Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Suites nos. 3 and 4

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

Vinyl’s Revenge presents a pair of orchestral suites by Tchaikovsky that have in common elaborate “Theme with variations” movements.

Tchaikovsky is credited with six (seven if you count Manfred) symphonies and four orchestral suites. As he wrote to his patron Nadezhda von Meck in 1884 "[A suite] has for some time been particularly attractive to me, because of the freedom it affords the composer not to be constrained by any traditions, conventional methods and established rules". This notion of a suite being “less rigid” than a symphony rings true for a Romantic composer, more interested in exploring ideas without regard to “form”.

In a later letter that same year to Sergey Taneyev, Tchaikovsky reported: "I am presently writing my Third Suite. I wanted to do a symphony, but it wouldn't come off. Anyway, the name doesn't matter; in any case, I've written a large symphonic work in four movements, namely: 1) Andante, 2) another waltz, 3) Scherzo, 4) Theme with 12 variations. All this will probably be ready by the end of the summer, because I am working very painstakingly and diligently". With the aim of completing work before his return to Moscow, he finished the instrumentation of the entire Suite in late July, according to the autograph date on the manuscript.

Tchaikovsky first had the idea of compiling a suite from works by Mozart in 1884, while he was working on the recitatives and translation of Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro. Distracted by other compositional projects, Tchaikovsky only returned to this idea in 1886. The full score of the Suite was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in Moscow in November 1887 and carries a short foreword by Tchaikovsky (in Russian, German and French):

A large number of Mozart's outstanding short pieces are, for some incomprehensible reason, little known not only to the public, but even to many musicians. The author who has arranged this Suite entitled "Mozartiana" wished to provide a new impetus for the more frequent performance of these gems of musical art, unpretentious in form, but containing incomparable beauties.
The suggested performances include an entire disc (Suite #3) and portions of a Melodiya re-release – the remainder of that disc will be part of another post later in 2017.

Pyotr Il′yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Suite No. 3 in G major, op. 55 [TH 33]
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Michael Tilson-Thomas, conducting
(Columbia Masterworks ‎– M 35124)

Suite No. 4 in G major, op. 61 [TH 34], Моцартиана (Mozartiana)
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra
Vladimir Fedoseyev, conducting
(Melodiya С10 09223-4, Side B of ABC Classics AY 67032)

Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/01TchaikovskySuiteNo.3Op.55