Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sunday Classics: Tchaikovsky's home away from home, or perhaps haven from home, inspired this "Memory of Florence"


No, there's nothing at least overtly Italian about the orchestral introduction to Tchaikovsky's great opera The Queen of Spades (performed here by the Sofia Festival Orchestra under Emil Tchakarov). The connection is that a good part of the composition of the opera was accomplished in the haven provided by the composer's beloved Florence.
When he is creating, the artist must have calm. In this sense, creative activity is always objective, even musical creation, and they are mistaken who believe the artist can use his talent to rid himself of specific feelings of the moment.

The sad or happy emotions which he expresses are always and invariably retrospective.
-- Tchaikovsky, in a letter to his patron Nadezhda
von Meck, explaining how he set about composing

by Ken

We began this series of musical reminiscences of Italy with Tchaikovsky's glorious romp, the Capriccio Italien, then moved on to Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony -- offered with the promise that we would be returning to Tchaikovsky, who was able, thanks to the generosity of his patron Nadezhda von Meck, to establish a sort of home away from home or perhaps a haven from home in Florence. (Madame von Meck had a villa there, but they don't seem to have broken their rule of never actually meeting.)

In Friday night's preview we heard the gorgeous Adagio of the string sextet, Souvenir de Florence, that Tchaikovsky conceived in his happy refuge. In the liner note for the orchestral performance we heard by David Zinman and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, John Warrack writes:
It was to Italy, and above all to Florence, that Tchaikovsky owed what he called "the happiest months of my life." Time and again, fleeing from the exhausting round of his duties at the Moscow Conservatory or from the unhappiness of his private life, he would turn his steps to the South and, basking in the warmth of the Italian spring, he absorbed impressions that were to colour his music in many different ways . , , ,

To his patroness Nadezhda von Meck he was able to write, after returning to Russia from Florence with the score of : "I had hardly finished the opera before I took up a new piece, the sketch of which I have already finished. I hope you will be pleased to hear that I have written a string sextet.

We'll continue with some observations about that sextet in the click-through as we hear Tchaikovsky's beautiful Souvenir de Florence.

The opening movement of Souvenir de Florence is played by the Tokyo Quartet (Martin Beaver and Kikuei Ikeda, violins; Kazuhide Isomura, viola; Clive Greensmith, cello) with guest violist Born Lau and cellist Arlen Hlusko, in Los Angeles, October 2010.



It's now been exactly two years since the last weekly update. To see how it looked when last we left it, follow the link in the click-through. (Okay, okay, for the benefit of readers for whom that represents just one click too many, here's the link on its own.)

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