TCHAIKOVSKY: Suites Nos. 1 and 2 (Chris Craker/ Ireland National Symphony Orchestra/ Stefan Sanderling) (Naxos: 8.550644)
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Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
Suite No.1 in D Major, Op. 43
Suite No.2 in C Major, Op. 53 "Caracteristique"
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky belonged to the first generation ofRussian composers to have the undoubted advantage of professional musical training at theConservatory in St. Petersburg, newly established by Anton Rubinstein, under the patronageof the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. Abandoning the career intended for him, as anofficial in the Ministry of Justice, he turned to music, and followed his studies withemployment on the staff of the new Moscow Conservatory, directed by Nikolai Rubinstein,brother of the founder of the institution in St. Petersburg. Diffident in character, andsubject to acute nervous depression, he suffered considerably from an unfortunatemarriage, contracted in 1877 in an ingenuous attempt to conceal his own homosexualinclinations, a match followed by immediate separation and divorce.
For some years Tchaikovsky enjoyed the moral and financialsupport of a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, a woman he was never to meet, although hestayed at her estate in Brailov during her absence. Her help allowed him to withdraw fromthe drudgery of teaching at the Moscow Conservatory and to devote himself to composition.
With her he continued to exchange letters which reveal something of the thoughts andfeelings behind the music he was writing.
It has been suggested that Tchaikovsky's death, in 1893, wassuicide, forced upon him by a court of honour of former students of the School ofJurisprudence, to avoid a threatened scandal, resulting from a liaison with the son of anobleman. Whatever the truth of this, the official cause of death, announced as cholera,enabled his passing to be mourned as it should have been, his achievement in Russian musichaving become increasingly apparent at home and abroad. Tchaikovsky might have appeared toVienna critics such as Eduard Hanslick as irredeemably Russian. At home, however, he worea much more cosmopolitan air than the group of avowedly nationalist composers with theirself-appointed leaders Balakirev and Cesar Cui, declared enemies of the Rubinsteins andthe "German" training offered by the Conservatories.
In the aftermath of his marriage Tchaikovsky had taken refugeabroad in the autumn of 1877. The following year he was again in Russia, resolved to leavethe Conservatory, not least because of hints in the press about his private life. In Mayhe was at the estate of Nadezhda von Meck, where he returned in August, busying himselfwith the composition of a suite, allegedly in the style of Franz Lachner, a contemporaryand friend of Schubert in Vienna, a composition on which he continued to work at hisbrother-in-law Lev Davidov's Verbovka estate. Later progress on the suite was interrupted,to be continued abroad, in Florence, where his patroness had provided an apartment for hisuse. The suite underwent various changes, before it took its final shape. Tchaikovsky hadsecond thoughts about the prevalence of duple rhythm throughout, and then about the numberof movements. Eventually it assumed its present form, with a first movernent an Introduction and Fugue, followed by a B flat major Divertimento, opened by the solo clarinet. Thethird movement Intermezzo, in D minor, has amelody for violin, flute and bassoon based on the ascending scale. This is followed by aminiature March, originally described by thecomposer as March of the Lilliputians, amovement he attempted to withdraw, until persuaded to retain it. The suite continues witha Scherzo and a final Gavotte. In the whole work and the chosen form he hadenjoyed a freedom that the symphony would not allow, finding himself able to write thekind of music that found further expression in his ballets. Ironically the most popular ofall the movements, both at its first performances in Russia and subsequently, has been theMarch that Tchaikovsky had once hoped to discard.
Tchaikovsky spent the earlier part of the summer of 1883 atPodushkino, near Moscow, where his brother Anatoly was staying, with his wife, Parasha,and their baby daughter. Here, comforted by the presence of his servant Alyosha, onextended leave from the military service that had for a time deprived the composer of hiscare, he set to work on a second orchestral suite. In September he travelled to hisbrother-in-law Lev Davidov's estate at Kamenka, where he continued his work on the suite,which he now orchestrated. It was completed in October and first performed in Moscow thefollowing February, under the direction of Max Erdmannsdorfer. The work was at oncewelcomed by the public.
Suite No.2 in C major openswith Jeu de sons, an Andantino framing a sonata-form Allegro molto vivace in a movement of somecontrapuntal activity, with a fugue at its heart. The second movement Waltz, a composition of considerable ingenuity in itssubtle rhythmic variety, is followed by a ScherzoBurlesque that finds an optional place for four accordions. In marked contrastis the R?¬ves d'enfant, evocative andpredominantly gentle music, with the unpredictable elements of a dream. The suite endswith a wild dance of typically Russian form, modelled on Dargomizhsky's orchestralfantasia Kazachok, of which Tchaikovsky had made a piano transcription in 1868. Thistribute to the older composer outstrips its original.
National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland
The RTE Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1947 as part of theRadio and Television service in Ireland. With its membership coming from France, Germany,Britain, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Russia, it drew together a rich blend of Europeanculture. Apart from its many symphony concerts, the orchestra came to world-wide attentionwith its participation in the famous Wexford Opera Festival, an event broadcast in manyparts of the world. The orchestra now enjoys the facilities of a fine new concert hall incentral Dublin where it performs with the world's leading conductors and soloists. In 1990the RTE Symphony Orchestra was augmented and renamed the National Symphony Orchestra ofIreland. Under its Principal Conductor, George Hurst, it quickly established itself as oneof Europe's most adventurous orchestras with programmes featuring many 20th centurycompositions. The orchestra has now embarked upon an extensive recording project for theNaxos and Marco Polo labels and will record music by Nielsen, Tchaikovsky, Goldmark,Rachmaninov, Brian and Scriabin.
Stefan Sanderling, General Music Director of the BrandenburgPhilharmonic Orchestra and the Opera in Potsdam, was born in 1964, and received his earlymusical training from his father, the distinguished conductor Kurt Sanderling, and hismother, a professor of double bass at the Berlin Musikhochschule. As a child he studiedfirst the piano then the clarinet and continued his training at the Leipzig Conservatory,under the aegis of Kurt Masur. In 1983 he began to assist Rolf Reuter at the BerlinKomische Opera and continued his studies in 1985 in Halle, where he worked as AssistantConductor at the Opera after completing his course. From 1988 until 1990 he was in theUnited States of America, studying at the University of Southern California, participatingin the Summer Concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute and conducting at theTanglewood Summer Music festival, where he worked with Bernstein and Ozawa. In 1990 hereturned to Germany to take up the position of Chief Conductor of the BrandenburgPhilharmonic Orchestra, a remarkable achievement for one so young. Engagements haveinclud