Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (Pathétique) – P.I. Tchaikovsky (Theme – Easy piano solo SHEET MUSIC)
Brief biography of P.I. Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 and died in 1893. He is a Russian composer, and he was the son of his artistic time, Romanticism. He tackled many genres: symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental music, chamber music, and song cycles.
Among this work stands out, without a doubt, his ballets. He created a good number of works that today make up the repertoire: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker . In the symphonic aspect are his symphonies, especially the last three, from the fourth to the sixth.
In concert music, we highlight his first piano concerto or his violin concerto. Among his operas, of course, is Eugene Onegin.
P.I. Tchaikovsky was born into a middle-class family. From an early age, he showed a precocious talent for music. His parents realized this and signed him up for piano lessons at the age of 5.
Three years later he was sight-reading better than his own teacher’s. However, later his parents, seeing that his son would undertake a music career, discouraged him. When it was time to study, they pushed Tchaikovsky to study law with the intention that he would become a civil servant, such was the middle-class aspiration of the family.
At the age of 14, his mother dies of cholera, a fact that produces a trauma in the young P.I. Tchaikovsky. Despite studying law due to parental obligation, Tchaikovsky remains in contact with the musical world of St. Petersburg, his hometown.
After graduating, at the age of 19, he began taking music theory classes with professors from the Russian Musical Society such as Zaremba or Rubinstein. Shortly after, he decided to abandon his career as a civil servant and dedicate himself entirely to music.
From 1867, at the age of 27, he began to compose regularly, and his works were premiered and incorporated into the repertoire promptly. However, his fame brought him jealousy problems with other musicians and composers.
In addition, P.I. Tchaikovsky began to question his homosexuality. In a society where homosexuality was clearly stigmatized, it was not easy for a composer of his fame to internalize it. At this time, Tchaikovsky decides to marry a student of his composition. The marriage is a complete failure and the composer falls into a deep depression. He decides to leave Moscow and thus begins his years of pilgrimage.
He travels, thanks to the financial support of a patron, Nadezhda von Meck, through Europe, Germany and France among other countries, and through rural Russia.
In 1884, tired of travelling, he returned to Russia, where he would remain until his death in 1893. At that time, despite his emotional problems (above all, those derived from his sexuality), he enjoyed very high public and critical recognition.
Tchaikovsky’s music represents Russia’s connection to the Western tradition of Romanticism. Russia at the time of Tchaikovsky was establishing its identity as a country. A group of composers, the so-called Group of Five , advocated the creation of authentically Russian music, that is, music with no connection to the classical European tradition, no relation to composers like Beethoven, Brahms, or Wagner.
This group wanted music that drew from the sources of Russian folklore rather than the tonal-harmonic music of the West. Tchaikovsky does not identify with that position and, in fact, his relationship with that group is ambiguous, one of rejection and recognition at the same time. During his years of pilgrimage, Tchaikovsky has been in contact with the music of Brahms, Beethoven and other composers of his time.
He has known that music first hand and incorporates it into his style. It represents the most Westernized trunk of romantic Russian music. This is not to say that Tchaikovsky rejects Russian music at all; rather, he uses a lot of folk music. Recall that part of his years of pilgrimage is spent in rural Russia.
From a more technical point of view, it can be said that Tchaikovsky was a great experimenter. Some authors have seen him as a composer who mastered all aspects of composition except form. But this is not true. He introduced innovations in form that can be seen in so many of his works, including the Sixth Symphony.
P.I. Tchaikovsky used irregular and unusual time signatures (see the second movement of the sixth, in 5/4); he used meter in a very expressive way; his way of harmonizing is bold and was innovative in his time; his sense of orchestral color is highly original and inspired other composers of the next generation (think of Stravinsky and his early ballets); his melodic ability is amazing (see melodic analysis below).
The genesis of the Symphony “Pathétique”
The Sixth Symphony was drafted in early 1893. Tchaikovsky is known to have torn up a first draft, but had promised himself “that this time I would finish by force of will”. In October 1893 he delivers the first version and begins to prepare the version for two pianos.
The title that Tchaikovsky proposes Pathétique suggests that there is a program behind the symphony. However, the composer maintains the mystery about said program.
It is clearly a symphony that admits multiple readings. Some authors study it from the point of view of an escape valve for their repressed homosexuality. Apparently, Tchaikovsky had a platonic relationship with none other than his nephew Bob, the dedicatee of the symphony. The sensuality that the symphony gives off has been interpreted as a sublimation of that forbidden love. No one is unaware that the symphony deals with the theme of fate (here the word pathétique means emotion and not ridicule).
The symphony seems to encourage the idea that somehow, perhaps within our ingenuity, we can challenge, even bet, with destiny. We oscillate between a clear understanding of our destiny, as in the despair themes of the fourth movement, to blind optimism, as in the march of the third movement, through a deep compassion for our condition, as in the theme of consolation.
The premiere of the symphony did not have the reception that Tchaikovsky expected. There was a kind of perplexity between the public and the critics. They did not understand its meaning, perhaps its formal innovations (a symphony ending in a lamenting adagio ?) were excessive.
A few days later, Tchaikovsky dies of cholera for having drunk unboiled water. There is speculation whether he committed suicide or staked his life on a drink with fate. The next time the symphony was played, it was a runaway success. It seems that the public understood the symphony after his death.
Search Posts by Categories:
and subscribe to our social channels for news and music updates:
Best Sheet Music download from our Library.
- Libertango (Piano Solo) – Astor Piazzolla
- Oblivion (Astor Piazzolla) by Nadja Kossinskaja, guitar (with sheet music)
- Milonga del Angel by Astor Piazzolla (arr. piano solo)
- The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach (1695-1717) Vol. I and II
- Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)
- Nocturne – by Secret Garden (piano solo)