“TCHAIKOVSKY SPECTACULAR: The Mighty 1812” concert

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Join the Sun Symphony Orchestra as we explore the contrasting sides of the beloved composer Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.

Tchaikovsky | Capriccio Italien, Op. 45
Tchaikovsky | Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 4
Chopin | Nocturne No.20 in C-sharp minor, Op. Posth
Tchaikovsky | The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a
Tchaikovsky | 1812 Overture, Op. 49

The concert starts with the delightful Capriccio Italien, inspired by a trip Tchaikovsky took to Rome with his brother Modest. During this trip, the composer gathered folk tunes, and he felt very optimistic about the use of such tunes in this fantasy – rightfully so, as his Capriccio has become a popular work around the globe. The bugle call the composer heard every morning from his hotel room manifests itself in the opening of Capriccio; the piece then starts quite melancholically, seemingly appropriate for the time of composition which followed a stressful, failed marriage. An oboe duet then brings the more joyous Bella ragazza dalle trecce bionde folk song into the mix, followed by some surprisingly Spanish flair and dance interspersed with darker Russian colors once more. The piece finishes in an explosive fury of party-like excitement not surpassed in most of Tchaikovsky’s musical output, and shows the composer to be a ballet composer through and through (he himself was a dancer!).

By great contrast, the string serenade, composed the year after Capriccio, shows us the more delicate and emotional side of Tchaikovsky. Russian folk song is prominent in this work (as in a majority of his music). Written to his friend, the patroness Nadezhda von Meck, the composer explains: “The Overture will be very loud, noisy, but I wrote it without any warm feelings of love and so it will probably be of no artistic worth. But the Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from inner compulsion. This is a piece from the heart and so, I venture to say, it does not lack artistic worth.” This piece is without a doubt the most evocative and personal on the programme.

The second half of the concert opens with Tchaikovsky in his element as a ballet composer. A Christmas Eve concert such as ours does well to feature this magical musical from the beloved ballet. Written just before his death in 1893, the ballet proved quite challenging for Tchaikovsky, given the story’s limitations that proved difficult when translated to ballet. The death of his sister Sasha gave him the nudge to complete the ballet (some conject that his sister is represented by the Sugar Plum Fairy). In any case, what a joy for us that he finished the ballet and that it is now his most famous composition.

The “loud, noisy” overture Tchaikovsky refers to is none other than the 1812 Overture that closes tonight’s concert. Depicting the war between Russians and French, and the former’s eventual victory, this overture will take the Opera House by storm. Loud it is; lacking in artistic worth may be a stretch, especially with the beautifully opening Russian Orthodox hymn and Tchaikovsky’s incorporation of it in the work: brilliance, capping what we hope to be a memorable Tchaikovsky Spectacle!

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