Wednesday, July 30, 2008

J. G. Ebeling

Johann Georg Ebeling (1620-76) succeeded Johann Crüger (d. 1662) as cantor of Berlin's Nicolaikirche and music director of the adjacent Greyfriars Gymnasium, which was a combination of boys' high school and men's junior college. Ebeling also succeeded Crüger in a more historically significant role: as the chief musical collaborator of the great hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt (1607-76). He published a complete collection of Gerhardt's hymns in Geistliche Andachten, 1666-67, the last publication in which new verse by Gerhardt appeared. Several of his own tunes were in this collection, eight of which have come to my attention so far: seven of them in Anglophone Lutheran hymnals.

Die güldne SonneGerhardt's hymn "Evening and morning," also sometimes translated as "The sun ascending," is well wedded with this tune, a musical gem that shows Ebeling to be a master equal to Crüger. The tune is bright, energetic, appealing, perfectly structured, with an emotional depth that cannot be scientifically described. Some American hymnals list it under the title Evening and morning or Ebeling.

Du meine Seele singe (isometric)(rhythmic)We can see Ebeling's great potential in this tune, but not to its best effect. Perhaps it is our fault that the first phrase reminds us of the love theme from Superman; but in places, particularly towards the end, this tune somewhat lacks inspiration. Its only appearance in Anglophone Lutheranism, to my knowledge, is Service Book and Hymnal (1958), where its "isometric" version serves as the second tune for "O God, the Rock of Ages." I found the "rhythmic" version in a German hymnal. I don't think the rhythm significantly improves the tune.

EbelingIt's a confusing bother, but Die güldne Sonne and Warum sollt ich mich are both listed under the name Ebeling in certain books. Unlike them, I haven't found another title for this tune so far. The old Ev. Luth. Hymn-Book pairs this tune with the hymn "Christ, by heavenly hosts adored," which isn't by Gerhardt. So I would be delighted to learn more about what Gerhardt hymn this tune originally accompanied. It's a good, strong, prayerful tune that could admirably serve today's church.

Nicht so traurigVery different from Crüger's minor-key tune by the same name (which, remember, went with "Go to dark Gethsemane"), this warm, cheerful, handsome tune appears with the hymn "Every morning mercies new" in the ELHB. I'm intrigued. I wonder what kind of text would suit both of these tunes! I also wonder why we don't plug this fine melody of Lutheran pedigree into one or two of the hymns that would fit it.

Schwing dich aufAustralians have sung "With the Lord begin thy task" to this tune. We Missouri Sinners tried it out on "Come, ye faithful, raise the strain," an Easter hymn that, ever after The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), has been sung to Gaudeamus pariter. I like Gaudeamus, but I am perplexed by Anglophone Lutheranism's apparent rejection of this beautiful tune. Is it the fact that it goes up to an E? At least, unlike Crüger's tune by the same name (deriving from the Gerhardt hymn "Soar, my soul, to God on high"), there have been a few sightings of Ebeling's beautiful, bold, joyful tune in the English-speaking world. May they multiply - and be fruitful, too!

Voller WunderSeveral hymns have had one or two brushes with this gentle, sunny tune: "At Thy feet, O Christ, we lay," "Every morning mercies new," "Father, who the light this day," and "Safely through another week." One hymn, "Blessed are the sons of God," has formed a particular attachment to it in the English-speaking world, which may be the reason we automatically think of the words "With them numbered may we be, Here and in eternity!" when we hear the last two phrases of this tune. This last hymn may also be the reason this tune makes me think of hymns for children. More of them should learn it, so the rest of us can hear it more often.

Warum sollt' ich michTender, consoling, poignant, unforgettable: this tune (a.k.a. Ebeling, a.k.a. Lüneberg, a.k.a. All my heart this night) is perfect for Gerhardt's hymn "Why should cross and trial grieve me?" It is, in my opinion, one of the most effective chorales ever written. Lutherans on this side of the Atlantic generally agree on this. The 1978 Lutheran Book of Worship singles itself out by omitting it, an exceptional gaffe that, in my opinion, covers LBW in shame. In addition, several hymnals (mainly from a Scandinavian background) turn to this tune for the hymn "All my heart this night rejoices," instead of the tune Crüger wrote for it. It is Ebeling's most unqualified success.

Wer kann der Treu vergessenFinally, we come to a tune that I have found in no Anglophone hymnals at all. I stumbled across it while perusing the SELK hymnal and stuck it in here just for good measure. The first line of the hymn it goes with translates, roughly: "Who can forget the faithfulness...?" I like the sound of it overall, though I can imagine the folks at my church stumbling over that rhythmic surprise in the third-last phrase. I'm sure I would get an earful about it later. If you are editing a hymnal for Lutherans to whom hymn-singing is a new experience (before they have a chance to get set in their ways), you may consider sticking this tune in. Or, if you're a creative type, you could use it as the theme of a choir piece. It's what I would do. Maybe I will.

CONCLUSION: I am tantalized by the tiny, inadequate representation of Ebeling's work in Anglophone hymnals. I am dying to learn more about what kind of chorales he wrote. So consider Geistliche Andachten, or a facsimile thereof, to be on my all-purpose gift register until further notice. Based on what I have seen, I strongly suspect that a study of Ebeling's chorales could greatly enrich the worship of hymn-singing Lutherans in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Exotic Foodstuffs

Out of personal interest, I do a lot of reading about different forms of food culture and technology, how they developed, and how they survive even in today's world of factory-made, plastic-wrapped food. I think the problem of how to supply its population with food is one of the problems, if not the problem, at the root of every society, and the solution(s) to that problem determines a lot about that society's culture, technology, and economics. So out of a combination of idleness (my interests are really too broad for my own good!), a love of novelty, and a recognition that everything - including food - is better if there is a story to go with it, I find things out.

