“Truly there would be a reason to go mad were it not for music,” – P. I. Tchaikovsky
It was from the Austrian-born composer that some may have heard of, W.A. Mozart, whom we owe a debt of gratitude for Tchaikovsky’s dedication to his art. At 14 years of age, upon hearing Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Tchaikovsky decided to devote his life to the study of music. And thank the music gods that he heard Mozart’s dark, turbulent and fantastic “Giovanni”. If not, he might have ended up continuing with his studies at the military boarding school he was attending after the death of his mother.
Tchaikovsky was especially affected by his country’s folk music, in particular the music from the Ukraine. He used folk music themes throughout much of his work, but none more so than in his second symphony, the “Little Russian” symphony. The Ukraine use to be known as Little Russia.
More than any other composer, we find Tchaikovsky’s melodies to be unmatched. Such beauty. 3 of the 4 movements in this symphony include Ukrainian folk songs directly. “Down the Mother Volga” is used in the first movement. “Spin, O My Spinner” is playfully cast in the second. And with brilliant and powerful variations, “The Crane” serves as the theme of the 4th movement.
Elegance, imagery and heart-pounding power that only Tchaikovsky seemed to be able to create in nearly every one of his works is abundantly displayed throughout his 2nd symphony.
And the performance included in the video below, by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Leonard Slatkin, is by far, the most beautiful and powerful interpretation this writer has ever heard. (Of course, just my opinion and my ears but it’s damn good!) Please…do your senses a favor, listen to it with headphones. It is a high quality recording and is even more enjoyable with headphones where you’ll distinctly hear each instrument…and the robust and mighty ending are even more enjoyable with orchestra at full tilt!
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian”
Berlin Philharmonic- Herbert Von Karajan
Photo credit (front page): Émile Reutlinger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons