Tchaikovsky Symphony Number 4

History and First Movement

Tchaikovsky wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1877-1888, right after his very short marriage and soon after he started getting money from Nadia Von Meck.

The first movement opens with the brass instruments playing the "fate motif". A motif is a short musical idea. Beethoven was the master of the motif and he wrote the most famous motif ever the fate motif of his Symphony Number 5.

Beethoven said that his "short short short long" motif was fate (things that you can't control) knocking at his door. This motif was one that Tchaikovsky and other composers used in their pieces.

See if you can hear the fate motif in the beginning of Symphony Number 4.

Fourth Movement

In the fourth movement of the symphony Tchaikovsky quotes a folk song called "The Little Birch Tree". During Tchaikovsky's life there was a group of Russian Composers called the Russian Five. The Five wanted Russian composers to write nationalistic music.  Tchaikovsky didn't really agree with the Five but he did sometimes use folk music in his compositions. 

 

Here is the song and a few different performances of it.  

Once you know the song well it's really easy to hear it in the symphony. Tchaikovsky repeats it and repeats it in lots of different ways and with different instruments and styles. It gets more and more intense until at about 3 minutes in Tchaikovsky brings back - you guessed it - the fate motif from the first movement. The symphony then comes to a joyful and triumphant ending.

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