Here are some pictures of food technologies from other cultures. Let's see if you can guess what they are. I'll make it easy: multiple choice.

First, what the heck is this? A) A yak turd. B) Enough wacky tabacky to guarantee your reservation at the Mexican prison of your choice. C) The basket in which Pharaoh's daughter found baby Moses floating in the Nile. D) Fermented tea.

Second, what the heck are these? A) Wedges of chocolate fudge. B) Slices of peat portioned for chafing-dish-sized fires. C) Child-safe crayons. D) Shrimp paste.

Third, what the heck is that item in the foreground right? A) Irradiated raw turkey (gross, but safe to eat). B) A pork chop cooked with the fat attached (to hold in the juices). C) Lox in aspic. D) Cod soaked in lye.

Fourth, what the heck is this? A) Egg sacs of the man-eating spiny giant slug of Western Samoa. B) A demonstration of a new technique for using canteloupe to transport organs for veterinary transplant surgery. C) An amazing tropical fruit that, to some people, tastes like "a rich custard highly flavored with almonds" and, to others, like "French-kissing your dead grandmother." D) Smurfberries.

Fifth, what the heck is this? A) Vietnamese breakfast cereal (with craisins). B) Polish duck blood soup. C) Feeding time for my Uncle Rodney's pet tapeworm. D) Menudo.

Sixth, what do these three eatables have in common? (Hint: I take an interest in linguistic coincidences, too.)

  1. D. Check out this Wiki article on Chinese pu-ehr tea.
  2. D. Check out this Wiki article on one of the essential ingredients of curry.
  3. D. Which is to say, lutefisk. (I'm not making this too easy, am I?)
  4. C. The durian fruit, banned from most airlines. (Gotcha! You thought all the answers were D, didn't you?)
  5. B. Gotcha again!
  6. Sake, mole, and mate all have names that look like something else in English. Which is why some writers put a superfluous accent over the final e of each word, to make it clear that it is being used in its two-syllable sense.
I have tried most of these substances, and been in the presence of the ritual drinking of the last-named - quite interesting - rather like watching grown men taking turns sucking tea out of a hollowed-out baseball full of loose tea leaves. That silver straw thing is built into the cup and has a filter at the other end, so one doesn't necessarily end up with leaves stuck in one's teeth.

All I can say is, life seems so much simpler when the tea comes in little dunkable pouches, when you don't have to see what goes into the curry. But at the same time, I have a deep admiration for the culture that invests great care and discrimination in every step of the process of making tea, shrimp paste, and all the ingredients that make our food and drink good. We don't even think about these concerns, but they are important to someone - and because they take such things seriously, we too might someday have an opportunity to taste true excellence.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reading Bruckner's 4th

Now that The Bruckner Problem has been laid out on the table, let's clear the table and read the Fourth Symphony - bearing in mind that my comments are guided by a recording of the Nowak edition of the 1886 version of the work. The full title is Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major, and its nickname - "Romantic" - is one that Bruckner himself suggested. He did not mean this in a kissy, lovey, mushy sense, but in the sense of a medieval romance, like the tales of the Age of Chivalry celebrated in some of Wagner's operas.

It is - I find this concept coming up sooner than I had intended - a "programme" work. That is to say, it isn't "abstract" or "absolute" music, but music intended to suggest particular images or points in a storyline. One of Bruckner's protégés alleged, for example, that the first movement is supposed to evoke "medieval town - dawn - from the towers of the town voices ring out, bidding the townspeople wake - the gates are thrown open - knights on proud stallions thunder out into the open countryside - the magical spell of the forest enfolds them - forest murmurs - birdsong," etc. In the 1878 version of the score, the scherzo contained markings (deleted from later revisions) such as "hunting theme" and "dance tune during mealtime on the hunt." In an 1890 letter, Bruckner interpreted the second movement as "song, prayer, serenade" and the Trio of the Scherzo as "how a barrel-organ plays during the midday meal in the forest." So, file that in the back of your head, and see how it fits what you hear.

Movement I is marked Bewegt, nicht zu schnell. Bewegt means "emotional," as in the phrase tief bewegt, "deeply moved." It begins with a gentle horn call over a whispering string accompaniment. The instrumentation opens up, suggesting awakening. The brass enters during a transitional passage, flooding the scene with a light and energy. A second group begins more quietly and daintily, though with intermittent explosions of brass-driven power. This dies down to a general pause at about 5'45", where the development begins very softly. A similar dying-away occurs at about 11'10", signaling the recap, where Bruckner adds little elaborative touches to the material we started with. A coda begins quietly around 15'30" - notice how Bruckner uses pauses, be they ever so brief, to articulate the joints between his musical sections. The two-minute coda builds up to a finish resonating with brass notes, and finally topped off by a ponderously majestic version of the opening horn call.

