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Life and strife

Fritz Reiner's Tchaikovsky -
reviewed by

'... Reiner's no-nonsense approach avoids any hint of emotional excess.'

Tchaikovsky: Pathétique Symphony. © 2002 Victor Company of Japan Ltd

The music room in Tchaikovsky's country house at Klin is surrounded by scores and signed photos of fellow composers and artists. Central is a grand piano which was apparently always out of tune in Tchaikovsky's day. When I was allowed to play a bit of Tristan on it, the instrument was admirably adjusted to equal temperament so that, if I had had both time and ability, I could have played the whole of the '48' there with perfect confidence. As it was, I celebrated my modest Wagnerian excursion with some Russian dancing in the garden. Tchaikovsky might not have approved either of my activities when working on Symphony No 6 at his table in the small bedroom off. He started the symphony on 16 February 1893, finishing it in draft on 5 April despite a whirl of intervening conducting engagements. He outlined progress to his Davidov nephew, the eventual dedicatee: 'There will be much that is new in this symphony where form is concerned, one point being that the finale will not be a loud allegro, but the reverse, a most unhurried adagio. You cannot imagine the bliss I feel after becoming convinced that time has not yet run out and that it is still possible to work.'

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Copyright © 24 December 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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