Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Donald Macleod takes a series of snapshots of a period that lay at the centre of Tchaikovsky's creative life, from 1876 to 1890.

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0120071217

He begins with a look at 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)

String Quartet No 3 (excerpt, 3rd mvt)

Borodin Quartet

Cherevichki (Act 1 Sc 2)

Oskana....Ekaterina Morozova (soprano)

Vakula....Valery Popov (tenor)

Orchestra of the Cagliari Lyric Theatre

Gennady Rozhdestvensky (conductor)

Francesca da Rimini

London Symphony Orchestra

Igor Markevitch (conductor)

0220071218

Donald Macleod takes a series of snapshots of a period that lay at the centre of Tchaikovsky's creative life, from 1876 to 1890.

2/5. 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 Bichkov (conductor)

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

Tatyana....Nuccia Focile (soprano)

Orchestre de Paris

Semyon Bichkov (conductor)

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from Act 1 conclusion)

Tatyana....Nuccia Focile (soprano)

Eugene Onegin....Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)

St Petersburg Chamber Choir

Orchestre de Paris

Semyon Bichkov (conductor)

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

Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra

Evgeny Mravinsky (conductor)

Eugene Onegin (excerpt from Act 3 conclusion)

Tatyana....Nuccia Focile (soprano)

Eugene Onegin....Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)

St Petersburg Chamber Choir

Orchestre de Paris

Semyon Bichkov (conductor).

0320071219

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)

Maid of Orleans (excerpt from Act 1 conclusion)

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

Orchestra and Chorus of the Kirov

B Khaikin (conductor)

Violin Concerto in D

Gidon Kremer (violin)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Lorin Maazel (conductor)

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

Joan Rodgers (soprano)

Roger Vignoles (piano)

0420071220

'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. It's brash, vulgar, militaristic and popular with British audiences, possibly owing to the musical dispatching of Napoleon's armies.

Donald Macleod considers how the 1880s began for Tchaikovsky, with this outlandish piece of Russian pomp and circumstance, but 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

George Solti (conductor)

Serenade for Strings

USSR State Symphony Orchestra

Evgeny Svetlanov (conductor)

Mazeppa (Mazeppa's aria from Act 2)

Mazeppa....Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor).

05 LAST20071221

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)

Souvenir de Florence

Yuri Yurov (viola)

Mikhail Milman (cello)

Borodin Quartet

Queen of Spades (Act 3, Sc 2)

Liza....Maria Gulegina (soprano)

Herman....Gegam Grigorian (tenor)

Kirov Chorus and Orchestra, St Petersburg

Valery Gergiev (conductor)

Sleeping Beauty (Waltz)

Philharmonia Orchestra

Herbert von Karajan (conductor)