Talking about Tchaikovsky

I always like to share what I do on this blog.  The South Bend Symphony closed its season last night with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and the Maestro asked that four members of the orchestra introduce the four movements of the piece, before we played the symphony through.  He provided some formal notes but encouraged us to personalize our speeches with our own thoughts – and you never have to ask me twice to write stories and speak into a mic, you know? I’m shameless like that.

The first time I played Tchaikovsky 5 was after my junior year of high school. It was the first summer music camp I had ever been to, and I’m sure all of my colleagues here on stage can attest to a similar story. Your first music camp is when you first find your tribe, and the first time you realize that you’re not a complete weirdo outcast. I met a whole group of people who like me vibrated with the sheer excitement of creating music, of pulling together to realize this symphony, the most monstrous thing we had ever undertaken.

And the thing I remember most is that after a full day of rehearsals and chamber music and masterclasses and bruising amounts of mental concentration and physical effort my new friends and I would gather in the common room of the dorm – a group of maybe 8 or ten of us – and pull out our Tchaikovsky parts and play through the symphony AGAIN just because we hadn’t had enough EVEN YET. Just imagine the glorious dorkiness of this tiny skeleton crew of 15 year olds scraping and blowing and wailing joyously through this masterpiece just because we were all too excited to go to sleep.

You know, I’m all grown up and jaded now – but still I get a thrill when the fourth movement starts and the strings start playing our fate motive in E MAJOR, so warmly and positively. I still get chills when this movement gets fast and terrifying and the brass and clarinets have to howl over the whole texture to be heard. I still want to clap at the false ending in the middle of the movement – though I’m old enough not to get tricked – and I still haven’t decided for sure if the piece actually ends on a note of triumph or of devastating frustration. Or both. Please enjoy this amazing work.

2 thoughts on “Talking about Tchaikovsky”

  1. I am so glad you decided to post the comments you regaled us with before the performance of Tchaikovsky’ 5th Saturday night. Congratulations on the performance and the introduction tha the four players made to each movement. Maestro Willis’ desire to interact with the audience found a most congenial response, and the idea to have members of the orchestra comment really pleased many members of the audience. I never went to a “music camp”; the few group performances, when I was in my teens were rehearsed, and occasionally performed in a large living room in someone’s home. The excitement and conviviality, however, were always present. I was also very pleased that the public was invited to the rehearsal Friday night. I hope maestro Willis will make it a custom, a tradition.I also want to congratulate you again on the Mendelssohn concerto performance that you posted before. It really sounds terrific-modesty notwithstanding. It’s really amazing how much one sense reinforces another. It may be illusory, but so what? Seeing a performer play makes her sound better. Do it all again Jennet!!Dimitri

  2. Thank you, Dmitri, as always! I'm delighted with the new ideas Maestro Willis is bringing to the SBSO. And OOOHHHH I loved playing that Mendelssohn!

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