- Andante sostenuto — Allegro vivo (C minor).
- A solo horn playing a Ukrainian variant of “Down by Mother Volga” sets the atmosphere for this movement. Tchaikovsky reintroduces this song in the development section, and the horn sings it once more at the movement’s conclusion. The rather vigorous second subject utilises a melody which would also be used subsequently by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in his Russian Easter Festival Overture. The end of the exposition, in the relative E-flat major, leads straight into the development, in which material from both themes is heard. A long pedal note leads back to the second subject. Unusually, Tchaikovsky does not repeat the first subject theme in its entirety in this section, as is conventional, but instead uses it solely for the coda.
- Andantino marziale, quasi moderato (E-flat major).
- This movement was originally a bridal march Tchaikovsky wrote for his unpublished opera Undine. He quotes the folk song “Spin, O My Spinner” in the central section.
- Scherzo. Allegro molto vivace (C minor).
- Fleet and scampering, this movement does not quote an actual folk song but sounds folk song-like in its overall character. It takes the form of a da capo scherzo and trio with a coda.
- Finale. Moderato assai — Allegro vivo (C major).
- After a brief but expansive fanfare, Tchaikovsky quotes the folk song “The Crane”, subjecting it to an increasingly intricate and colorful variations for orchestra. A more lyrical theme from the strings provides contrast before the symphony ends in a rousing C major conclusion.
Despite its initial success, Tchaikovsky was not satisfied with the symphony. He revised the work extensively in 1879-80, substantially rewriting the opening movement and shortening the finale. This revision is the version of the symphony usually performed today, although there have also been supporters of the original version. Among those advocates was the composer’s friend and former student, Sergei Taneyev, who was himself a noted composer and pedagogue.