Sunday, October 30, 2005

A quick defence for Mr. Tchaikovsky.

Why do some many people in academia love to attack poor Tchaikovsky? Because he's popular? because he's emotional? I don’t get it. Recently i read an attack on his symphonies and was, more or less, offended.

Stravinsky and I shared a similar upbringing - in terms of Tchaikovsky- the first ballet i ever saw, when i was very young- 5 or 6, was Tchaikovsky. From then on it was a sort of tradition every year or so to go with my mother to the Nutcracker. I loved the music then, i love it now. I share Stravinsky's admiration.

His music has ideas. Its passionately expressive music, and the emotion is hightened by his melodic inventiveness and lyrical brilliance. Really, could you dream up a melody more sublime than those found in his Symphonies or Ballets?

A while back I read Tchaikovsky's letters (all 400 pages of them), and it turns out (surprise surprise!) that he valued the melody as a core expressive element in music. I cant argue with that, and seeing that was his aims, can you fault him? If we value music in terms of its expressiveness, in terms of its musical ideas what is to stop us from admiring his works?

He certainly wasn’t a perfect composer, but no one is. Tchaikovsky may not have constructed his symphonies in proper symphonic form and all that crap, but maybe its because he wasn’t primarily interested in traditional compositional formats.

I've overheard some attack him for "sounding like a cheesy movie". Come on, he died long before the art of hack-- I meaning writing music scores came into practice. Its not his fault that he proved popular with Hollywood.

His last 3- the 4th 5th and 6th symphonies are masterpieces, no question. if you doubt this, if you think you can do better, please, get back to me.

Im still chuckling over my picture. Is that vanity?


Jennifer Grucza said...

I like your picture. :)

I don't understand the condescension towards Tchaikovsky either. I think his music's great. The last three symphonies (the first three are good too), the ballets, Souvenir de Florence (yum yum yum!), even the overplayed Piano Concerto.

When my orchestra was playing the sixth symphony last year, our conductor said part of the reason many people dismiss Tchaikovsky was because so many people over-do his music. He preferred a somewhat more restrained interpretation. He may be right, I don't know - I think I like it both ways!

patty said...

I've played The Nutcracker for far too many years. After a while everyone of Tchaik's begins to sound like ballet music. So that's why I sometimes struggle with him. Mostly it's when I'm listening ... when I'm playing a symphony I'm in a better place (not a pit for ballet!).

He's not my fave, but I'll deal. :-)

MikeZ said...

The ballets are incomparable. The symphonies I can wait on.

One of the first pieces I ever really liked was the Piano Concerto #1. We used to go to an eatery where they had a jukebox, and little terminals at the counters and booths. I always made my parents put a nickel in and punch up that concerto.