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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > Symphony No. 4, in F Minor. Op. 36 (Tchaikovsky)


Symphony No. 4, in F Minor. Op. 36

Pytor Il'yich Tchaikovsky
(1840-93)



1. Andante sostenuto. Moderato con anima.
2. Andantino in modo de canzona.
3. Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato.
4. Finale. Allegro con fuoco.

The Fourth Symphony was written in 1878, and was regarded by Tchaikovsky as his finest work. It stands almost alone in that composer’s music for its humorous characteristics, which are all the more strange when it is considered he was mentally depressed while writing it. The first movement opens with a somewhat stately introduction, at the close of which the first theme enters in the first violins and cellos to the accompaniment of the other strings and horns. After a vigorous development, a quiet passage occurs, leading to a subsidiary plaintive theme in the clarinets, after which the second theme enters in the cellos. It is not long, however, before the first theme is heard again and it soon assumes the chief importance. This section is most elaborately worked up, and the movement finally comes to a close with the utmost vigor and brilliancy.

In the second movement, one of the most fascinating Tchaikovsky ever wrote, the canzona, or song, is given out by the oboe, accompanied by the strings pizzicato. The song is next taken up by the cello with accompaniment of woodwinds, horns, and basses. It next passes to the strings, the accompaniment continually growing fuller and richer until a strong climax is reached. The bassoons and cellos now take the song in unison, the former soon followed by the violins, the flutes and clarinets furnishing a graceful accompaniment. After a brief episode the violins once more take up the song, followed by one group of instruments after another until the beautiful melody dies away in the bassoons.

The third movement is unique for its pizzicato string accompaniment which runs through the whole movement whenever the strings are playing. When they are not, the same effect is produced by the woodwinds and brasses. The opening theme is most brilliant, and is given out by the violins. The second is slower and is stated in the oboes and bassoons. After its statement the clarinets take the theme faster, accented by the piccolos and accompanied by the brasses. Then the first theme returns in the first violins, alternating with the woodwinds. The second theme is touched upon once more, after which the movement closes pianissimo.

The Finale is a brilliant Allegro. The full orchestra gives out the first theme, quickly followed by the second in the windwinds. After the repetition of the first the third is stated in the full orchestra. The movement is devoted to the development of these three themes, and in the treatment the effect runs from double fortissimo to pianissimo, the movement coming to its close with a crescendo of tremendous energy.





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