Tchaikovsky: Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 80 (1865)
Written during the very early stage of his career, it in not surprising that this Piano Sonata was published posthumously in 1900. As we might reasonably expect from a student work, it hardly sets the musical world afire, yet it certainly offers glimpses of musical marvels to come. Expanding his stylistic and emotional range, Tchaikovsky embarked on a series of musical explorations that sought its aesthetic or narrative from an external source. His first tone poem Fatum written in late 1868 takes some musical and orchestral elements from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, but according to the composer, “the programme was too personal to disclose.” Curiously, for the first performance, Tchaikovsky allowed a friend to attach verses by Konstantin Batyushkov, before the friend ever heard the music. The epitaph attracted harsh criticism, and Tchaikovsky destroyed the full score after the first performance. After his death, the work was reconstructed from the surviving orchestral parts and published as Op. 77.
Tchaikovsky: Fatum, Op. 77 (1868)
Tchaikovsky was not merely concerned with the expressive and stylistic qualities of his composition, but intensely focused on musical craftsmanship. He had little to say about the inspiration behind his third symphony, composed quickly between June and August 1875.
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 in D major, Op. 29 “Polish”
The process of working out a composition has rightfully been likened to psychological therapy. If ever there is proof to this assertion, we need to look no further than Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. After the completion of his Fourth Symphony and the nervous breakdown caused by his disastrous marriage, Tchaikovsky escaped to the Swiss resort town of Clarens and into the arms of his compositions student Yosif Kotek. And while we might expect a work clothed in a drama and heartbreak, the violin concerto reveals no sense of anguish or struggle whatsoever. Tchaikovsky actually wrote about the new piece: “The first movement of the Violin Concerto is ready; tomorrow I begin the second. From the day I began to write it a favorable mood has not left me. In such a spiritual state composition loses all aspects of labour—it is a continuous delight.” Both Kotek and Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest were dissatisfied with the original slow movement and asked him to rewrite it. Tchaikovsky replaced it with the “Canzonetta,” supposedly written in a single day. Happy days indeed!
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto, Op. 35