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Symphony No. 5 in E minor Op. 64 follows the classical four-part model: Movement One – Andante Allegro con anima, Two – Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza, Three – Valse. Allegro moderato, Four – Finale. Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace. The first movement is preceded by a short introduction – Andante. The clarinet in an extremely low register – a trademark of Tchaikovsky’s music – introduces the Symphony’s theme, also reappearing in the second, at the end of the third, and in the last part of the piece. The theme is a kind of motto or idée fixe (as in Berlioz), which unifies the whole cycle. After a brief exposition, the theme, subtly intoned by a clarinet and a bassoon, gradually builds up, leading to the song-like, serene second theme. The second – slow – movement is characterised by extreme emotional tension; the third – is in the form of a waltz (the composer’s favourite dance), with a graceful and fluid, lively melody. The fourth and last movement, formally – the least monolithic – consists of many different musical ideas which combine into a unique whole. It opens with the already familiar motto, reappearing here as Maestoso in a major key, while the main theme is a Russian folk dance tune played by the first violins. The second, more song-like theme is intoned by the woodwinds, after which the triumphant Maestoso returns, and the whole is rounded up by daring orchestral effects performed at a dizzying pace.

Grażyna Paszkowska