Tchaikovsky’s description of the Third movement underscores his abilities as a scene painter, even in a work that has no specific plot. It is in these moments that his imagination is most playful, witty, and free.
Tchaikovsky describes the Second movement as a series of bittersweet emotions evoked by reflecting on the past. He tells of being overtaken by childhood memories that bring feelings of intimate familiarity and yet, at the same time, irretrievable distance.
Tchaikovsky wrote of the opening of the Fourth Symphony: “The Introduction is the kernel of the whole symphony, unquestionably its main idea: this is Fate, the force of destiny, which ever prevents our pursuit of happiness from reaching its goal, which jealously stands watch lest our peace and well-being be full and cloudless.”
The second part opens with the Mystic Circles of the Maidens and ends with the Sacrificial Dance. Seven excerpts present the music, choreography and incredible scenery of Stravinsky’s score and of the ballet. Mouse over the “markups” to learn more about key moments in this movement. Click “Learn More” to see sketches from the choreography and to hear a narrative of the ballet by ballet reconstructionist Millicent Hodson.
After a difficult winter, the world awakens to spring. Eight excerpts starting with the opening and ending in the the Dance of the Earth. Mouse over the “markups” to learn more about key moments in this movement. Click “Learn More” to see sketches from the choreography and to hear a narrative of the ballet by ballet reconstructionist Millicent Hodson.
More nightmare than dream, as Berlioz describes: “[The artist] sees himself at the sabbath, in the midst of a frightful troop of ghosts, sorcerers, monsters of every kind, come together for his funeral. Strange noises, groans, bursts of laughter, distant cries which other cries seem to answer.” The idée fixe has turned grotesque and the movement finishes with violence and frenzy.
The drama unfolds: “Convinced that his love is unappreciated, the artist poisons himself with opium. The dose of the narcotic, too weak to kill him, plunges him into a sleep accompanied by the most horrible visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned and led to the scaffold, and that he is witnessing his own execution.”
Here Berlioz wrote of his artist protagonist: “Finding himself one evening in the country, he hears in the distance two shepherds piping a ranz des vaches in dialogue. This pastoral duet, the scenery, the quiet rustling of the trees gently brushed by the wind, the hopes he has recently found some reason to entertain, all concur in affording his heart an unaccustomed calm, and in giving a more cheerful color to his ideas.”
In this movement the story continues: “The artist finds himself in the most varied situations—in the midst of the tumult of a party, in the peaceful contemplation of the beauties of nature; but everywhere, in town, in the country, the beloved image appears before him and disturbs his peace of mind.”