Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony

by Tucson Symphony
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36 was written between May of 1877 to February of 1878, premiering March 4, 1878 in Moscow.

The story behind Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony is out of a soap opera. The piece was dedicated to his “best friend,” Nadezhda von Meck, who was his patron and wished to remain anonymous. In this era of the arts, the patron and artist were considered a team with equally important roles. This dedication was a way for him to pay respects to Madame von Meck as an equal contributor to the piece.

While Tchaikovsky wrote the symphony, he had an intimate and physically distant relationship with Madame von Meck through letters. In the link below, see a message he wrote to her explaining that the symphony reflects his failed marriage. He explains that the work was about ‘Fate’: perhaps the composer feeling his ‘fate’ was to be unable to control who he loved. The opening of the symphony is an almost literal representation of Tchaikovsky’s Sword of Damocles crashing down on him.

Tchaikovsky’s Letter to Madame von Meck

Hear the Symphony performed by Valery Gergiev conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra:

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