What just happened? Did any pictures come to your mind? Perhaps you were too busy straining to hear the tune through piles of brass chords. Advice: go back to the beginning and listen to the movement again. This time, pay attention to the soft parts; that's where you can best hear Bruckner working out the finer details of his themes. The attention-grabbing loud parts have a tendency to drown themselves out, as you can only clearly hear a few brass instruments, often playing repeated notes. There are lots of these big passages, since the idea of the piece is to get caught up in the majesty of a romantic knight, decked out for battle and riding his charger out on a daring quest. Thus the music expresses, by turns, religious devotion, martial virtues, the purity of dawn, and sweet, chaste desire. Listen particularly for three recurring themes: the opening horn call, the six-note ascending/descending scale figures of the transition theme, and the dainty, string-driven second subject. The transition theme, by the way, contains an example of the "Bruckner rhythm" - a little musical signature he wrote into many of his pieces.

Movement II, in C minor, is marked Andante quasi Allegretto. Apparently there was no German word for this, which I take to mean "extremely moderate" in tempo, neither fast nor slow. It begins with a yearning tune introduced by the cellos against a soft string accompaniment. Your ears should perk up at the first three notes of the tune (sol-do-sol), the same intervals that led off the first movement's opening horn call. Being susceptible to mental pictures (and willing to give way to them while listening to evocative music like this), I like to picture a maiden waiting at a tower window, wistfully watching the horizon for the return of her champion. Something curious happens in the horn parts at about the 3' mark, like a punctuation mark, page turn, or an indication that "time passed..." Then the violas announce a new theme, accompanied in a manner similar to the first theme. This melody is more searching and tonally unstable. Our solitary maiden seems to have gone past wistfulness to distress of mind as she struggles to keep her anxious thoughts in order.

At 5' a flute suggests a somewhat more cheerful idea. This must be the codetta, because the development abruptly begins around 6'15". Through the dense smoke of counterpoint you can, now and then, make out the outline of at least the first theme. It's the most energetic passage in the movement so far, until it dies away for the recap beginning a little before 8'. As in the first movement, Bruckner adds little highlights to his themes on this second time through. The new transition to the second theme is particularly interesting. The desolation of this theme and of the way it is scored is very striking. After a more elaborate version of the musical comma previously remarked upon, the coda begins at about 12' with an even more elaborate version of the first theme. This is the most imaginative part of the movement, for my money, as it presents a sequence of contrasting moods while more or less steadily increasing in energy and volume for about two minutes. Then the life goes out of it and the music ends in a passage of touching melancholy, is if our maiden has awakened from a wonderful dream that her knight had returned and finds herself still alone in her tower.

Movement III is the "hunting" Scherzo you have been waiting for. Check your safety and keep your blaze-orange vest on the outside of your coat, for the foxes are running, the dogs are barking, the horses are going flat-out, and the horns are calling to each other. You hear them from the far distance, the middle distance, up close. You're in the middle of the chase; you're suddenly alone, separated from the hunt. You rest for a moment; you pick up a signal, or your dog picks up a scent, and off you go again. To be sure, this isn't a realistic depiction of a hunt; it's romanticism, through and through, and Bruckner was never embarrassed to say so. The whole orchestra gets into the act, the whole brass section pretending to be horns, until the Scherzo comes to an all-but-deafening conclusion. By contrast, the Trio has a rustic simplicity, whispering of a peaceful country life. Too soon, the noise and chaos of the hunt rushes back out of the distance, perhaps on its return to wherever it came from. Bruckner has a gift for spotting the precise moment when the yodeling of the horns is about to become monotonous, and inserts an ear-catching modulation at just that point. Subtle music it is not, but it does raise the spirits!

Movement IV, which runs for about 19'30", begins with a plunging theme that seems to be searching for the tonic (E-flat) as it goes through several keys, while at the same time building up to a colossal "all in" passage known, in the lingo of music nerds, as a tutti. At about 2'30" Bruckner uses one of those patented pauses to effect the transition to a gentler, more horizontal tune rising up out of the lower strings. At 3'10" this steps aside for a theme introduced by the upper winds. Bruckner makes a good deal of this theme, including a loud brass statment of it, before allowing it to fade away. At 5'15" we are suddenly engulfed by a massive minute of musical hysteria, followed by a calmer codetta that seems to draw consolation from fragments of the 3'10" theme. As one might expect by now, this fades away, and the development commences softly after a brief pause, at about 7'15".

From this point onward, this movement eludes formal analysis. There is no clear borderline between development and recap; the remainder of the movement seems to be a kind of jousting match between the grim, plunging theme from the opening and its more gracious opposite number from 3'10". First the one, then the other holds the upper hand as these two themes battle it out, one interrupting the other, that one lurking quietly behind this one. At one point (say, 12'20") the plunging theme appears downside-up in the clarinet part. By about 16'40" Bruckner seems to have awarded the laurel to Sir 3'10", but the victory is ambiguous; for the bars that softly follow quote first the 3'10" theme, then (for the first time, tenderly) the plunging theme in what sounds to me like a heroic death scene. Bruckner slowly stirs this up to a massive conclusion full of ecstatic, religious solemnity. This is hardly the kind of "Hollywood ending" you would expect after Mr. Nice puts Mr. Nasty down, but it is perhaps in keeping with the composer's romantic vision of medieval honor, piety, and chivalry.

Bruckner's "Romantic" Symphony is not necessarily any more romantic than the others. But it does kick @$$ in a very special way that has made it, almost since the beginning, one of the master's most beloved works. Sure, it's over an hour long, but how long does it take you to read Ivanhoe? Plus, it lights up circuits in your hi-fi system that don't see much action. Long it is, but not long-winded; it simply has big ideas and lots of them, and gives them plenty of space in which to duke it out - or to pace the atop its crenellated walls, wringing its hands with longing - or to laugh, and dance, and ride with the hounds to the sound of near and distant horns. In short, it creates a world around you, a fascinating world you will be in no hurry to leave.

