Listening Logs Symphonic Band
DUE MONDAY, 11/16
Please click on the link to access the listening. Type in the user name and password given in class: http://naxosmusiclibrary.com/home.asp When logged in, please select "playlists" at the top scroll bar, click on the "Kennedy Middle School" folder on the left and select "Symphonic Band Winter Concert." I have placed the entire ballet on the playlist; however, you only need to listen to the following tracks: Overture, March, Coffee-Arabian Dance, Trepak-Russian Dance, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, & Dance of the Toy Flutes.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Tchaikovsky also spelled Chaikovsky, Chaikovskii, or Tschaikowsky, name in full Anglicized as Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (born April 25 [May 7, New Style], 1840, Votkinsk, Russia—died October 25 [November 6], 1893, St. Petersburg), the most popular Russian composer of all time. His music has always had great appeal for the general public in virtue of its tuneful, open-hearted melodies, impressive harmonies, and colourful, picturesque orchestration, all of which evoke a profound emotional response. His oeuvre includes 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 3 ballets, 5 suites, 3 piano concertos, a violin concerto, 11 overtures (strictly speaking, 3 overtures and 8 single movement programmatic orchestral works), 4 cantatas, 20 choral works, 3 string quartets, a string sextet, and more than 100 songs and piano pieces.
His artistic philosophy gave priority to what may be called “emotional progression”—i.e., the establishment of an immediate rapport with the audience through the anticipation and eventual achievement of catharsis (relief). His music does not claim intellectual depth but conveys the joys, loves, and sorrows of the human heart with striking and poignant sincerity. In his attempt to synthesize the sublime with the introspective, and also in the symbolism of his later music, Tchaikovsky anticipated certain sensibilities that later became prominent in the culture of Russian modernism.
Tchaikovsky was the leading exponent of Romanticism in its characteristically Russian mold, which owes as much to the French and Italian musical traditions as it does to the German. Although not as ostentatiously as the nationalist composers, such as Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky was clearly inspired by Russian folk music. In the words of the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky, “Tchaikovsky drew unconsciously from the true, popular sources of our race.”
The first great Russian symphonist, he exhibited a particular gift for melody and orchestration. In his best work, the powerful tunes underlining musical themes are harmonized into magnificent, formally innovative compositions. His resourceful use of instruments allows easy identification of most of his works by their characteristic sonority. Tchaikovsky excelled primarily as a master of instrumental music; his operas, often eclectic in subject matter and style, do not find much appreciation in the West, with the exception of Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades. Whereas most of his operas met with limited success, Tchaikovsky nonetheless proved eminently successful in transforming ballet, then a grand decorative gesture, into a staged musical drama, and thus he revolutionized the genre.
Moreover, Tchaikovsky brought an integrity of design that elevated ballet to the level of symphonic music. To this end, he employed a symphonist’s sense of large-scale structure, organizing successive dances through the use of keys to create a cumulative feeling of purpose, in distinction to the more random or decorative layout in the ballets of his predecessors. His special sense of how melody can engender the dance gave his ballets a unique place in the world’s theatres. The influence of his experimentation is evident in the ballets of Sergey Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian.
Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poems are part of the line of development in single-movement programmatic works initiated by Franz Liszt, and they run the gamut of expressive and stylistic features that typify the genre. At one extreme the early Fatum (1868) shows a freedom of form and modernist expression. At the other extreme is the classical poise of the Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture, in which passionate Romanticism is counterbalanced by the rigours of the sonata form. Furthermore, Tchaikovsky loosened the strictures of chamber music by introducing unorthodox meter in the scherzo of the Second String Quartet in F Major, Opus 22 (1874), and undermining the sense of key in the finale. His innovation is also evident in the second movement of the string sextet Souvenir de Florence (1890), for which he wrote music that revels in almost pure sound-effect—something more familiar in the orchestral sphere. His skill in counterpoint, the traditional bedrock of chamber music, can also be seen throughout his chamber works.
Tchaikovsky’s approach to solo piano music, on the other hand, remained mostly traditional, that is, it more or less satisfied the 19th-century taste for short salon pieces with descriptive titles, usually arranged in groups, as in the famous The Seasons (1875–76). In several of his piano pieces, Tchaikovsky’s melodic flair surfaces, but on the whole he was far less committed when composing these works than he was when writing his orchestral music, concertos, operas, and chamber compositions.
