Gennady Rozhdestvensky

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

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Interestingly, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, his liveliest symphony, was composed during one of the most depressing times of his life and his most "pathetic" symphony, the Symphony No. 6, was written during one of his happiest.

The Symphony No. 4, a festival of brass, was written during the devastating emotional crisis of Tchaikovsky's rather sudden and inappropriate marriage and consequent attempted suicide. Its fascinating first movement contains an enormous expressive range; the two middle movements are ballet-like, with the third movement (the Scherzo) featuring pizzicato strings, exploiting color contrasts between groups of instruments; the last movement contains a folk tune as its second theme.

Rozhdestvensky and the London Symphony Orchestra give a full-bodied performance, Russian in feeling, never bombastic nor tasteless, as some performances of this work are wont to be, and ranks among the best recorded performances of this work.

After finishing its composition, Tchaikovsky wrote about his Ceremonial Overture 1812, written for the opening ceremony of an Exhibition of Industry and the Arts, "The overture will be very loud and noisy, but I wrote it with no warm feeing of love, and there will probably be no artistic merit in it." Among its elements of construction are the national anthems of both France and Russia. Also included is the Orthodox chant "Save us, O Lord" and a folk song "U vorot" in addition to a theme from Tchaikovsky's first opera, The Voyevoda.

Similarly, Tchaikovsky's opinion of his Marche Slave, composed in 1876 following the outbreak of war between Turkey and Serbia-Montenegro and slated to be performed at a concert given to raise aid for wounded Serbs, is that it gave more pleasure to audiences than is merited by its musical qualities. Originally titled Serbo-Russian March, its composition is drawn from three Serbian folk songs and was written in five days. Russian-born Yuri Ahronovich leads the London Symphony Orchestra in appropriately energetic and stylistic readings of these two nationalistic works.

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