EDIT: Below is a video of Rafael Kubelik conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the first movement of this symphony. Enjoy!

The Bruckner Problem

As we prepare to gather around Bruckner's Fourth Symphony in E-flat, nicknamed the "Romantic" Symphony, we find ourselves facing a problem. What problem? The problem of which Fourth Symphony we should listen to. Why is this a problem? Because you may be listening to one version of Bruckner's Fourth while I am talking about a radically different one. This problem concerns most of Bruckner's other symphonies as well, so it is quite sensibly known as The Bruckner Problem.

So before we read this symphony together, we need to at least understand the Bruckner Problem as it relates to Bruckner's Fourth. A good place to start would be to read this Wiki article several times, taking notes as needed; then think about it for a while in a quiet place, preferably where there is room to pace up and down; then read the article again. But I can see how that might be asking a lot of you. Since you did come to my blog to read what I have to say, I will do my best to make The Bruckner Problem as simple and clear as it can be.

Anton Bruckner (1824-96), the son of a small-town Austrian schoolmaster and organist, left home to study counterpoint and become a great organ virtuoso. In mid-life, he fell in love with the music of Wagner; but, being devoted to classical structures, contrapuntal procedures, sacred music, and beer, he never quite fit into the Wagner clique. His great ambition was to write symphonies on a Wagnerian scale, not only in length but in grandeur and in fluid, far-ranging harmony. And this he did, undiscouraged by the public's slowness to appreciate his work. Happily, the Fourth Symphony became one of his most successful works - though only after a good deal of trial and error. And thereby hangs The Bruckner Problem. Let's take it step by step, shall we?
  1. 1874: Original Version. Bruckner completes his first version of Symphony 4. This "first blush" version wasn't published or performed until 1975, over a century after it was written.
  2. 1878: Volksfest Version. Bruckner revises the first 2 movements and replaces the Scherzo and Finale. The new 3rd movement is nicknamed the "Hunt" Scherzo, and the new 4th movement is nicknamed "Volksfest" (popular festival). Except for the finale it is the same as the 1880 version.
  3. 1880: Vienna Version. Bruckner replaces the "Volksfest" with a third and final finale. This is the version of the symphony's first performance, conducted by Hans Richter in Vienna in 1881. Though historically significant for that reason, the 1880 version was never published or performed again.
  4. 1881: Karlsruhe Version. Following the Vienna premiere, Bruckner made some further revisions, particularly in Movements 2 & 4. Felix Mottl conducted the first performance of this version in Karlruhe that same year, without Bruckner present. It was poorly received, but many musicologists regard this as the "definitive version." This was the version Robert Haas, editor for the International Bruckner Society, published in 1936 and 1944. If your recording says something like "1878/80 Version: Edited by Robert Haas," or simply, "Haas Edition," you may take that to mean this version of the symphony.
  5. 1886: New York Version. Bruckner makes still more changes before giving the symphony to Anton Seidl, who conducted the "revised definitive" version in New York in 1888. Leopold Nowak, Haas's successor, published this version in 1953 under the confusing misnomer "1878/80 Version." So if your recording mentions those dates and adds "Edited by Leopold Nowak," or "Nowak Edition," it is actually based on Bruckner's 1886 version.
  6. 1887: Löwe-Schalk Version. Ferdinand Löwe, Franz Schalk, and Joseph Schalk thoroughly revise the score, allegedly under Bruckner's supervision. Meant to be the first published edition, this version had its first performance in Vienna, under Richter, in 1888. Because Bruckner was dissatisfied with that performance, the 1887 version was never published or performed again.
  7. 1888: Final Version. Bruckner makes some final, major revisions to all four movements following the premiere of the 1887 version. It was this version that the firm of Albert J. Gutman published in 1889, and again with the errata corrected in 1890. This was the only version anybody heard from 1888 to 1936; it is often, perhaps erroneously, identified with the Löwe-Schalk Version.
So, why all the confusion and controversy? Why doesn't everybody simply perform the final version, which represents Bruckner's final documented thoughts on this symphony, and which was published with his approval during his lifetime? The remarkable sequence of revisions and rewrites that I have just decribed isn't the problem. The problem - The Bruckner Problem - is that we're not sure the 1888 version really represents Bruckner's wishes. In fact, musicologists are bitterly divided on this. Some seem to be unable to decide which is the most authentic version of the Fourth. Others are rabidly opinionated on the matter, whether or not their opinion is based on documented evidence.

Point of Contention #1: Haas took his "definitive edition" from Bruckner's 1881 revision, though he somewhat confusingly described it as the 1878/80 version. Nowak compounds the confusion by basing his "1878/80 version" on the 1886 score. So two recordings of a so-called 1878/80 version may, in fact, contain two different versions of the symphony. So, look carefully at the record label. A good CD issue will probably say whether it is a recording of the Haas or Nowak edition. Recordings of the Haas edition include the first complete recording of the Fourth, conducted by Karl Böhm in 1936. One can also find this edition in recordings by Bruno Walter (CBS, 1960), Herbert von Karajan (EMI, 1970), Georg Tintner (Naxos, 1996), Günter Wand (live for BMG, 1998), and others. As for the Nowak edition, it has been performed by Eugen Jochum (DG, 1955 & -65), Georg Solti (London, 1981), Giuseppe Sinopoli (DG, 1987), Simon Rattle (EMI, 2006), and many others, including some who had also conducted the Haas version.

