His melodies undulate back and forth between crashing gargantuan pillars of sound and the lightest most delicate tiptoes of fairy steps.
It just makes sense that he wrote so many ballets because the whirling energy of his orchestrations perfectly balance the image of ballerinas twirling onstage. Yes, much of his music is overplayed and undervalued–looking at you Nutcracker.
Swan Lake is thunderously under appreciated. I had a small little hand cranked music box on a handle that played the theme from that ballet and it always sounds melancholy and magical but at the same time powerful.
The 1812 Overture is glorious. I listen to it in the mornings to get myself ready for the day. And not just the part where they fire cannons. The whole thing is intense but complex with intertwining layers of soft melodies that build to the crash of the final twenty seconds. He doesn’t just throw the power in your face. He carefully crafts it so you don’t even see it coming till it’s upon you!
Back and forth his notes climb and spiral, twist and weave till at least you reach the final spire–then fall in a heap to the ground.
His music is movement, power, subtlety and a harsh beauty.
I grew up playing classical music. A lot of classical music. Thrown in for good measure was some traditional Celtic, Old Time and blue grass but that is for another post! I love classical music in all it’s forms and genres and intense complex histories.
Over the years I have noticed classical music blossoming into a new genre: classical crossover. And while I wish people could just find Bach, and Vivaldi and Beethoven as wonderful and intense as I do I get that most modern day people find classical music nerdy (and not in the ‘cool’ Big Bang Theory nerd way) and outdated. These young musicians are taking popular songs and classical-ing them up! I love it!
Now while I like the idea in general I do have some criticisms with the genre. Groups who regurgitate verbatim pop and rock tunes irritate me. It’s the same irritation that I have with everyone who says movie adaptations of books should have everything the books do. Cross musical genres, to a certain extent, is like crossing mediums–something is going to have to adapt to make it work. Violins and cellos are not going to carry rhythm and tune the same as guitars and electric music making devices.
What I really like are the groups like 2cellos who take a pop song but completely cover it in their own flavor! (I hope that doesn’t sound creepy!) The original is there and evident but it is covered in layers of classical notes and nuances. They have fun with it!
Check out these guys. They might be my absolute favorites!
So I realized today that rather than just rant and rave about my favorite music I should put a little more time and effort into my blogs and provide information on that which I love: music. This is my follow up blog to my previous post about the composer known as Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, whereupon I will try to provide a little more information about one of my favorite composers.
Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky was born in the town of Votkinsk in Russia to a middle class family May 7th, 1840. While his family objected to his becoming a musician pushing him towards a career as a civil servant. While I know it still exists today–families that would rather have a lawyer or doctor over a violinist even if it is their kids fondest wish. It just seems more prevalent back in “tha day” Today our world seems filled with stage moms and dads (and yes, I am VERY keenly aware of Mr. Mozart Sr.!). Perhaps it is just that our world is so much more connected and we hear about these stage moms and dads more than what might have been known in earlier centuries. However, I digress. In 1862 he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory which gave him a solid Western oriented training that really set him apart from the more Nationalistic music being written by the mysterious group known as The Five (which another article may come later because they sound like a cool Russian superhero-musician group!) His life was never the same after losing his mother, and later his patroness and these tragedies bore greatly on the emotions that set him to composition.
Musically his training gave him a wide range of more Western oriented techniques to express his intense emotional outbursts. Some of his music showed the very Classical and Romantic elements of the time while other music gave hints of more nationalistic style. This kind of dichotomy in Tchaikovsky’s larger orchestral music would lead to two categories of work: one, his symphonies which would fall under the heading of ‘program music’ and two, more lyrical work that would fall under the heading of symphonic poems. Both types of work give huge artistic credence to his musicality. Characteristically, Tchaikovsky makes use of harmonies to create tensions that build until there is one big dramatic release of energy and feeling. For the technically musical he utilized German Augmented Sixth chords, minor triads with added major sixths, and augmented triads to create these . I am not up to snuff on my musical composition and theory and will admit that I am not fully aware of what all that means–it is on my to do list! All I know is that what he uses creates hard pounding rises in emotion that sweep through you ending in a resounding clash of sound and energy. It is what I like about him. He was often criticized for a lack of development in his work through out his career, although it could be said that his focus was on these harmonies and the embrace of the release of emotions through them.
For a long time Tchaikovsky’s works were held up to a critical eye, and he was never emotionally secure about his work or his life. While his technical skill and musical architecture were sound the intense emotional outbursts that he favored tended to polarize audiences. However today he is seen as one of the leading ballet composers as well as winning a favored position with concert goers second only to Beethoven. Part of this public change in opinion is due in part to what Harold C. Schonberg terms “a sweet, inexhaustible, supersensuous fund of melody … touched with neuroticism, as emotional as a scream from a window on a dark night.” I think that describes it to a tee. Many today feel that Tchaikovsky is the first ‘professional’ Russian composer who bridged the gap between the old folksong and Russian Orthodox Church music and the new Russian 20th century music (Stravinsky and the like) with his mastery of the Western European symphonic style.
This is by no means a comprehensive biography of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky but only a taste. He was a brilliant yet emotionally dark and unstable artistic genuis in his own way. If you enjoyed this little snippet then really the best way to learn about him is to listen to him–reading about his is also good but nothing really lets you into the soul and heart of a composer like his music.