Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony ranks as one of the most popular symphonies ever written.
It must also rank as one of the most misunderstood symphonies ever written. It has been common practice for more than a century (it was written in the 1870s) to regard the fourth as growing out Tchaikovsky’s supposed self-loathing after his marriage and subsequent attempted suicide. This homophobic and inaccurate scenario was put forward during the Soviet era when much documentary evidence was out of reach of western scholars. Post-glasnost research has indicated quite a different turn of events entirely.
In this podcast, we explore this controversy and of course look at Tchaikovsky’s glorious and innovative music. The piece is so well-known we sometimes forget how ground-breaking it is, from the unique use of sonata form in the first movement to the pizzicato ostinato of the third. It’s a symphony which deserves its fame.