Tchaikovsky steered an unlikely path between the Russian nationalist tendencies so prominent in the work of his rivals in The Five and the cosmopolitan stance encouraged by his conservatory training. He was both a Russian nationalist and a Westernizer of polished technical skill. He put his personal stamp on the late-19th-century symphony with his last three symphonies; they demonstrate a heightened subjectivity that would influence Gustav Mahler, Sergey Rachmaninoff, and Dmitry Shostakovich and encourage the genre to pass with renewed vigour into the 20th century.
It cannot be denied that the quality of Tchaikovsky’s oeuvre remains uneven. Some of his music is undistinguished—hastily written, repetitious, or self-indulgent. But in such symphonies as his No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, and Manfred and in many of his overtures, suites, and songs, he achieved the unity of melodic inspiration, dramatic content, and mastery of form that elevates him to the premiere rank of the world’s composers.
On the Nutcraker Ballet/Suite:
The story of The Nutcracker is loosely based on the E.T.A. Hoffmann fantasy story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, about a girl who befriends a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and wages a battle against the evil Mouse King. Hoffmann’s story is darker and more troubling than the version that reached the stage; the Imperial Russian Ballet choreographer Marius Petipa chose to follow a light adaptation of the story written by Alexandre Dumas père.
Tchaikovsky began work in February 1891, continuing his efforts while on an American tour later that year for the opening of Carnegie Hall. His homeward journey took him through Paris, where he discovered a new instrument: the celesta, whose clear, bell-like tone was perfectly fitted toThe Nutcracker’s fairy-tale ambience. In the celesta’s ethereal notes, Tchaikovsky recognized the “voice” of his Sugar Plum Fairy, and he immediately wrote to his publisher, asking that the instrument be acquired for the performance.
Selections from The Nutcracker were first performed as an orchestral suite in March 1892. The ballet proper debuted in December of that year. It was presented at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre on a double bill with Tchaikovsky’s one-act opera, Iolanta. In a letter to a friend, Tchaikovsky himself remarked, “Apparently the opera gave pleasure, but the ballet not really; and, as a matter of fact, in spite of all the sumptuousness it did turn out to be rather boring.” He thought little of it, describing it as “infinitely worse than Sleeping Beauty.” The reference was to the second of his three ballets; the first had been Swan Lake.
THE NUTCRACKER SYNOPSIS
Herr Stahlbaum and his wife are giving a Christmas Party. Clara and Fritz, their children, greet the guests. The parents give toys to all the children. Suddenly, the mysterious Dr. Drosselmeyer arrives and entertains the children with his magical tricks and wind-up dolls.
Dr. Drosselmeyer brings a special gift for Clara - a wooden nutcracker. In a jealous fit, Fritz breaks it. Dr. Drosselmeyer quickly repairs it.
The party ends, the guests leave, and the Stahlbaums retire for the night. Clara awakens as a mouse runs through her room. The clock strikes midnight. Suddenly, the room fills with giant mice who attack Clara. Life-size toy soldiers, led by her valiant Nutcracker, come to her rescue. The King Rat attacks the Nutcracker, but Clara hits him with her shoe and the Nutcracker wins the battle. After the battle, the Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince.
The Nutcracker Prince turns the Stahlbaum's house into the Land of Snow. The Snow Queen and the Nutcracker Prince dance with the Snowflakes. Clara and the Nutcracker Prince depart for the Kingdom of Sweets in an enchanted sleigh.
Clara and the Nutcracker Prince continue their journey across the Lemonade Sea. When they arrive in the Kingdom of Sweets, the cooks are preparing delectable treats for their arrival. They are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. In Clara's honor, the Sugar Plum Fairy arranges for the inhabitants of her kingdom to entertain them while they eat: chocolate, a Spanish Dance; coffee, an Arabian Dance; and tea, a Chinese Dance. Clara is also entertained by the dance of the Mirlitons, a dance with Madame Bonbonaire and her clowns, a Russian dance, and the Waltz of the Flowers. Then, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince dance a grand pas de deux. As the celebration draws to a close, Clara drifts off to sleep. She awakens in bed, as the Nutcracker Prince salutes his princess Clara.