Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky
Conductor – Sarah-Grace Williams
Marrickville Town Hall
Saturday September 24th at 7:00pm
|Mendelssohn, Felix (1809-1847)
|Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 ‘Italian’
- Allegro vivace
- Andante con moto
- Con moto moderato
- Saltarello: Presto
Mendelssohn completed his 4th Symphony, the ‘Italian’ in March 1833, and its debut performance was conducted by himself on the 13th May at a London Philharmonic Society concert. Dating back as far as the 14th Century, the Saltarello was a Roman dance involving a great deal of hopping and jumping. This gives us a true feel for the final movement of Mendelssohn’s 4th ‘Italian’ symphony.
The vigorous opening theme by the violins in this symphony is accompanied by a rhythmic ostinato pattern in the winds in the major key, and is echoed by the clarinet in the minor key shortly after. Mendelssohn continues to develop this movement with complex counterpoint, contrasted by the shining beacon of the oboe holding an extended A for almost 10 bars, followed by a similar F#, and the theme re-emerging to conclude the movement. The 2nd movement is reportedly the impression of a religious march in Napoli in D minor. Movement 3 is in the form of a typical minuet and trio, with the trio section introduced by the horns.
The final movement is in the tonic minor of A minor, and although minor keys often display a propensity for gloominess, the lively tempo and rhythmic figures ensure that this movement is nothing but lively. The constant driving rhythm provides the listener with a continual sense of perpetuum mobile. With the strings driving the symphony to a conclusion, Mendelssohn uses the winds to pass melodies back and forth to each other over the top of this fantastic string juggernaut and the rousing finale is sure to leave the ‘dancing’ performers and the audience breathless and exhausted.
© Andrew Doyle, 2022
|Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich (1840 – 1893)
|Symphony No. 4
I. Andante sostenuto — Moderato con anima — Moderato assai, quasi Andante — Allegro vivo
II. Andantino in modo di canzona
III. Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato — Allegro
IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco
1877 was a year of significant turmoil in Tchaikovsky’s life, in which he developed a relationship with benefactor Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, who stipulated one condition on her patronage – that they never meet. To express his feelings and gratitude, he referred to his Fourth Symphony as ‘your symphony’, which he began composing in May. In September of that year, he rushed into a marriage with former student Antonina Ivanovna, a marriage that would only last three months, and during this time, he paused composing the symphony. Tchaikovsky remarked of the tumultuous year:
“There is no doubt that for some months I was insane, and only now, when I am completely recovered, have I learned to relate objectively to everything which I did during my brief insanity. That man, who in May took it into his head to marry Antonina Ivanovna, who during June wrote a whole opera as though nothing had happened, who in July married, who in September fled from his wife, who in November railed at Rome and so on—that man wasn’t I, but another Pyotr Ilyich.”
When he returned to composing the Fourth Symphony later that year, to reassure von Meck that her patronage was being put to get use, he assured her that the first movement was ‘very long and complicated’, however the remaining movements were ‘very simple’ and will be ‘pleasant and easy to orchestrate’.
Upon hearing the opening notes of the first movement, the audience and musicians are immediately confronted with Tchaikovsky’s Fate theme. We can thank von Moeck for Tchaikovsky’s explanation of his music, as until then, he had a self-imposed rule of not revealing the secret programs of his music.
The introduction is the seed of the whole symphony, undoubtedly the central theme. This is Fate, i.e., that fateful force which prevents the impulse towards happiness from entirely achieving its goal, forever on jealous guard lest peace and well-being should ever be attained in complete and unclouded form, hanging above us like the Sword of Damocles, constantly and unremittingly poisoning the soul. Its force is invisible, and can never be overcome. Our only choice is to surrender to it, and to languish fruitlessly…
The Andantino movement reveals one of the most beautiful and memorable oboe solos in all symphonic writing. This movement reflects on previous life experiences, and while this nostalgia is tiring and burdensome, there are glimpses of happiness and beauty permeating the gloom.
A lively Scherzo presents itself in the third movement, as a ‘series of capricious arabesques’. The movement concludes in an ethereal pianissimo. The Finale erupts in a tutti fortissimo, with the movements main theme being based on the folk tune ‘The Little Birch Tree’. The Fate theme returns in the brass, however there is no stopping the frenzy that soars to a rousing conclusion.
© Andrew Doyle, 2022
Our Artists For This Performance:
The Metropolitan Orchestra – Click Here To Read TMO’s Biography.
Artistic Director and Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams. Click Here To Read Sarah-Grace’s Bio.
Musicians Of The Metropolitan Orchestra On Stage Are:
Concertmaster ^Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich
First Violin: *Dominique Guerbois, Elena Tabolkina, Kathryn Crossing, Caroline Kelly, Dominic Meagher, Sarah Qiu, Nan Heo, Dawid Botha, Jonathan Karanikas, Denisa Smeu-Kirileanu
Second Violin: *Catrina Hughes, Naomi Warr, Alexis Bell, Christina Mills, Elisabetta Sonego, Clare Fulton, Claudia Seibold, Jennifer Mee, Joshua Kok, Amanda Hoh
Viola: #Seola Lee, Niamh Armstrong, Robyn Botha, Liz D’Olier, Monique Turner, William d’Avigdor, Nicola Elsworth, Kathryn Ramsay
Cello: *John Benz, *Ezmi Pepper, Caroline Otto, Lily Innis, Margie Iddison
Bass: *Jeremy Fox, *Mark Szeto, Jessica Holmes, Nicole Murray-Prior
Flute: *Svetlana Yaroslavskaya, Henry Liang, Jacinta Mikus
Oboe: *Matt Bubb, Madeleine Randall
Clarinet: *Andrew Doyle, Alisha Coward
Bassoon: #Peta Goh, Sarajane Kirkaldy-Hansen
French Horn: *Adrian Hallam, Gemma Lawton, Neil O’Donnell, Robert Stonestreet
Trumpet: Adam Davis, Koominka
Trombone: *Gareth Lewis, Oscar Lewis, Arthur Johnson
Tuba: James Barrow
Timpani: *Murray Parker
Percussion: *Chiron Meller, Robert Oetomo, Anita Cook
^ Concert Master
# Acting Principal
The Metropolitan Orchestra is a not-for-profit arts organisation and a registered charity.
Click here to donate online to support The Metropolitan Orchestra today.
All donations over $2.00 are Tax-Deductible. We truly thank you for your support.