Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 4 "Mozartiana"

Tchaikovsky's adulation of Mozart was so great that it led him to refer to Mozart as the Christ of music. (He cautioned that this remark was not to be taken as blasphemy.) It also led him to compose the Suite No.4 in 1887. Not everyone shared Tchaikovsky's lofty opinion of Mozart. Even Tchaikovsky's patroness Madame von Meek, allegedly a woman of musical taste, was amazed that a composer so inclined toward the Romantic style as Tchaikovsky could worship a composer whose music she viewed as dry and unfeeling.

Beyond his basic love of the 18th century prodigy, Tchaikovsky felt that a number of Mozart's smaller but admirable works were being ignored by the public and by musicians. By creating Mozartiana, Tchaikovsky hoped, as he put it, "to provide a fresh impetus for the performance of these miniature masterworks." Of course in order to give these pieces a helpful nudge, Tchaikovsky did choose an orches­tra perhaps more suited to his own works, consisting as it does of pairs of woodwinds, horns, two trumpets, harp and strings.

The first movement is based on Mozart's Gigue, K. 574. The rhyth­mic ambiguities of the original for keyboard are all the more delicious in Tchaikovsky's inventive arrange­ment.

The second movement is derived from the Minuet in D, K. 355. Tchaikovsky's lush orchestral sound obscures some of the buoyant grace of the earlier century; but the result is satisfying nevertheless.

The third movement features the most well-known of the Mozart works Tchaikovsky selected-Ave verum corpus, K. 618. One of the last compositions written by Mozart, K. 618 was originally a choral piece. However, Tchaikovsky built his orchestration upon Franz Liszt's piano paraphrase of the original. The movement is titled Preghiera (Prayer), and it is filled with lumi­nescent strings and typically "angelic" harp figurations.

The lengthy finale is a transfor­mation of Variations for Piano, K. 455. The theme Mozart varied was taken from a bass aria (Unser dummer Pobel meint) by Gluck. The variations gave Tchaikovsky his best opportunity to use the orches­tral palette to "colorize" Mozart. (The result, however, is much better than the cinematic process.) The ten sections possess many moods and the Russian master inserted impor­tant instrumental solos where appropriate: the flute in Variation III; the violin with a lengthy solo in Variation IX; and the clarinet in Variation X.

In spite of Tchaikovsky's ingenu­ity as an arranger and the fact that the Suite No.4 was greatly appreci­ated by the opening night audience (The Preghiera movement had to be encored!), this work remains infrequently performed and rarely recorded to this day. One writer quipped that Mozartiana has the proportions of a dry martini: three­quarters Tchaikovsky and one­quarter Mozart. Fortunately, Mozart fares much better than that estimate. The care with which Tchaikovsky worked shows that he truly felt, to use his words, Mozart was "the culminating point of musical beauty."

Back to Notes page!.

Return to classroom second floor..

Return to classroom first floor..

If you need to leave, Go to initial page of site.

If you are interested in advertising a music-related business in the pages of the classroom, please send us an e-mail regarding rates by clicking here.