|Spring Plowing: Alexsey Venetsianov, 1820s|
"I am now composing a new symphony, but am taking it steadily, not spending all my time on it, and taking long walks." --Tchaikovsky in a letter to friends, summer of 1875In the first half of the concert, the third symphony charmed with a robust, Romantic pastoralism. Although the symphony is sometimes known as the "Polish," the adopted dance forms of its five movements evoked a robust rusticity which (however artificially constructed) did not have the specific national connotations which that title suggests (see this article by R.S. Edgecombe for more context on the use of dance forms such as the waltz in the Romantic symphony.) Thanks to the musicians of the Mariinksy, this seemed full-blooded rather than merely quaint. The dark-hued strings evoked fields ripe for the harvest, and the well-handled woodwind solos the dancing with which the harvest was celebrated. The romanticism I always associate with Tchaikovsky was indeed present, but in the exuberant celebration of nature and those who lived close to it, worlds away from Sturm und Drang. The tempest was to come.