Tchaikovsky : Symphony No.2 in C minor, Op.17 “Little Russian”

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 2Little Russian“Royal Concertgebouw OrchestraBernard Haitink

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: 
 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17 was composed in 1872. One of Tchaikovsky’s joyful compositions, it was successful right from its premiere and also won the favor of the group of nationalistic Russian composers known as “The Five“, led by Mily Balakirev. Because Tchaikovsky used three Ukrainian folk songs to great effect in this work, it was nicknamed the “Little Russian” (Russian: Малороссийская, Malorossiyskaya) by Nikolay Kashkin, a friend of the composer as well as a well-known musical critic of Moscow.[1] Ukraine was at that time frequently called “Little Russia“.
  1. 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.
  2. 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    This movement was originally a bridal march Tchaikovsky wrote for his unpublished opera Undine.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.
  3. ScherzoAllegro 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.
  4. 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.[2] 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.[2]


7 responses to “Tchaikovsky : Symphony No.2 in C minor, Op.17 “Little Russian”

  1. Pingback: Symphony No. 3 in D Major, Op. 29 “Polish” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: great compositions/performances | euzicasa

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  4. Pingback: great compositions/performances: Barbirolli – Arensky: Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky (improved sound) | euzicasa

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  6. I love Tchaikovsky. He is on my list to be covered soon. Is this your favorite Tchaikovsky piece, or is there another one you prefer? I’m always looking for new pieces and composers.


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