Point of Contention #2: Were Haas and Nowak correct about the 1878/80 version being "definitive"? New evidence casts doubt on their views. It is now clear that sloppy scholarship, unfounded assumptions, and subjective, inconsistently-applied criteria were used to rule out the authenticity of the score published by Gutmann in 1889-90. The picture of Bruckner as an insecure composer too willing to bend to pressure (e.g. from people like Löwe and the Schalks) to make revisions against his own judgment is no longer as credible today as when Haas popularized it. Plus, a manuscript long thought to prove that Bruckner still supported the 1878/80 version in 1890 has been debunked. Meanwhile, the existence of Bruckner's own 1888 revisions cannot be discounted as readily as Haas and others claimed. So, brace yourself for a new wave of recordings of the 1889-90 edition, republished in a critical edition by Benjamin Korstvedt in 2004. It has already been recorded by conductor Akira Naito (Delta, 2005). Or, you may also find earlier recordings based on Gutmann's first published edition, such as those conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1951.

It is also possible, if you are really interested, to hear the original, 1874 version of the symphony in all its unrevised glory. Published by Nowak in the 1970s, it has been recorded under the baton of Eliahu Inbal (Teldec, 1982). Even the Volksfest finale of 1878 is on disc, thanks again to Tintner (Naxos, 1998).

So, before I go on to "Reading Bruckner's Fourth," do your best to wrap your mind around The Bruckner Problem. I hope my summary helps more than it hurts. Though I would like to hear and compare the Haas and Korstvedt editions, perhaps the 1874 version, and even (someday) the Volksfest, for now I am content with my CD of a 1967 recording of the Nowak "1878/80" (i.e., 1886) version, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Eugene Ormandy. I simply don't have room in my library, my schedule, or my brain to pursue a comparative study of Bruckner's 4th recordings. In my next post I will stick to one and only one topic: what Bruckner's Fourth means to me.

IMAGES: Bruckner at various ages; part of a manuscript from a Bruckner Symphony.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reading Tchaikovsky's 5th

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93) wrote his Fifth Symphony in E minor over the summer of 1888, and conducted its premiere himself later that year. Clocking in at about 46 minutes, it has the usual four movements, though the third is a Valse (Waltz). One of the remarkable things about the symphony - though not unique, even among Tchaikovsky's works - is its use of cyclical methods. Which is to say, the same thematic material appears in all four movements, though in a different character each time.

The motto in this instance is a theme borrowed from one of Glinka's operas, where the lyrics said "Do not give way to sorrow." This, of course, means nothing to most listeners who aren't well-versed in Russian opera. So what we hear is an abstract motto-theme going through a gradual transformation, through all four movements, from the somber shuffle of a funeral cortège to the dazzling brilliance of a military march. And so, instead of hearing the work as four abstract movements united by key relationships and musical proportions, we experience Symphony Five as a philosophical treatise, a single argument spanning all four movements, in which Tchaikovsky seems to affirm a kind of optimism in the face of life's difficulties. You could say that it is a Musical Essay on Courage, and a significant one too, coming as it does between the grim fatalism of the Fourth Symphony and the cynical despair of the Sixth.

Movement I, Andante, begins very quietly, with two clarinets in unison introducing the motto theme in a mournful, low register against a spare accompaniment by the lower strings. At bar 38, the tempo changes to Allegro con anima (fast and spirited), and at the same time the meter switches to a marchlike 6/8. A solo clarinet and solo bassoon together introduce the first theme of the movement proper, at first quietly. Other instruments gradually join in as the strings take command of the theme; the volume and textural density grows. By bar 116, Tchaikovsky has effected a transition to the key of F-sharp major, where the strings introduce a juicy new idea, afterward taken up by the winds against pizzicato accompaniment. This in turn forms a transition to a "slightly more animated" D-major theme (bar 154) where the winds and strings dialogue with each other; then a "much more tranquil" syncopated theme blending both choirs. This accelerates to a codetta based on the dialogue theme, which you knew was going to be good for that kind of thing the first moment you heard it.

As this codetta dies away, the development begins immediately (bar 226) with the first theme (the marchlike one). This stirs up some excitement, which then moves to the background as Tchaikovsky trots out the juicy second theme, instantly transforming it from yawning decadence to brisk urgency. The dialogue/codetta theme soon commands a huge climax, sounding frantic this time. All this quiets down in time for the recap, which begins at bar 320. This time when we get to the second ("juicy") theme it's in the key of G-sharp. This key, though not closely related to either E minor or E major, hints that the movement's argument will be decided in favor of E major.* Sure enough, the codetta (dialogue theme) appears in E major this time, followed by the syncopated tune we haven't heard since the exposition. Now where the expo died down to make way for the development, the recap ramps up to an exciting coda focusing on the marchlike first theme.

Movement II, Andante cantabile (measured and lyrical), opens with a soft, sustained string passage that proves to be accompaniment for the solo horn melody you have been waiting to hear all your life. This horn theme alternates with an idea introduced by the oboe, Tchaikovsky husbanding the pair through changes in key, instrumentation and decoration. The movement's "B section" starts at bar 66 with a theme announced by the clarinet, a theme with an exotic hint of Central Asian flavor. This section builds up to a climax where, suddenly, the motto from the slow intro to Movement I appears in a guise of threatening stridency. The music's reaction to this invasion is, as it were, to freeze in shock. Then the opening horn theme returns (in the violins this time), and the music gradually recovers its confidence. Before you know, the mood actually becomes cheerful - then goes beyond that into thrilling strains of triumph.

