Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 75

21, 22, 23
Program Notes
andante cantabile.
Deep string chords at the opening of
the second movement introduce one of the great solos for
French horn, and a few moments later the oboe has the
graceful second subject. For a movement that begins in
such relaxed spirits, this music is twice shattered by the
return of the motto-theme, which blazes out dramatically
in the trumpets.
valse: allegro moderato.
Tchaikovsky springs a surprise
in the third movement: instead of the expected scherzo,
he writes a lovely waltz. Its trio section skitters along a
steady flow of 16th-notes from the strings, feeling very
much like a scene from one his ballets, and Tchaikovsky
rounds the movement off beautifully. He writes an
extended coda based on the waltz tune, and in its closing
moments the motto-theme makes a fleeting appearance,
like a figure seen through the mists.
At the beginning of the finale, however, that theme
comes into crystalline focus. Here Tchaikovsky moves to E
major and sounds out the motto to open this movement,
and the music already seems to have arrived at its
moment of triumph. The main body of the finale, marked
Allegro vivace, leaps to life, and the motto-theme breaks
in more and more often as it proceeds.
The movement drives to a great climax, then breaks off in
silence. This is a trap, designed to trick the unwary and
propel them into premature applause, for the symphony
is not yet over. And in fact no attentive listener should be
fooled, for this false “conclusion” is in the wrong key of B
major, and one wonders just what thoughts were running
through Tchaikovsky’s mind when he designed it. Out of
the ensuing silence begins the real coda, and the motto-
theme now leads the way on constantly accelerating
tempos to the true conclusion in E major.
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones,
tuba, timpani and strings
Program notes by
Eric Bromberger
creative once again
Then, in the winter of 1887-88, Tchaikovsky made a tour
of Western Europe, conducting his own works in Leipzig,
Hamburg (where he met Brahms), Berlin, Prague, Paris
and London. Those audiences responded enthusiastically
to his music (Brahms was an exception), and with his
confidence somewhat bolstered, Tchaikovsky returned to
Russia ready at last to attempt a new symphony. In April
1888, he moved into a villa in Frolovskoye, northwest of
Moscow, where he could work on his new symphony and
take long walks in the woods. Two years later he would
return to Frolovskoye to discover—in a moment straight
out of Chekhov—that the forests had all been cut down.
Now, however, he worked happily in this beautiful setting,
and his Fifth Symphony was done by August. Tchaikovsky
led the premiere in St. Petersburg on November 17, 1888.
Despite some initial misgivings, he was finally convinced
that he had regained his creative powers.
While it lacks the white-hot fury of the Fourth Symphony
or the dark intensity of the Sixth, the Fifth Symphony—
full of those wonderful Tchaikovsky themes, imaginative
orchestral color, and excitement—has become one of
his most popular works, so popular in fact that it takes
a conscious effort to hear this symphony with fresh
ears. As he did in the Fourth, Tchaikovsky builds this
symphony around a motto-theme, and in his notebooks
he suggested that the motto of the Fifth Symphony
represents “complete resignation before fate.” But that is
as far as the resemblance goes, for Tchaikovsky supplied
no program for the Fifth Symphony, nor does this music
seem to be “about” anything. The motto-theme returns
in each of the four movements, often in quite different
guises, and it may be best to understand it as a unifying
device rather than as anything so dramatic as the Fourth
Symphony’s “sword of Damocles.” Listeners are of course
free to supply their own interpretations, but despite
the tantalizing hints about “resignation before fate,”
Tchaikovsky apparently regarded his Fifth Symphony as
abstract music.
andante—allegro con anima.
Clarinets introduce the somber
motto-theme at the beginning of the slow introduction, and
gradually this leads to the main body of the movement,
Allegro con anima
. Over the orchestra’s steady tread,
solo clarinet and bassoon sing the surging main theme of
this sonata-form movement, and there follows a wealth of
thematic material. This is a lengthy movement, and it is
built on three separate theme groups, full of soaring and
sumptuous Tchaikovsky melodies. The development fuses
these lyric themes with episodes of superheated drama, and
listeners will hear the motto-theme hinted at along the way.
With its furious energy finally exhausted, this movement
draws to a quiet close.
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