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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky


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Some of the reasons why Tchaikovsky's popularity refuses to wane
by Jed Distler

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's name has become synonymous with Russian music, and arguably all romantic music. What keeps his overtly passionate style aflame and his popularity from waning? First and foremost, the man wrote great tunes. Few composers of any era possessed anything close to Tchaikovsky's inexhaustible fountain of melodic invention. Not for nothing did Hollywood composers of a certain generation appropriate Tchaikovsky's melodies to heighten the emotional impact of film scores. And what other so-called serious composer has had as many themes transformed into pop songs? (Remember "Tonight We Love" and "Once upon a Dream"?) [read more...]

recommended recordings
Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 4, 5 & 6 / Mravinsky, Leningrad PO
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Eugen Mravinsky
Ensemble: Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #19745 / January 1, 1987

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These recordings by Evgeny Mravinsky and his Leningrad Philharmonic, taped in the autumn of 1960 while they were on tour in London, are among the absolute classics of the catalog. They are readings of hair-raising intensity--the finale of the Fourth is marked allegro con fuoco, and if you want to know what con fuoco means, all you have to do is listen for a moment. No one else has ever had the nerve, or the ability, to play the music this way. The treatment is very Russian: the extremes are more...Read more


Tschaikowsky: Ballett-Suiten / Rostropovich, Berlin PO

Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Mstislav Rostropovich
Performer: Eberhard Finke, Leon Spierer
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #449726 / March 11, 1997

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Shortly after recording these three ballet suites in 1978, Mstislav Rostropovich likened conducting the Berlin Philharmonic to driving a locomotive. You get on, and you go where it takes you, he said--but in this case, the orchestra went where he wanted it to go. The playing is magnificent, but it is the characterization, the things Rostropovich gets the players to do that they wouldn't otherwise have done, that makes these accounts so memorable. As you listen, you are transported to a different...Read more


Tchaikovsky: Eugen Onegin / Levine, Allen, Freni, Von Otter
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: James Levine
Performer: Thomas Allen, Paata Burchuladze, et al.
Ensemble: Dresden Staatskapelle, Leipzig Radio Chorus
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #23959 / March 13, 1989

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Levine has assembled a cast strong in both singing and acting, although Mirella Freni is a bit mature for the teenage Tatiana and there are no Russians in the leading roles. The conducting quite properly emphasizes the psychological and emotional extremes in a story deeply imbued with the Byronic attitudes and poses of literary Romanticism. The orchestra, in James Levine's (and Tchaikovsky's) hands becomes a character in this drama as vital as any of the singers, and Pushkin's poem-novel, the...Read more


Tchaikovsky: Concerto 1, Rachmaninov: Concerto 2 / Cliburn
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor: Kiril Kondrashin, Fritz Reiner
Performer: Van Cliburn
Ensemble: RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #55912 / January 12, 1993

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What a story there is behind this recording! When Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the Cold War with his playing of this concerto, it created an international sensation. The recording followed immediately thereafter, and Cliburn was launched on an international career of unprecedented celebrity for a classical musician. Perhaps the attention was too much, too soon, given his subsequent burn-out and retirement from public life. Fortunately, we...Read more


Tchaikovsky: Piano & Violin Concertos / Gilels, Oistrakh
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Zubin Mehta, Eugene Ormandy
Performer: Emil Gilels, David Oistrakh
Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra
Sony Classics - #46339 / April 9, 1991

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David Oistrakh was one of those violinists beloved by people who don't especially like violinists. Don't get me wrong, plenty of violin aficionados love him too. But the fact that he played with such warmth of tone and musicality, never indulging in the screeching cat-music stuff that some violinists think sounds flashy, makes him uniquely listenable to folks not into violin playing for its own sake. Perhaps the fact that he was also a distinguished conductor had something to do with it, for he...Read more


more recommended recordings
·     Concerti
·     Opera
·     Orchestral

works & recordings

  • Chamber Music
    Trios, Quartets, Quintets

  • Choral
    Secular and sacred choral music. Oratorios, Masses, Partsongs, Hymns, Carols

  • Instrumental
    Sonatas, Suites, Overtures, Minuets, Variations, Transcriptions, Dance Music

  • Orchestra
    Concertos, Symphonies

  • Theatrical Works
    Ballet, Stage, Incidental Music, Film Scores

  • Vocal and Opera
    Opera, Operetta, Song, Lieder, Musical Theater

Complete List of Works and Recordings

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