Tchaikovsky’s Symphonie Pathétique – 10 May 2002

Tchaikovsky death mask

Tchaikovsky’s death mask

Friday, May 10, 2002, 9:59 am, Vancouver, BC

Gloria felt well enough to run yesterday afternoon; I ran as well.

Tchaikovsky during dinner: the sixth symphony, the violin concerto, Capriccio Italien. The thematic material of the last movement – one of the very finest symphonic slow movements – is, I noticed for the first time, derived in compressed form from the lyrical theme of the opening movement, and the trombone chorale that is heard near the end of the finale is itself a further reduction of the compressed material; only, in the finale there is no motion forward as the theme disintegrates – quite unlike the opening movement, where movement breaks forth wildly, forms a waltz in the second movement, and then marches forward still in the third – only to exhaust its effort in the final movement, the bassoons once again sounding the same pattern of turn very, very deep in their register. It is a most remarkable expression of art, and it is the greatest pity that Tchaikovsky died so soon after, just as he was reaching these great heights of composition and commentary on the melancholy fortunes of life.

Listened to Beethoven’s Op. 106 Hammerklavier sonata with the score later in the evening. It is quite an astonishing work, with that very long, introspective, contemplative, half-sad, half-aspiring slow movement. I could actually follow the concluding fugue this time.

Concluded the year 1817 in Thayer over breakfast this morning.

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