Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture

September COMPOSER: pytor tchaikovsky

Pytor Tchaikovsky

1812 Overture, 1880

(The Year 1812, festival overture in E flat major)

There were many brilliant Tchaikovsky pieces I could have chosen for this last post. He wrote some stunning symphonies, piano concertos and ballets, but in the end I couldn’t go past the 1812 Overture. It has bells, even more bells and proper military cannons and it’s probably one of the most recognised pieces of classical music. It’s been used so many times on television and wait for it, at fireworks events that you probably didn’t even know that you knew it. Well Tchaikovsky was the man that composed it, and he didn’t like it all that much either. Which is a shame, because the public loved it and it’s what cemented his reputation worldwide as a great composer.

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Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in A Minor

September COMPOSER: pytor tchaikovsky

Pytor Tchaikovsky

Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50, 1882

All of Tchaikovsky’s lyrical talents are on display in Piano Trio in A minor. A deeply emotive work, it remains a unique piece of chamber music that literally set the score for Russian composers for years to come. He dedicated it, ‘ in memory of a great artist’, to his close friend and champion Nikolai Rubinstein who had died the previous year. Rubinstein’s appointment of Tchaikovsky to a professorship at the Conservatory of Moscow was as instrumental to his career as this piece became to those Russian composers who came after him.

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Tchaikovsky: Marche Slave

September COMPOSER: pytor tchaikovsky

Pytor Tchaikovsky

marche slave, in B flat minor, op.31, 1876

Marche Slave (Slavonic March) is the result of a commission Tchaikovsky received for a concert to benefit wounded Serbian soldiers who had been fighting the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). It’s definitely full of some militaristic rhythms and nationalist themes. But for all of this, I was immediately attracted to this piece because of its sense of theatre and fun. It’s said the music moves from a funeral wake to a great victory and you can feel that movement. There’s no chance to reflect for long in its melancholy moments before the quickening pace restores the festivity of life. If I were wounded, this is the kind of music that would lift my spirits.

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Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Suite

September COMPOSER: pytor tchaikovsky

Pytor Tchaikovsky

Swan lake suite,  op, 20, 1876

Tchaikovsky’s name is closely associated with ballet. In fact he wrote the score for 3 of the most famous and most performed ballet’s in the world. Swan Lake was the first of these. (The others are Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker). From the opening of the Swan Lake Suite, Tchaikovsky’s mastery of melody and movement is evident as it takes you away on a wave of feathery lightness.

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Composer of the month: September

The catalogue of classical music is massive. It’s hard to know where to start.  As part of this journey into the classical world I’ve decided to immerse myself in a different composer every month. Each week of that month I’ll look at a popular or interesting piece and the story around it. It’ll be their story and my story.

September’s composer is Pytor Tchaikovsky. A man who pursued a life in music despite there being little offer of a musical career in Russia at the time. Known for being a master of melody Tchaikovsky spent much of his compositional career finding a balance between Western and Russian musical styles. Many of his works are incredibly well-known including his ballets (Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Nutcracker) and of course the 1812 Overture. I found his pieces to be very seductive and immediately attractive. 

Pytor Ilych Tchaikovsky

(1840-1893)

Pytor Tchaikovsky