Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Piano Sonata in G major, Op. 37

    Description by James Reel

    The "Grande Sonate" (1878) is Tchaikovsky's only "official" piano sonata; he never intended to publish his student Sonata in C sharp minor (1865), though that work was posthumously issued as the composer's Op. 80. The Sonata in G major, however, is a fully mature work written during the same period as masterpieces like the Fourth Symphony (1877-1878) and the Violin Concerto (1878). Still, the sonata is somewhat less successful than a work like the Violin Concerto, principally because in aspiring to produce a highly pianistic, virtuoso showpiece, Tchaikovsky failed to capitalize on his greatest strength, a singular sense of melody.

    The main theme of the first movement, Moderato e risoluto, is an undeniably flashy and heroic statement characterized by bold hammered chords. The second subject, marked Tranquillo, offers some lyrical relief. These two subjects pass through several unusual modulations and meager elaborations in the long development section. The slightly truncated recapitulation is dominated to the end by the forceful, obsessive first theme.

    The second movement, Andante non troppo, quasi moderato, again begins chordally, but this time the theme is far more meditative. It alternates, quasi-rondo-style, with two other sections; one, a highly Schumannesque episode in dotted rhythms, is more radiant, the other, ardently lyrical in Tchaikovsky's distinctive fashion. The brief Scherzo begins with a robust if somewhat gangly subject marked by animated passagework. The more nimble trio section features a melody atop a series of deft runs in the left hand.

    The finale, a bravura rondo, hearkens to the hectoring manner of the first movement. Marked Allegro vivace, it launches with declamatory, syncopated chords and swirling runs, while a lighter staccato-chord motif tries to insinuate itself into the texture. After a lyrical episode, the first section, now stripped down, returns, only to give way to the lyrical material, this time presented more floridly and expansively. It builds to a climax, whereupon massive octaves thrust toward a recapitulation of the main theme. As the music to all appearances rushes headlong toward an extroverted conclusion, it unexpectedly pulls back to briefly recall briefly the quieter material, and the sonata ends rather abruptly with a short sequence of chords.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Moderato e risoluto
    2. Andante non troppo, quasi moderato
    3. Scherzo. Allegro giocoso
    4. Finale. Allegro vivace

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Erato / Warner Classics 567111
    2017 Somm SOMMCD 0173
    2017 Alto ALC 1343
    2017 Naïve AM 215
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 350076
    2016 Mirare MIR 308
    2016 BIS BIS 2140
    2014 Telos Music TLS 195
    2014 Onyx ONYX 4126
    2014 Aparte AP 087
    2012 Piano Classics PCL 0044
    2012 ABC Classics 4764954
    2012 FC Records 9728
    2011 Documents 233080
    2010 Dynamic / Dynamic Italy 665/1-7
    2009 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2009 Bridge 9283
    2008 Erato 4696751
    2006 Archipel 337
    2006 Hyperion 55215
    2005 Calliope 9347
    2004 Melodiya 1000515
    2004 Moscow Studio Archives 18403
    2004 Urania 4223
    2003 Live Classics 303
    2002 Real Sound (RS) 144
    2000 Supraphon 3493
    1999 Ivory Records IC70904
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 456802
    1997 Parnassus Records 96001/2
    1997 Aca Digital 20054
    1997 Hyperion 66939
    1997 Arte Nova 30503
    1997 Arbiter 110
    1996 Melodiya 29460
    1995 Naxos 553063
    1994 Philips 442 617-2PM2
    1994 Swedish Society Discofil 1053
    1994 United Recordings 88008
    1994 Monitor (World) 72034
    1994 ASV 6153
    1993 Erato 2292-45969-2
    1992 Teldec 72296
    1989 RCA 7887
    Analekta 9202
    Melodiya 29469
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 192
    MCA 10230
    Multisonic 310265
    FL 3047
    Erato 45632
    Melodiya 1000005
    Concert Artists Guild 105
    Erato 91843
    Relief 911028
    Newport Classic 85591
    Vox 3025