Tschaikowsky, Peter


Tschaikowsky, Peter

‘Manfred’ Symphony en quatre tableaux d’après le poème dramatique de Byron, Op. 58

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Manfred, Symphonie en quatre tableaux d’après le poème dramatique de Byron

(b. Votkinsk, April 25/May 7, 1840 – d. St. Petersburg, October 25/November 6, 1893)


I Lento lugubre (p. 3) – Più mosso (p. 15) – Moderato con moto (p. 23) – Moderato assai (p. 27) –
Andante – Largo – Andante (p. 30) – Largo (p. 31) – Andante (p. 32) – Moderato (p. 39) – Andante (p. 41) – Allegro non troppo – Moderato assai (p. 45) – Andante con duolo (p. 46) – Un poco più mosso (p. 52) –
Più animato (p. 54) – Andante non tanto (p. 59) – Poco più animato (p. 61)
II Vivace con spirito (p. 64) – Trio. L`istesso tempo (p. 88) – Sempre vivace con spirito (p. 116)
III Andante con moto (p. 143) – Più mosso (p. 166) – Tempo primo (p. 172) –
Più mosso (p. 181) Tempo primo (p. 184) – Meno mosso (p. 185)
IV Allegro con fuoco (p. 187) – Lento (p. 232) – Allegro con fuoco (p. 236) – Andante (p. 251) –
Adagio, ma a tempo rubato – Andante quasi moderato (p. 255) – Molto più lento (p. 260) –
Allegro non troppo (p. 261) – Allegro molto vivace (p. 262) – Andante con duolo (p. 263) – Stringendo (p. 269) – Allegro (p. 274) – Largo – Più mosso (p. 282) – Più lento (p. 287)

When Hector Berlioz visited Russia for the second time in the winter of 1867-68 and conducted his “Harold en Italie” there, it was a veritable sensation in progressive circles. Therefore it is not too surprising that the artistic spiritus rector Vladimir Stasov (1824-1906) drafted a musical program based on Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” for Lord Byron’s incest drama “Manfred” – as an alternative program to “Harold”, so to speak – and invited Mily Balakirev, the head of the national Russian “Mighty Handful”, to set it to music. Balakirev, for his part, immediately tried to persuade Berlioz to set it to music, but the latter – old, ill and exhausted – declined with thanks.

Fourteen years passed before Balakirev – after having been honored with the dedication of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent tone poem “Romeo and Juliet” – virtually forced upon Tchaikovsky the proposal to set “Manfred” to music in October 1882. He used Stasov’s programmatic draft in four movements word for word without naming the author and added precise key ideas for the corresponding stages of the musical drama with missionary zeal. But Tchaikovsky was anything but enthusiastic, conceding that the draft was certainly suitable for a program musician in the vein of Berlioz, which was not according to his nature, and also pointing out that Robert Schumann had already set the ”Manfred” plot to music in an unsurpassable manner.

Two years later, in October 1884, Balakirev and Tchaikovsky met again on the occasion of the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” in St. Petersburg, whereupon Balakirev made another attempt, with even more detailed key prescriptions, to persuade Tchaikovsky to set “Manfred” to music, who then promised to do everything in his power to fulfill this wish. On November 29, 1884, Tchaikovsky wrote from Davos that he had read the book and wanted to write the program symphony by the summer. He wrote the drafts in April and May 1885, completed the first movement on June 12/24, the second on July 22/August 3, the third on September 11/23 and the fourth on September 22/October 4. He reported to Balakirev in September 1885: “I sat on ‘Manfred’ – without moving from my seat, so to speak – for four months without interruption (from the end of May until today).” Only in the Scherzo did Tchaikovsky follow Balakirev’s modulation plan, for which he asked Balakirev for his understanding, as the music now followed its own laws. The work was not easy for Tchaikovsky, as he wrote to his most important pupil Sergei Taneyev in June 1885: “It is a thousand times more pleasant to compose without a program. When I write a program symphony, I feel like a charlatan who cheats his audience: I don’t pay with valuable coin, but with worthless paper money.” On the other hand, he wrote to the singer Emilia Pavlovskaya in July 1885: “…this work will possibly be the best of my compositions.” His message to the Moscow publisher Jurgenson on December 22, 1885/January 3, 1886 before the work went to press was similar: “I rate it very highly […] I may be wrong about it, but it seems to me to be my best work.” At the same time, he declared that he was prepared to waive his fee completely in view of the difficulties involved in performing the work and the small number of performances to be expected as a result. …


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