Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
INTRODUCTION TO THE TCHAIKOVSKY’S FOURTH SYMPHONY
In 1877, Tchaikovsky proposed to one Antonina Ivanovna, wrote an opera, got married to Ivanovna in July, fled from his new wife in September, and by November had wound up in Italy. 1877 was a rough year for him. It was in this year though that his friendship with Nadezhda von Meck blossomed into one of the most important relationships in his life. Meck remained constantly supportive of Tchaikovsky through his struggles and it was only through her encouragement that he eventually returned to composing. It was in this period of misery that Tchaikovsky began composing his fourth symphony. The introduction of the symphony, the strong horn line, represents the all powerful Fate which Tchaikovsky states is
“The fatal power that hinders one in the pursuit of happiness from gaining the goal, which jealously provides that peace and comfort do not prevail, that the sky is not free from clouds—a might that swings, like the sword of Damocles, constantly over the head that poisons the soul. There is nothing to do but to submit and vainly to complain.”
From there Tchaikovsky moves through the events and feelings of that horrible year, the year Fate brought him. But as the symphony moves towards its conclusion, it becomes brighter, happier. Tchaikovsky, through the support of Meck, did improve and become happier. His horrible year of 1877 did end and for her support, Tchaikovsky dedicated his Fourth Symphony to Meck, his “best friend.”
Source: Program notes for kids
ANALYSIS AND ACTIVE LISTENING
The fourth movement uses a Russian Folk Tune “The Little Birch Tree” as the basis of one of its major themes. Listen to various groups perform this folk tune through traditional performances of singing and dancing.
Here the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir Performing Goetze’s arrangement of The Little Birch Tree.
Compare the OSU Choir performance.