Join us for an evening of music exploring and celebrating the strength and resilience of women. Tchaikovsky dedicated his heroic Fourth Symphony to his long-time patron Nadezhda von Meck - a savvy businesswoman who supported many artists of the time. Violist Mitsuru Kubo performs Jeremy Crosmer's viola concerto Masks: A Heroine's Tale. Crosmer wrote the five movement concerto to "draw attention to the different ways women shine in society." The program begins with a suite of excerpts from Bizet's Carmen, one of the most long standing and notable masterpieces portraying fearless courage and rebelliousness from one of music's boldest heroines.
Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36
I. Andante sostenuto — Moderato con anima
II. Andantino in modo di canzona
III. Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato. Allegro
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) once said: "Should not a symphony reveal those wordless urges that hide in the heart, which ask so earnestly for expression?" Another time he lamented: “truly there would be reason to go mad were it not for music.”
Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies clearly rank among his very greatest achievements, and when he died, shortly after the premiere of his passionate Pathetique symphony, there was a tremendous outpouring of grief in Russia. Thousands of people stood in stunned silence as a gilded white carriage decorated with white damask bore his coffin through the streets. Three more carriages were required to carry all the wreaths that had been sent.
Tchaikovsky wrote his fourth symphony about fifteen years earlier, and many believe it is the work in which he really found his voice as a symphonic composer. In Europe, it is sometimes referred to by the nickname Fatum, or "Fate." He started work on it in May of 1877 and finished the score in the first week 1878. Nikolai Rubinstein conducted the first performance in Moscow on February 22nd in a concert by the Russian Musical Society.
The creation of the symphony coincides with two strikingly unusual relationships Tchaikovsky had with women. On July 18, 1877, Tchaikovsky married Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova. Their disastrous marriage lasted less than three weeks, and the experience threw Tchaikovsky into deep turmoil.
Tchaikovsky dedicated his fourth symphony to the second woman, his amazingly generous patron and confidante Nadezhda von Meck. Tchaikovsky and von Meck wrote each other more 1200 letters between 1877 to 1890, and she gave him 6000 rubles a year to support his work, even though they never met face to face. Her largesse allowed him to devote himself completely to composing, and his gratitude knew no bounds.
Von Meck was ecstatic when she read Tchaikovsky’s dedication “To my Best Friend,” and she wrote: “How delighted I was to read your description of OUR symphony, my dear, priceless Pyotr Ilyich!” He replied: "There is not a single line in this Symphony that I have not felt in my whole being and that has not been a true echo of the soul."
Critics and audiences were slow to share their enthusiasm, and in 1890, a writer in the New York Post said: “The Fourth Tchaikovsky Symphony proved to be one of the most thoroughly Russian, i.e. semi-barbaric, compositions ever heard in this city. The keynote of the whole work is struck by the Rienzian blare of brass, which opens it, and which recurs at intervals. There is an extraordinary variety in the orchestral colors, some of which are decidedly too loud for a symphony. If Tchaikovsky had called his Symphony ‘A Sleigh Ride Through Siberia’ no one would have found this title inappropriate.”
By the time of the symphony’s British premiere, in June of 1893, the audience applauded enthusiastically after each movement. Over time, it has become one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular, and most often performed, works.
(notes by Bruce Brown)