Monday, October 15, 2007

Winter Daydreams

Although American orchestras are obsessed with Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies (One critic was quoted as saying that Tchaikovsky wrote three symphonies, "the fourth, fifth and sixth."), I want to give a shout out to his first symphony, a work filled to the brim with invention and memorable melodies.

Performances of the first are rare I am sure, but there are several recordings that will give you ample opportunity to discover its beauties. The one I like a lot is of a performance by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin. It was my first recording and it still has a charm to it that I enjoy. The opening shimmer of the orchestra with a mystical stating of the theme in the flute with bassoon doubling has to be one of my favorite moments in all of Tchaikovksy. It is a muscular movement with a lot of meandering, but well worth a listen.

The second movement is equally as compelling. It is a wintry nocturne with one ravishing melody melting into the next. It really makes you excited to see what he can do in the future with such movements, and we know what he can do by the sixth.

The third is typical Tchaikovsky, already mature in his first symphony. The trio is a waltz and reminds me of people ice skating. The last movement again has all the fortissimo you have come to expect from Tchaikovsky. Knowing about the first just makes hearing his further refinements in subsequent symphonies that much more entertaining. Any recording will do - people like the Jansons or the Muti on Brilliant. Just give it a try in honor of the upcoming season.

1 comment:

nobleviola said...

We performed the First Symphony a year or so ago here in Portland. It was a lot of fun, and a great change from the usual 4,5,6 grind. We also did the Third Orchestral Suite last season, which was quite a difficult piece, very unfamiliar, and it might have been a better experience had our guest conductor been of higher quality.