Winter 2017 CONCERT

February 25, 2017        7:30PM
Morrison High School Auditorium
Morrison, Illinois

Glinka: A Life for the Tsar Overture

Mozart: Deh vieni, non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro

: So In Love, from Kiss Me, Kate

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 1
in G minor, Op 13 "Winter Daydreams"
1. Daydreams on a Winter Journey:
Allegro tranquillo
2. Land of Gloom, Land of Mist:
Adagio cantabile ma non tanto
3. Scherzo. Allegro scherzando giocoso
4. Finale. Andante lugubre–Allegro moderato–Allegro maestoso

Peter Ily'ich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 1
in G minor, Op 13, "Winter Daydreams"

Despite all its huge shortcomings, I still nourish a weakness for it, because it was a sin of my sweet youth.
--- Peter Tchaikovsky, on his Symphony No 1

Peter Ily'ich Tchaikovsky
Peter Ily'ich Tchaikovsky

Little is known about the early history of Peter Ily'ich Tchaikovsky's First Symphony. According to Modeste Tchaikovsky's biography of his composer brother, work was begun on the Symphony in March 1866, and the first reference by Tchaikovsky himself to the Symphony appears in his letter to his brother Anatoly of May 7, 1866:

At eleven o'clock, I either give a lesson until one [o'clock], or tackle the symphony (which, by the way, is going sluggishly) ... I always return home by twelve [midnight]; write letters or the symphony, and read in bed for a long time... My nerves are extremely fraught again, for the following reasons: 1) my lack of success in composing the symphony; 2) Rubinstein and Tarnovsky... spend all day trying to torment me... 3) being unable to shake off the thought that I might soon die without...complet[ing] the symphony.

In the summer of 1866, Tchaikovsky set off for a dacha near Peterhof, where he continued working on the Symphony. Here in June he began the instrumentation of his new work, as referred to in his letter to Aleksandra Davidova in June: "I've already started to orchestrate the symphony; my health is fine, except that recently I didn't sleep all night because I was so busy...". According to Modeste Tchaikovsky the composer did not like to recall the summer that he spent in Peterhof:

...the reason was his G-minor symphony,...Winter Daydreams....Despite painstaking and arduous work, its composition was fraught with difficulty, and while pressing ahead with the symphony, Pyotr Ilyich's nerves became more and more frayed... [H]e began to suffer from insomnia, and the sleepless nights paralyzed his creative energies...

His nervous disorder began to manifest itself in the forms of colitis, hypochondria,
hallucinations and numbness in his hands and feet. The dread of a severe nervous attack recurring was such that, after this Symphony, he quit composing at night.

The difficult time Tchaikovsky endured while working on the Symphony, however, did not alter the composer's working methods. Nine years later, 1875, Tchaikovsky wrote to Modeste:

Do you really believe that anything worthwhile comes without toil and effort?... Remember back in 1866 how frayed my nerves became...through smoking too much because of my symphony, which wouldn't come out—that's just the same. Even now when things are difficult I smoke vast quantities of cigarettes and confine myself to my room.... On the other hand, writing can sometimes be terribly easy; ideas simply fly around one after another...

Despite his summer-long trauma, Tchaikovsky decided to show the symphony as it stood to two of his professors at the St. Petersburg Concervatory. If the composer had the least optimism that his work would be judged favorably, he was summarily disappointed. The professors, one of whom was Anton Rubinstein, judged the symphony quite harshly. With that, Tchaikovsky knew a proposed performance of the Symphony with the St. Petersburg Symphony was out of the question.

In November 1866, Tchaikovsky wrote to Anatoly: "The overture for Dagmara is completely finished ... I'm now busy revising my symphony." Although Tchaikovsky reworked his score to make it suitable for a symphony concert, the St. Petersburg professors, after a read-through, approved only the Adagio and Scherzo. Both movements were given trial performances, before the complete Symphony was heard for the first time in Moscow in February 1868.

The Symphony was well received, but Tchaikovsky was, nevertheless, so dissatisfied with the work that he began to revise it intermittently over several years. In 1874, he made a concentrated effort at revision, composing a new second subject for the first movement with additional changes to the other three movements. In 1875, the revised full score was published, but the Symphony was not performed in its new form until 1883. Then, prior to an 1886 performance, Tchaikovsky examined the score and discovered to his dismay numerous errors including the insertions of discarded material from the 1866 version. He complained to his publisher Jurgenson:

...all the rubbish I threw out,you have now painstakingly restored. Where did you get these discarded passages? Who's trying to annoy me? And so, to clear up once and for all the state of affairs regarding my long-suffering symphony, I say again: 1) The full score of my symphony as it stands contains countless errors. 2) There should be the parts... for the performance of the symphony in 1883. I don't know where they are, but they don't appear to be the ones you've now sent... 3) The [piano] arrangement was made very badly, and printed with dozens of careless mistakes. All these were corrected in 1883 and '84, but I don't know where the proofs are now. 4) The handwritten sheets, enclosed with the proofs you sent..., quite outrageously contain everything I threw out in 1874, and which, for reasons incomprehensible to me, you saw fit to restore..

Although the Symphony proved to be source on continuing anguish for the composer, he, nevertheless, held the work in high regard. To his publisher Jurgenson in 1886, he wrote, "I like the symphony very much, and deeply regret that it's had such an unhappy existence." To his benefactor Nadeszhda von Meck, he asserted, "I don't know if you are aware of my [symphony] composition. In many respects it is very immature, but fundamentally, it is richer in content than many of my other, more mature works."

Whether Tchaikovsky originally intended the symphony to be a tone poem, as his Manfred symphony is, relating a story through musical notes rather than words, is open to debate. Some musicologists claim to see a tone poem based on the sub-title to the symphony, Winter Daydreams, and the headings to the first two movements: Daydreams of a Winter Journey and Land of Gloom, Land of Mist. Some, on the other hand, opine that Tchaikovsky probably abandoned any programmatic intent in that he designated the final two movements in the traditional manner. Whatever the case, the symphony rises or falls on its inherent musical value, and, in this sense, the work is a decided success.

Program notes© William H Driver and Clinton Symphony Orchestra