Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky



He begins with an exploration of music written and performed in 1876, the year before Tchaikovsky's short and catastrophic marriage.

Swan Lake (Act 1 Waltz)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Decca 436 212-2 CD1, Tr 2

String Quartet No 3 (excerpt, 3rd mvt)

Borodin Quartet

Teldec 4509 90433-3 CD2, Tr 7

Cherevichki (Act 1 Sc 2)

Oskana....Ekaterina Morozova (soprano)

Vakula....Valery Popov (tenor)

Orchestra of the Cagliari Lyric Theatre

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (conductor)

CDS 287/1-3 CD1, Tr 5

Francesca da Rimini

London Symphony Orchestra

Igor Markevitch (conductor)

BBCL 4053-2, Tr 1.

Donald Macleod looks at Tchaikovsky's music written and performed in 1876.


In 1877, Tchaikovsky took a sudden decision to get married. He wasn't the first or last homosexual man to do so, but the repercussions were calamitous, and the event triggered a crisis from which some believe Tchaikovsky never fully recovered. However, this was also the year of two superlative pieces of music, both awash with references that listeners have since interpreted as autobiographical.

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from the Introduction)

Orchestre de Paris

Semyon Bychkov (conductor)

Philips 438 235-2 CD1, Tr 1

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from the Letter Scene, Act 1)

Tatyana....Nuccia Focile (soprano)

Philips 438 235-2 CD1, Tr 11

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from Act 1 conclusion)

Eugene Onegin....Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)

St Petersburg Chamber Choir

Philips 438 235-2 CD1, Trs 14-15

Symphony No 4 in F minor (excerpt from 1st mvt)

Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra

Evgeny Mravinsky (conductor)

DG 419 745-2 CD1, Tr 1

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from Act 3 conclusion)

Philips 438 235-2 CD2, Tr 15.

Donald Macleod explores 1877, the year of Tchaikovsky's disastrous marriage.


1877 had been a wretched year for Tchaikovsky. His marriage had gone hideously wrong in a matter of days and had left deep emotional scars. But the following year, things began to look up. He left his job at the Moscow Conservatoire, which had been a millstone around his neck, and correspondence now flourished between Tchaikovsky and his 'best friend', the wealthy widow Nadhezda von Meck. The fact that he was now solvent, owing to a monthly allowance from her, must have helped.

Liturgy of St John Chrysostom (excerpt, The Lord's Prayer)

St Petersburg Chamber Choir

Nikolai Korniev (conductor)

Philips 473 069-2 CD1, Tr 8

Maid of Orleans (excerpt from Act 1 conclusion)

Joan of Arc....Sofia Preobrazhenskaya (soprano)

Orchestra and Chorus of the Kirov

Boris Khaikin (conductor)

MYTO 992.H028 CD1, Trs 8-10

Violin Concerto in D, Op 35

Gidon Kremer (violin)

Berlin Philharmonic

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

DG 459 043-2, Trs 1-3

Amid the din of the ball; It was in the early spring, Op 38

Joan Rodgers (soprano)

Roger Vignoles (piano)

Hyperion CDA 66617, Tr 5.

Donald Macleod explores 1878, which was a happier year for Tchaikovsky.


'I don't think the piece has any serious merits, and I shan't be the slightest bit surprised or offended if you find it unsuitable for concert performance,' said Tchaikovsky of his 1812 Overture.

Donald considers how the 1880s began for Tchaikovsky, with this outlandish piece of Russian pomp and circumstance - it was brash, vulgar and militaristic, but popular with British audiences, possibly owing to the musical dispatching of Napoleon's armies.

But there were also with more refined masterpieces such as the Serenade for Strings and a look further back into Russian history through his opera Mazeppa.

1812 Overture

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Georg Solti (conductor)

Decca 417 400-2

Serenade for Strings

USSR State Symphony Orchestra

Evgeny Svetlanov (conductor)

Scribendum SC 024 CD5, Trs 5-8

Mazeppa (Mazeppa's aria from Act 2)

Mazeppa....Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

DG 439 906-2 CD2, Tr 3.

Donald Macleod considers how the 1880s began for Tchaikovsky, with his 1812 Overture.


05 LAST*20090807

For Tchaikovsky, who was not the most prolific composer, 1890 was an astonishing year. A few days after the premiere of Sleeping Beauty, he set off for Florence, where he completed his opera Queen of Spades at breakneck speed in just 43 days. Donald Macleod dips into the opera and also enjoys Tchaikovsky's other Souvenir of Florence.

Queen of Spades (excerpt from Overture)

Kirov Orchestra, St Petersburg

Valery Gergiev (conductor)

Philips 438 141-2 CD1, Tr 1

Souvenir de Florence

Yuri Yurov (viola)

Mikhail Milman (cello)

Borodin Quartet

Teldec 4509 90422-2 CD1, Trs 6-9

Queen of Spades (Act 3, Sc 2)

Liza....Maria Gulegina (soprano)

Herman....Gegam Grigorian (tenor)

Kirov Chorus and Orchestra, St Petersburg

Philips 438 141-2 CD3, Trs 6-7

Sleeping Beauty (Waltz)

Philharmonia Orchestra

Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

EMI 476 899-2, Tr 8.

Donald Macleod explores 1891 which, for Tchaikovsky, saw the premiere of Sleeping Beauty.