But wait! Just when it seems to be calming down for a quietly satisfied conclusion, the "Do not give way to sorrow" motto-cum-nasty fanfare comes back in all its disturbing horror, an effect made particularly devilish by the difference of a tritone (augmented fourth, a.k.a. diabolus in musica) between the expected tonic resolution in D and the actual harmonic progression to G-sharp. This time, perhaps fortified by its previous experience, the music seems to sigh: "Oh, well!" and goes on with its quiet closing, based on the theme the oboe introduced. The final page of the movement would be peaceful if it wasn't undermined by a vaguely disturbing background of swelling and subsiding triplets in the horns and winds.

Movement III, that aforementioned Valse in A major, flows along with limpid (not to say limping) grace. Beneath the surface, however, there is a feeling of instability or uncertainty, signaled by chromatic notes in the inner parts. At bar 57 the bassoon introduces a remarkable tune in which rising sixths alternate with falling sevenths, an effect that perhaps looks ahead to the spikiness of many a 20th century tune. A rustling, bustling central episode enters the scene at bar 73. This new idea puts a bright sparkle on the movement, and enables us to visit a variety of tonal centers. Its animation hasn't quite let go its grip when the initial waltz theme steps back in. The movement closes with a coda full of confidence and good cheer, in which the motto theme does not fail to appear. In this instance, the motto seems to join in the dance, albeit in the (perhaps facetiously) grudging manner of an old uncle submitting to his nephews' and nieces' cajolery.

Movement IV doesn't keep us in suspense as to how or when the motto theme will appear. It presents it up front as a warmly glowing march theme in E major. Here the tempo is marked Andante maestoso: measured and majestic. Tchaikovsky really opens it up for the first time, letting it have its head for some 57 measures, before a change to E minor, a much livelier tempo, and a theme of such a harsh mien that many of its first hearers were offended, interpreting this movement as a depiction of warlike savagery. But this is only the first of a fascinating gallery of contrasting ideas, from the phlegmatic, transitional theme introduced by the winds at bar 82, to the gorgeous, soaring, elated theme first heard at bar 128. And of course, that triumphant march tune (based on the motto) is always ready to reappear.

The argument of the finale's brief development section is based entirely on the elated theme. When the warlike theme reappears at the beginning of the recap, it is with a new countermelody. The third appearance of the motto-march is given even more weight than before; and after wrapping up the recap in a blaze of brass, the motto theme commands a faster and even more majestic coda (bar 472ff). Then, as if this isn't enough, Pyotr Ilyich adds a Presto passage in which the triumph seems to dissolve into a communal jig of glee and in which, appropriately, the elated theme makes one last appearance, like a hero in a parade - briefly glimpsed, waving - before being swallowed up by the crowd. Finally, at measure 546, Tchaikowsky tops the whole lollapalooza with a much slower, closing fanfare based on the first theme from Movement I.

Frankly, I don't understand how early critics could have heard this as a movement full of "slaughter, dire and bloody." I think it's glorious. The only "dire and bloody" theme is the heard but briefly at the beginning of the exposition and recap. To be sure, the ending is intemperate and noisy, like the "jumping yaks" of Beethoven's Seventh, and perhaps drawn out to an even greater degree; but it is a joyful, encouraging ending that, due to the way the motto theme holds the whole symphony together, delivers a powerful message of hope: the hope of future victory in spite of, and all the sweeter because of, the griefs and horrors of the present life. I hope Tchaikovsky believed it, because he had a full share of griefs and horrors.

I have heard an arrangement of this symphony's slow movement for organ solo. Parts of this symphony have also turned up in the soundtrack of several films, and one daring impresario staged the entire symphony as a ballet under the title Les Présages. Though it doesn't attract quite the popular following of Tchaikovsky's darker, even-numbered masterpieces, it seems to speak to a lot of people. I hope you, too, will engage it in conversation some time.

*(Another explanation for the switch to G-sharp major is that the transition from the second theme to the codetta is the same in both parts of the movement; so, simply by moving the second theme up an extra step, Tchaikovsky manages to land in E instead of D.) IMAGES: Portraits of Tchaikovsky, with apologies to Bridgeman's Art Library.

EDIT: Here is a video of Leonard Bernstein conducting the first movement of this symphony with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Timeline of Symphonic Masterpieces

Lately, in my Symphony blogs, I have been increasingly careful to note the date each symphony was written and/or premiered, and how that relates to a timeline of the composer's life and his place in history. This is beginning to lead to embarrassment, however. In looking up the dates of the symphonies in "Assignment 3," I find that I am treating them atrociously out of order. In setting the assignment, I was moved more by a sense of the order in which one composer is associated with another in my mind. Unfortunately it makes for a very slipshod organization.

So, lest the order of my blog posts mislead you as to where these great symphonies belong in the timeline, here is a list of some selected symphonic works (starting with Haydn's Paris Symphonies), arranged in order of their year they were originally completed. Before the numbers following a composer's name please insert the words "Symphony (-ies) No." The tag (r) means "revised version." Likewise, (u) means "unfinished."

