Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5

Tchaikovsky is known for sketching out his themes for works. In April 1888 he sketched out the themes for a symphony alongside some ideas for a programme for the first movement;

“Intro: Total submission before Fate, or, what is the same thing, the inscrutible designs of Providence.
Allegro: 1. Murmus, laments, doubts, reproaches against…XXX
2. Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???
A wonderful programme, if only it can be fulfilled.

[for the slow movement] A ray of light… No, there is no hope”

But by June he said he was working on a symphony “without programme” so it is thought that the April sketches are for an unfinished work that was set aside for what would become his 5th Symphony. It is unknown how many of the ideas from the unfinished work were recycled into the piece we hear tonight.

It had been 10 years since the completion of his 4th symphony, and it would be another 5 years before he completed his 6th.

It didn’t take Tchaikovsky 10 years to compose his 5th symphony, he did compose several works in the meantime. But in fact, there is a bit of a gap in his composing due in part to his disastrous marriage. One of the most discussed points when it comes to Tchaikovsky is his sexuality and how he married a woman he barely knew to protect him from the stigma against homosexuality. He was deeply embarrassed by his new wife and avoided his friends, and ultimately her presence as well. He eventually fled his wife so he could live in Paris and his brothers began to pay the wife to stay quiet and stay away.

Not all his relationships with women were as disastrous as his marriage. A wealthy widow by the name of Nadezhda von Meck sent a letter to Tchaikovsky wanting to commission some chamber pieces. From this initial letter a correspondence sprang up and soon they were writing each other about music, love, and life. Von Meck ended up paying him a stipend that would allow Tchaikovsky to quit his day job but there was a caveat: They could never meet.

It was during this patronage, and friendship by correspondence, that the 5th Symphony was born. During the slow movement there is a theme associated, by Tchaikovsky, with the words “O que je t’aime! Oh mon amie!” Because of the feminine “amie” writers have suggested that this was a reference to his beloved patroness.

While many of his friends told Tchaikovsky this was his best work, he had doubts about it and wrote to his brother “I am convinced that this symphony is not a success”. Three months later he wrote to his bother again about the 5th symphony after a performance in Hamburg; ” Best of all, I have stopped disliking the symphony. I love it again”.

Despite Tchaikovsky’s doubts about his Symphony No. 5 its somewhat mixed and critical reviews it has gone on to be one of his most popular works.

It has also been a source of inspiration as Cole Porter used the 4th movement as the foundation for his tune Farewell Amanda, written for the  1949 Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn film Adam’s Rib.


Andrew Balfour

Our concert Tania Miller & Jane Coop opens with Andrew Balfour’s beautiful Pyotr’s Dream for string orchestra. Commissioned and premiered by Tafelmusik in 2019, the work is inspired by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Balfour is an accomplished artist and is also known for his beautiful choral works. It is no wonder that he composes for strings in a way that often reminds us of the human voice.

Of Cree descent, Andrew Balfour is an innovative composer/conductor/singer/sound designer with a large body of choral, instrumental, electro-acoustic and orchestral works, including Take the Indian (a vocal reflection on missing children), Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis RielBawajigaywin (Vision Quest) and Manitou Sky, an orchestral tone poem. His new Indigenous opera, Mishaboozʼs Realm, was commissioned by LʼAtelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and Highlands Opera Workshop.

Andrew is also the founder and Artistic Director of the vocal group Camerata Nova, now in its 22nd year of offering a concert series in Winnipeg. With Camerata Nova, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts”, many with Indigenous subject matter. These innovative offerings explore a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew has become increasingly passionate about music education and outreach, particularly on northern reserves and in inner-city Winnipeg schools where he has worked on behalf of the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Winnipeg school divisions.

In 2007 Andrew received the Mayor of Winnipegʼs Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the City.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24

Between 1784 and 1786, Mozart composed 12 piano concertos and while the number of compositions itself is impressive, what’s even more impressive is the fact that they don’t all sound the same.

His 24th piano concerto was finished only 3 weeks after his 23rd. Unlike his other piano concertos, No. 24 uses the largest orchestra and includes both oboes and clarinets. It is also one of only 2 Mozart piano concertos written in a minor key.

One of the reasons Mozart was able to finish and perform his 24th concerto so quickly after the completion of the 23rd might have something to do with the fact that he didn’t write out the pianist part completely.

Since Mozart conducted the work from the piano and performed the piano part himself he probably didn’t feel the need to write out the complete part, and there is some speculation that his first performance was partially improvised.

If you are ever in London, England, and have the opportunity to visit the Royal College of Music, you might get a chance to see the original score for Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. While looking at the handwritten score you can see that the orchestral parts are written out clearly the solo part is incomplete. Sometimes Mozart only wrote the outer parts of passages of scales or broken chords. You can also see some last-minute changes and additions that were made by the composer. There are no tempo markings and there is the occasional notation error in the score, which musicologist Friedrich Blume attributed to Mozart having “obviously written in great haste and under internal strain”.

Apparently, Beethoven and fellow composer/pianist Johann Baptist Cramer attended a performance of this concerto. Beethoven is said to have exclaimed “Cramer! Cramer! We shall never be able to do anything like that!”

Visual Listening Guide to Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony

Musicologist Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley has created a series of visual listening guides with the goal of “enhancing the understanding of classical music through engaging visual design”. For this concert, we’re delighted to provide you with a Visual Listening Guide to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64.

Access the Guide

What is the Visual Listening Guide?

The Visual Listening Guide is a new way to discover a symphonic work in a visually engaging and comprehensible manner, regardless of musical background. Created by musicologist Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley, the Guide uses a distinctive blend of graphics, colour, and text to help you structure your listening of the piece—and thus, deepen your understanding of it.

The Visual Listening Guide is a kind of sonic “map” of a musical work. Providing a “big picture” view of the work’s form, the Guide shows when the main musical themes and motives first appear, are developed, and recur within a movement and/or entire symphony.

While there’s no one way to experience a symphonic work, a Guide to the composition’s structure can shed light on the composer’s creativity and help us understand and appreciate the various ways conductors and orchestras interpret it.

When do I use the Visual Listening Guide?

You are welcome to use the Visual Listening Guide during the live performance, at your discretion. Otherwise, it can be used, at your leisure, for personal study at home with any of your favourite audio or video recordings.