Tchaikovsky Orchestral Works

SATURDAY, June 6, 2020

Tchaikovsky Orchestral Works

I spent over two months listening to recordings and exploring this topic. At some point I discovered this:

Tchaikovsky Research

The people who made this site and did all this investigating made my life much easier, and probably 99% of the information involves things I knew next to nothing about it. You can research every kind of his music, and read about his friends – and history. There is way more. I could probably spend a few years of my life just trying to absorb some of the info on this site.

Using their page for orchestral music I tracked down each composition, then made decisions about which recordings are best. I started from his earliest compositions, and those are the ones I did the most reading about. As I moved forward to the end of his life I got to more and more of his really famous compositions, and about those I have (so far) said much less.

I can’t add much to this research site, but perhaps at times I can mention things that are especially interesting or odd.

So much was lost…

The main thing that hit me doing all this is how much music was destroyed. There are two categories for the destroyed music.

Student works lost…

The first are mostly early, student works, that for one reason or another were not preserved. We can only read about them, wondering what they were like. It would be easy to assume they were immature works, unimportant and uninteresting, but here and there we find things that somehow were not lost or destroyed, and some of these works are at least very interesting, and in some cases I think they are very good – and thus important.

Mature compositions lots..

Then there are the mature compositions that were destroyed by Tchaikovsky during periods of self-doubt. He was ravaged by depression his entire life, but all this was made worse by “friends” who spent more time criticizing his music than supporting it.

Toxic friends and nationalistic zealots…

The “friends” were either horribly conservative, worshiping the traditional European past, or insisting upon nationalistic Russian music that utterly ignored those same traditions. So  Tchaikovsky was caught between those two jealous, competing factions.

No time to be a musician…

In addition, musicians were not valued, appreciated or supported. To be a composer in Russia at that time meant being treated like as a lower class worker, and this is why Tchaikovsky’s family tried to block him from becoming a musician. They wanted him to become a civil servant, and it was only with great difficulty that he was allowed to study music.

Not much early musical education…

As a result, Tchaikovsky did not begin serious musical studies until he was a an adult, and he had to suffer all sorts of indignities from professors who did not have even a tiny bit of his genius. With all this in mind it’s easy to understand how Tchaikovsky is not looked upon as the same kind of precocious genius as Mozart and Mendelssohn, or even Beethoven, but in fact he was a prodigy the likes of which the world has seldom seen.

The world benefited from his tortured life…

Perhaps his music can only be understood within this conflict. Perhaps the unique intensity and dramatic range of his music can only be understood within the context of his suffering. His life was, to sum up, terribly tragic, decades of struggle and unhappiness. His pain was our gift, through his music, but at an unimaginable cost for the man.

The music, minus the symphonies…

Here is the music, leaving out the symphonies, which is a separate topic. Not all the music has opus numbers, which are supposed to tell us when music was written. Some opus number are horribly wrong because important music was not even published until after his death. The year of composition is a better way to know when each work was written. There is nothing on this list that I did not at least enjoy, and there are several things that I now love that I did not even know about a couple months ago. Many other things on this list are hugely popular. These should all be clickable. If something does not work, please let me know.

Group Opus Year Post
Orchestral 76 1864 The Storm in E minor
Orchestral 1865 Overture in C Minor
Orchestral 1865 Overture in F Major
Orchestral 15 1866 Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem in D
Orchestral 77 1868 Fatum in C minor
Orchestral 1869 Romeo and Juliet in B minor
Orchestral 1872 Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name-Day in A
Orchestral 18 1873 The Tempest in F minor
Orchestral 20 1875 Swan Lake Ballet
Orchestral 31 1876 March Slave in Bb minor
Orchestral 32 1876 Francesca da Rimini in E minor
Orchestral 45 1880 Italian Capriccio in A
Orchestral 48 1880 Serenade for String Orchestra C
Orchestral 49 1880 1812 Overture
Orchestral 1883 Coronation March in D
Orchestral 1884 Elegy in G
Orchestral 1885 Jurisprudence March in D
Orchestral 66 1888 Sleeping Beauty
Orchestral 67 1888 Hamlet in F minor
Orchestral 78 1890 The Voyevoda in A minor
Orchestral 71 1891 The Nutcracker Ballet

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