[Audio] PSO Presents Tchaikovsky's Final Completed Symphony

Oct 2, 2015

The Paducah Symphony Orchestra presents Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony on Saturday, October 3. His final completed symphony, Tchaikovsky premiered this and conducted it himself in October 1893, nine days before his death. The second performance was in November and was played at his memorial service. On Sounds Good, Paducah Symphony's Maestro Raffaele Ponti describes the composer's struggle behind this piece and Barber's progressive Symphony No. 1 and Saint-Saens' lauded Cello Concerto No. 1 ahead of their performance.

Tchaikovsky's six symphonies play out like his autobiography, Ponti says. His final is the only one that ends in a minor key. The composer constantly struggled in his life as a man and composer. While Beethoven and Stravinsky constantly corrected and changed their music for the better, Tchaikovsky wasn't this way - his rewrites would often damage his music. Ponti recalls the story of his brother hiding scores so that he wouldn't destroy what he thought were masterpieces. This is attributed to his insecurities, where he never felt he was good enough.

The colorful bassoons, cellos and contrabasses fade away to nothing in the end, symbolizing the end of his life. While there's triumph in movement three, one can hear despair in movement four and the dramatic silence between them can be felt throughout the concert hall. The second movement has a lilting little dance, an odd sort of waltz like a ballet.

Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 1 in One Movement can be described as very progressive. Barber lived in a progressive tonal period of American music, among contemporaries like Howard Hanson who were pushing the envelope, the ear, harmonies and rhythms. Together, they changed the form of music and challenged orchestras. This piece is written in the classical style with four sections, but is woven together into one beautiful movement. Ponti says the Andante Tranquillo in the third movement is very beautiful with muted strings, lush and mystical sound. "Good music is timeless, good art is timeless and this is one of those examples," he says.

Camille Saint-Saens' Cello Concerto No. 1 will feature young artist competition winner Wesley Skinner, their first collegiate winner. Of this piece, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich said it's the greatest cello concerto ever written. And similar to Barber's piece, it's written in three sections, but performed together as one movement.

More about the Paducah Symphony Orchestra performance