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In the second chapter Felsenfeld captures the dramatic intensity infused in the Fourth Symphony by interpreting every theme, motive, and variation of the first movement in terms of 'fate'. The other movements are discussed as well, but it is the first and fourth movements that are on the CD. In his analysis of the Concerto for Violin (chapter 3), Felsenfeld focuses on the rhythm as well as the melody, reminding us of the strong and weak beat patterns of various meters and drawing attention to the composer's departure from the usual pattern. The second movement is Canzonetta, which means 'Little Song', and the third movement is Finale: Allegro Vivacissimo.

The 1812 Overture has become one of Tchaikovsky's most popular works, performed as part of 4 July celebration concerts. The overture was not meant to commemorate the American War of 1812, but instead, was about the battles between Napoleon's French army and the Russians; hence the inclusion of the Marseillaise and the Russian National Anthem in sections of the piece. In a detailed analysis, Felsenfeld explains this piece in terms of victories and defeats, anthems, gunfire, and church bells. He takes us through a war as much as he does a piece of music.

The Serenade for Strings in C major began as an idea for a string quartet or symphony, but it was completed as a four movement serenade for string orchestra. The opening performance was conducted by Nikolay Rubenstein. Felsenfeld includes Tchaikovsky's own positive assessment of the piece, plus other historical background information before his analysis. The first movement is included on the CD.

The Nutcracker Suite is one of the most famous of Tchaikovsky's compositions, performed every Christmas. Felsenfeld describes the Miniature Overture, the Danses caracteristiques, and the Waltz of the Flowers in context of the ballet story. What I especially enjoyed about this chapter was the author's explanation of Tchaikovsky's orchestral decisions, touching on the instruments' unique qualities and how they contribute to the special character of the various numbers within the suite.

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Copyright © 14 August 2007 Anna L Franco, New York City, USA


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