J. Haydn: 83, 85, 87
M. Haydn: 30-31

J. Haydn: 82, 84, 86
M. Haydn: 32-33
Mozart: 38

J. Haydn: 88-89

J. Haydn: 90-91
M. Haydn: 34-39
Mozart: 39-41

J. Haydn: 92
M. Haydn: 40-41

J. Haydn (likewise below): 93-96

Haydn: 97-98

Haydn: 99-100

Haydn: 101-102

Haydn: 103-104

Beethoven: 1

Beethoven: 2

Beethoven: 3

Beethoven: 4

Beethoven: 5-6

Méhul: 1-3

Bomtempo: 1 (2?)
Méhul: 4, 5 (u)

Spohr: 1

Beethoven: 7-8

Schubert: 1

Schubert: 2-3

Cherubini: Symphony in D
Schubert: 4-5

Schubert: 6

Spohr: 2

Schubert: 8 (u)

Beethoven: 9
Mendelssohn: 1

Schubert: 9

Spohr: 3

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Onslow: 1
Wagner: Symphony in C

Mendelssohn: 5
Onslow: 2
Spohr: 4

Mendelssohn: 4

Berlioz: Harold en Italie
Onslow: 3

Spohr: 5

Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette

Berlioz: Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale
Mendelssohn: 2
Spohr: 6

Schumann: 1, 4

Berlioz: Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (r)
Gade: 1
Mendelssohn: 3

Berwald: 1
Gade: 2

Berwald: 3

Onslow: 4
Schumann: 2

Gade: 3

Berwald: 4

Gade: 4
Schumann: 3
Spohr: 9

Rubinstein: 2
Schumann: 4 (r)

Gade: 5

Bizet: Symphony in C
Gounod: 1-2

Gade: 6
Liszt: Faust, Dante
Spohr: 10 (u)

Gade: 7

Dvorak: 1-2
Rimsky-Korsakov: 1

Bruckner: 1
Tchaikovsky: 1

Bruch: 1
Rimsky-Korsakov: Antar (2)

Borodin: 1
Bruckner: 0

Bruch: 2

Gade: 8

Bruckner: 2
Tchaikovsky: 2

Bruckner: 3
Dvorak: 3
Rimsky-Korsakov: 3

Bruckner: 4
Dvorak: 4

Dvorak: 5
Rimsky-Korsakov: Antar (r)
Tchaikovsky: 3

Borodin: 2
Brahms: 1
Bruckner: 2 (r), 5

Brahms: 2
Bruckner: 3 (r)

Bruckner: 5 (r)
Tchaikovsky: 4

Suk: 1

Bruckner: 4 (r)
Dvorak: 6

Bruckner: 6
Glazunov: 1

Bruch: 3

Brahms: 3
Bruckner: 7

Glazunov: 1
Rimsky-Korsakov: 1 (r)

Brahms: 4
Bruckner: 7 (r)
Dvorak: 7
Tchaikovsky: Manfred

D'Indy: Symphony on a French Mountain Air
Glazunov: 2
Rimsky-Korsakov: 3 (r)
Rubinstein: 6
Saint-Saëns: 3

Borodin: 3 (u)
Bruckner: 8

Bruckner: 4 (r)
Franck: Symphony in D minor
Mahler: 1
Tchaikovsky: 5

Bruckner: 3 (r)
Dvorak: 8

Bruckner: 2 (r), 8 (r)
Chausson: Symphony in B-flat
Glazunov: 3

Bruckner: 1 (r)

Bruckner: 8 (r)
Nielsen: 1
Sibelius: Kullervo

Bruckner: 1 (r)
Dvorak: 9
Glazunov: 4
Tchaikovsky: 6

Mahler: 1 (r), 2

Glazunov: 5
Rachmaninoff: 1
Vianna da Motta: A Pátria

Bruckner: 9 (u)
Dukas: Symphony in C
Glazunov: 6
Mahler: 3

Alfvén: 1
Rimsky-Korsakov: Antar (r)

Ives: 1
Sibelius: 1

Glière: 1
Holst: The Cotswolds
Scriabin: 1

Alfvén: 2
Ives: 2
Mahler: 4

Bloch: Symphony in C-sharp minor
Mahler: 5
Nielsen: 2
Scriabin: 2
Sibelius: 2

Glazunov: 7

Mahler: 6
Scriabin: 3
Strauss: Symphonia Domestica

Alfvén: 3
Enescu: 1

Glazunov: 8
Mahler: 7
Roussel: 1
Suk: 2

Glière: 2
Mahler: 8
Rachmaninoff: 2
Sibelius: 3
Stravinksy: Symphony in E-flat

Elgar: 1
Myaskovsky: 1

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony (1)

Glazunov: 9 (u)
Ives: 3
Mahler: 9, 10 (u)
Szymanowski: 2

Elgar: 2
Glière: 3
Myaskovsky: 2
Nielsen: 3
Sibelius: 4

Enescu: 2
Myaskovsky: 3
Respighi: Sinfonia Drammatica
Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony (2)

Martin: Symphony
Sibelius: 5
Stenhammar: 2
Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie

Bloch: Israel
Ives: 4
Nielsen: 4
Sibelius: 5 (r)
Szymanowski: 3

Prokofiev: 1

Enescu: 3
Myaskovsky: 4

Alfvén: 4
Myaskovsky: 5
Sibelius: 5 (r)
Villa Lobos: 4

Roussel: 2

Bax: 1
Hanson: 1
Myaskovsky: 7
Nielsen: 5
Vaughan Williams: A Pastoral Symphony (3)
Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony

Myaskovsky: 6
Sibelius: 6

Freitas Branco: 1
Sibelius: 7

Hindemith: Concerto for Orchestra
Myaskovsky: 8
Nielsen: 6
Prokofiev: 2
Shostakovich: 1

