Patetičeskaja"), means "passionate" or "emotional", not "arousing pity". Tchaikovsky considered calling it Программная ("Programmnaja" or "Programme Symphony") but realised that would encourage curiosity about the programme, which he did not want to reveal. According to his brother Modest, he suggested the "Патетическая" title, which was used in early editions of the symphony; there are conflicting accounts about whether Tchaikovsky liked the title,Listen to cite web|url=|title=Discovering Music - Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony from 2:30] but in any event his publisher chose to keep it and the title remained. Its French translation "Pathétique" is generally used in French, English, German and other languages. [Steinberg, 638.]


The symphony is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in B-flat and A, 3 trombones (2 tenors and 1 bass), tuba, 3 timpani, bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam (ad libitum) and strings. A bass clarinet is sometimes used to play the bassoon solo marked "pppppp" in the first movement, to get the desired quietness.


The symphony contains four movements

# Adagio - Allegro non troppo (B minor → B major)
#:The first movement is cast in a modified Sonata-allegro form with an introduction (m.1-18), an exposition consisting of two theme groups (m.19-88 and m.89-160), a development section (m.161-304), a recapitulation in which only the second theme group is repeated (m.305-334), and a coda (m.335-354). The movement opens with a slow bassoon solo, stating a motif that will become the first theme, accompanied by low strings. A romantic theme occurs 89 bars in. After some development, it fades away in a bassoon passage marked "pppppp", followed (at bar 161) by a sudden tutti fortissimo and an agitated passage. [According to Simon Karlinsky ("Should We Retire Tchaikovsky?" "Christopher Street (magazine)" Vol 11 No 3, 16-21), in an oral tradition passed from Tchaikovsky, to his brother Modest, to the painter Pavel Tchelitchew, to a musician called Alex, to him in 1941, the secret programme of the symphony is about the love of two men—represented by the romantic theme—and the agitated passage represents the attacks of a hostile world. Or perhaps, just a somber majestic melody having nothing to do with external sexuality.] A brief trombone chorale based on an Orthodox hymn is heard after a climax represented by descending trumpet scales. A restatement of the romantic theme in B major is heard this time darker in mood. Lastly, a wind chorale plays over descending pizzicato B major scales.
# Allegro con grazia (D major)
#:The second movement takes the form of a lively dance. Its unusual 5/4 time signature is the subject of much speculation, most of which claims that the movement acts as a stretched or limping waltz. []
# Allegro molto vivace (G major)
#:The third movement is again upbeat. In common time, it adheres to much more of a standard form than the rest of the work. The movement revolves around two themes, a nervous, jittery motif in the woodwinds and a majestic march originating in the brass. As a march, it is very un-military. Its harmonic structure is based on the tonic and subdominant rather than the more common tonic and dominant. The jittery theme completely gives way to the march theme at the short development. Eventually, the orchestra launches into a full, triumphant chorus of the brass theme at the movement's end, often leading many people to believe that the symphony is over.
# Finale: Adagio lamentoso (B minor)
#:The final movement immediately returns to the darkness of the first with its brooding tone and slow tempo. The opening is scored unusually, the first and second violins taking turns to play the notes of the main "desperation" theme, meaning neither actually plays the melody as heard, and the same is done with the other parts. During the second "consolatory" theme, a slow crescendo builds up to a fortissimo of wailing strings accompanying a fanfare for the brass and drums. The first movement's bassoon theme reemerges briefly before the recapitulation. The main theme is built upon, switching to its tonic major; after much development the movement, without ever quickening, again climaxes with a "fff" drumroll, brass knell, and a resurgence of the first string theme. The second theme, now in its tonic minor, reemerges and then meanders off into a quiet ending. [According to Karlinsky, it is an elegy for one or more of Tchaikovsky's deceased lovers.]

Cello Concerto

Among the sketches for the "Pathétique" were found sketches of a projected Cello Concerto. It was debated whether or not the sketches were to belong to the finale of the symphony or a completely different work. After much discussion, experts agreed that the sketches belonged to the Cello Concerto.


* Hans Keller, "Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky", in Vol. I of "The Symphony", ed. Robert Simpson (Harmondsworth, 1966).
* Steinberg, Michael, "The Symphony" (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995). ISBN 0-19-512665-3 (paperback)


External links

* [ Recordings for personal use] as performed by the Peabody Concert Orchestra

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