Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Symphony No. 3 in D major ("Polish"), Op. 29

    Description by Robert Cummings

    The nickname of Tchaikovsky's "Polish" symphony was rather capriciously attached, and six years after the composer's death, at that. Sir August Manns led the work's London premiere and affixed this inappropriate moniker, taking a cue from Tchaikovsky's parenthetical marking for the finale, Tempo di polacca. He could just as well have focused on the second movement Alla tedesca marking, thereby calling this symphony the "German." In any event, there is nothing particularly Polish about the work, but much that is Russian.

    This symphony is cast in five movements, the only one of the composer's symphonies with more than the standard four. The work dates from 1874, just before the creation of Swan Lake, and the work, with a form resembling that of a dance suite, is dancelike in many individual stretches as well. Like the Second symphony it has no explicit programmatic content. The first movement, marked Moderato assai, tempo di Marcia funebre (for the introduction) and Allegro brillante (for the main section), is a colorful mixture of mostly light music. After a dark opening, the mood brightens with a proud theme of martial character. A lovely, exotic melody on oboe is then presented, and when the strings enter the music sweetens in typically Tchaikovskian manner. This movement, bustling with much energy and colored with brilliant orchestration, is rhythmically one of the composer's most intriguing creations.

    The second movement (Allegro moderato e semplice) is subdued and balletic; the flavor of Swan Lake is especially pronounced here. The ensuing Andante elegiaco offers a horn theme vaguely reminiscent of the Fifth Symphony's motto. The mood remains light here, however, and features richly Romantic music that, ironically, sounds more German than anything else in the symphony, including the preceding "Alla tedesca" panel.

    The Scherzo that follows is marked Allegro vivo. It is mischievous, rife with swirls and playful menace, the writing colorful and charming. The aforementioned finale (Allegro con fuoco) opens with a muscular heroic theme of typically Russian character. The music is polonaise-like (hence the "Tempo di polacca" marking referred to above), and the form is a rondo. An alternate theme is hymn-like and jubilant, and also very Russian-sounding. If the ending is a bit bombastic, even corny, it works well with this symphony whose manner is unabashedly direct and richly colorful throughout.

    Typical performances of the Tchaikovsky Third Symphony last around 45 minutes.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduzione e Allegro. Moderato assai (Tempo di marcia funebre)
    2. Alla tedesca. Allegro moderato e semplice
    3. Andante. Andante elegiaco
    4. Scherzo. Allegro vivo
    5. Finale. Allegro con fuoco (Tempo di polacca)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Menuetto Classics
    2018 Capriccio Records C 7250
    2018 LPO LPO 0109
    2017 LPO LPO 0101
    2017 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4162
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon
    2016 Guild / Guild Historical GHCD 2422
    2016 Decca
    2015 Tuxedo Music TUXCD 1066
    2015 Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794646
    2015 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186489
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 027
    2014 Warner Classics 825646278251
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002157
    2014 Relief CR 210307
    2014 Sony Classical 88843045052
    2013 Naxos 8505236
    2013 Alto ALC 6003
    2013 Oehms Classics OC 670
    2012 Brilliant Classics 94307
    2012 Melodiya MYD 1001754
    2012 LSO Live LSO 0710
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 762
    2012 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186383
    2011 Dutton Laboratories / Dutton Vocalion CDBP 9808
    2011 Denon Records
    2011 Newton Classics 8802036
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909799929
    2011 BIS 1897/98
    2011 Alto ALC1103
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 EMI Classics
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778699
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2009 BBC Legends / BBC Music 42582
    2009 DA Records / Zebralution
    2009 BIS 1468
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 X5 Music Group 15618
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777937
    2008 ABC Classics 476442
    2008 Evgeny Svetlanov 7322
    2008 Arte Nova 592030
    2008 Sony Music Distribution 87883
    2008 Retrospective 93185
    2008 Arte Nova Classics 433280
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951949
    2007 Melodiya 100195
    2007 Warner Music 63781/10
    2007 Arthaus Musik 102125
    2006 Edel Classics 2342
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Teldec 74389
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 888072
    2006 Decca 000623502
    2005 Nuova Era 7396
    2005 Grammofono 2000 78773
    2005 Supraphon 38622
    2005 Brilliant 99792
    2004 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41452
    2004 Mercury 4756261
    2003 RCA Red Seal 55781
    2003 Sony Music Distribution 087987
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 459518
    2002 1042
    2002 Real Sound (RS) 636760
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 463774
    2001 Vox 3603
    2001 Naxos 8 507002
    2000 Relief 991050
    1999 Capriccio Records 49248
    1999 Arkadia 78561
    1997 Biddulph Recordings WHL014
    1997 Telarc Distribution 80454
    1997 Philips 434391
    1997 Arte Nova 43328
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 449967
    1996 Melodiya 34163
    1995 Philips 446148
    1995 Naxos 505022
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 65709
    1994 Naxos 550518
    1994 Capriccio Records 10402
    1994 Canyon Classics 3630
    1994 RCA 902661821
    1994 Philips 442061
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 47632
    1992 Chandos 8463
    1992 Chandos 8672
    1992 London 430787
    1991 Teldec 46322
    1991 Sony Classical 45939
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429675
    Relief CR 210302
    BBC Music Magazine 321
    Artists 54
    Leningrad Masters 1310
    Vox 5004
    EXT 3018
    Beecham Edition 1
    Virgin 59699
    ABC Classics 4766443
    Brilliant 99792/3
    Naxos 8.550518
    RCA 60433
    Real Sound (RS) 9510062
    FED 054
    EXL 4288
    Deutsche Grammophon 431605