All About Tchaikovsky's Deeply Russian First Symphony, "Winter Daydreams"

Dec 2, 2019

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is now known as a classical music giant. But in 1866, he was a young man who had switched careers and was tackling his very first symphony. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more on this early work – titled by the composer, Winter Daydreams.


Listen to a WRTI re-broadcast on Sunday, December 8th at 1 PM of Gianandrea Noseda leading The Philadelphia Orchestra in a November 2015 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1.

Radio Script:

MUSIC: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1

Susan Lewis: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 was no doubt daunting for the 26-year-old to write.

Conductor Gianandrea Noseda

Gianandrea Noseda:  The young Tchaikovsky probably didn’t know he was going to become one of the  greatest composers...

SL: Conductor Gianandrea Noseda  describes this first symphony as deeply Russian.

GN:  I can feel the Borodin elements, some of the Mussorgsky elements, for instance, the beginning, the first few bars of the second movement in this very uncertain key.  The tonality, the chords that are moving in a very subtle way. [Very unpredictable] - every change of chord is a surprise. 

SL:  Tchaikovsky had turned from a career in  law to music, and graduated from a conservatory in St. Petersburg. He took on his first symphony at the suggestion of pianist and conductor Nikolai Rubenstein, who led the premiere in 1868. The work, says Noseda, is also very  personal.

GN:  There is a sort of, not sadness, but tenderness,  and very deep in feelings, with also very extroverted finale; also because he also wanted to show a sort of good and happy part of his personality of course. 

SL: Tchaikovsky would go on to create a body of work that includes more than six symphonies, three ballets, 10 operas, along with concertos and other works for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, and piano.