Bax: 2
Freitas Branco: 2

Brian: 1 (largest symphony ever)
Myaskovsky: 9-10
Shostakovich: 2

Copland: 1
Larsson: 1
Prokofiev: 3
Webern: Symphony

Bax: 3
Copland: Symphonic Ode

Bax: 4
Hanson: 2
Hindemith: Concert Music for Strings and Brass
Honegger: 1
Prokofiev: 4
Roussel: 3
Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms

Shostakovich: 3
R. Thompson: 2

Bax: 5
Kabalevsky: 1
Myaskovsky: 11-12
Szymanowski: 4

Copland: Short Symphony
Harris: Symphony 1933 (1)
Kabalevsky: 3
Myaskovsky: 13-14

Elgar: 3 (u)
Harris: 2
Hindemith: Mathis der Maler
Kabalevsky: 2
Khachaturian: 1
Myaskovsky: 15-16
Roussel: 4
Yamada: Nagauta Symphony
Zemlinsky: Sinfonietta

Bax: 6
[William] Schuman: 1
Vaughan Williams: 4
Walton: 1

Barber: Symphony in One Movement
Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta
Rachmaninoff: 3
Shostakovich: 4

Larsson: 2
Myaskovsky: 17-18
Piston: 1
Schuman: 2
Shostakovich: 5

Bax: 7
Harris: 3
Milhaud: 1
Myaskovsky: 19
Shotakovich: 6

Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem
Hindemith: Symphony in E-flat
Myaskovsky: 20-21
Stravinksy: Symphony in C

Hanson: 3
Honegger: 2
Myaskovsky: 22-23
Schuman: 3
Shostakovich: 7

Bernstein: 1
Harris: Folksong Symphony (4), 5
Martinů: 1
Schuman: 4

Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra
Hanson: 4
Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphoses
Khachaturian: 2
Martinů: 2
Myaskovsky: 24
Piston: 2
Schuman: 5
Shostakovich: 8
Vaughan Williams: 5

Barber: 2
Freitas Branco: 3
Harris: 6
Khachaturian: 2 (r)
Martinů: 3
Milhaud: 2
Prokofiev: 5

Larsson: 3
Martin: Petite Symphonie Concertante
Martinů: 4
Shostakovich: 9
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements

Copland: 3
Hindemith: Sinfonia Serena
Honegger: 3-4
Martinů: 5
Milhaud: 3
Myaskovsky: 25

Braga Santos: 1
Khachaturian: Symphony-Poem (3)
Lutosławski: 1
Milhaud: 4
Prokofiev: 6
Vaughan Williams: 6

Braga Santos: 2
Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie
Myaskovsky: 26
Piston: 3
Schuman: 6

Bernstein: 2
Braga Santos: 3
Britten: Spring Symphony
Hindemith: Sinfonietta in E
Myaskovsky: 27

Braga Santos: 4
Honegger: 5
Piston: 4
Rorem: 1

Dutilleux: 1
Hindemith: Die Harmonie der Welt
Shostakovich: 10

Freitas Branco: 4
Harris: 7
Prokofiev: 7
Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia antarctica (7)

Alfvén: 5
Bloch: Sinfonia Breve
Martinů: Fantaisies symphoniques (3)
Milhaud: 5

Bloch: Symphony for Trombone & Orchestra
Piston: 5

Bloch: Symphony in E-flat
Hanson: 5
Milhaud: 6-7
Piston: 6
Vaughan Williams: 8

Kabalevsky: 4
Rorem: 2

Milhaud: 8
Shostakovich: 11
Vaughan Williams: 9
Villa Lobos: 12

Rorem: 3

Dutilleux: 2
Milhaud: 9

Milhaud: 10-11
Piston: 7
Schuman: 7
Walton: 2

Milhaud: 12
Shostakovich: 12

Harris: 8-9
Schuman: 8
Shostakovich: 13

Bernstein: 3

Bernstein: 2 (r)
Piston: 8
Harris: 10

Braga Santos: 5

Hanson: 6
Harris: 11
Lutosławski: 2

Schuman: 9

Berio: Sinfonia
Harris: 12
Shostakovich: 14

Shostakovich: 15

Braga Santos: 6

Penderecki: 1

Schuman: 10

Gorecki: 3
Harris: Bicentennial Symphony (13)

Bernstein: 3 (r)
Hanson: 7

Penderecki: 2

Lutosławski: 3

Rouse: 1

Penderecki: 3

Penderecki: 4

Corigliano: 1

Lutosławski: 4
Penderecki: 5

Rouse: 2

Penderecki: 3 (r)

Penderecki: 7

Corigliano: 2

Penderecki: 8

IMAGES: Left column: Michael Haydn; Étienne Méhul; Georges Onslow; Franz Berwald; Anton Rubinstein; Camille Saint-Saëns, Alexander Glazunov, Reinhold Glière, Arnold Bax, Anton Webern, Lars-Erik Larsson, William Schuman, Paul Hindemith, Ned Rorem, Luciano Berio, and Witold Lutosławski. Right column: Luigi Cherubini, Max Bruch, Niels Gade, Vincent d'Indy, Cesar Franck, Charles Gounod, Albert Roussel, Ernst Bloch, William Walton, Frank Martin, Bohuslav Martinů, Roy Harris, Dmitri Kabalevsky, Christopher Rouse, and John Corigliano. Whew!