The Night Tchaikovsky Come Alive
The Free State Symphony Orchestra held their first symphony concert of the year on March the 2nd 2017. In the first half they played Mozart Symphony No.23 and the Mozart flute and harp concerto with Gaylen-Rose Sales on Harp, Bridget Rennie- Salomen on flute and Tim Murray as the Maestro. In their second half they played Tchaikovsky symphony No5. If you understood the preparations that took place for this concert, you would have known that it was bound to be an evening never to be forgotten.
Tchaikovsky has always been one of my favourite composers, his music is full of emotions and passion and his symphonies and violin concertos I find that I relate easily to.
Here’s a breakdown of what took place that night.
The symphony opens with the motto theme quietly played by the clarinet (it returns later in the most dramatic form). The Allegro also begins with a gently moving theme in the clarinet, doubled by the bassoon. (Tchaikovsky launches this E minor melody from the lower C, rising a third to E, rather than from the lower fourth, B—the more predictable start, in that way many listeners incorrectly remember it.) This ultimately leads to the remote key of D major, where the violins introduce a lovely sighing theme, delicately scored at first, then blossoming to encompass the full orchestra.
The development section travels through many harmonic regions, but presents very little actual development, because Tchaikovsky's themes are full melodies, not easily dissected.
The Andante presents one of Tchaikovsky's most beloved themes, a horn melody that’s so poignant and seductive that it tempts many listeners to overlook the eloquent strands the clarinet and oboe weave around it. The opening bars of the quiet sustained chords begin in B minor and then swing around to D major—it was an unexpected tonal territory from the first movement—before the hushed entry of the horn. The lyrical flow is halted by the motto theme, first announced by the full orchestra over a fierce timpani roll midway through, and once again just before the end.
The third movement is a minor-key waltz; a livelier trio, with playful runs in the strings, also sounds uneasy, suggesting something sinister on the horizon. Perhaps it's the fateful motto theme, which sounds quietly in the low winds just before the dance is over.
The finale opens with the motto, fully harmonized and in the major mode. This furiously driven movement has often been derided as overly bombastic, formulaic, and repetitive, although it has many delicate touches, including a high, singing theme in the winds. The tempo never eases, not even in the one moment of repose that is marked pianissimo and lightly scored. The motto theme sweeps through, once at a brisk speed, and then, near the end, leading a magnificent march. It's the main melody of the first movement, however, that comes rushing in to close the symphony.
Tchaikovsky conducted the first performance of the symphony in Saint Petersburg in November 1888 and introduced the work in Europe on a concert tour in early 1889. In Hamburg he met Brahms, who postponed his departure in order to hear his Russian colleague's latest symphony; Brahms liked what he heard, except for the finale. Tchaikovsky was far from written out before he even finished this symphony, he began the fantasy overture Hamlet, and a few weeks later he started work on a new ballet about a sleeping beauty who is awakened with a prince's kiss.
[Breakdown written by: Phillip Huscher, program annotator of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra]
I seemed to have heard a series of conflicts occurring within the symphony itself. The tempo changes was rather dramatically at various points of the symphony, and so was the mood. It was as if the symphony was at a creative attempt to depict the emotional and psychological conflicts that the composer (or anyone) could be facing at times of his life.
It is such works by the composers that make us orchestra musicians push ourselves in understanding why it was written and how we can incorporate it in our lives today. Tchaikovsky came alive that night at the Kovsie Kerk in Bloemfontein UOFS, all because of the musician's hard work.
Nothing beats being on stage and pouring your heart and soul out to the audiences and delivering a performance in a way we believe Tchaikovsky would have wanted it. Even though we did not live in the times of Tchaikovsky, his music lives within us and we can still relate to it in our daily lives.