Among many great works of Pyotr Tchaikovsky special position has Symphony No. 4 in F Minor op. 36. It was turning point in composer’s oeuvre, the moment he became enough independent, he was able to reject some intellectual principles and very conscious to search for deeper context of his music. Symphony was written in winter of 1876-1877. Working on this composition Tchaikovsky wrote to Taneyev, that „there is no line in this symphony that is not the result of deep emotions, not a reflection of sincere movements of my soul”. Work has been finished in Italy and premiered February 10th, 1978 at concert of Moscov section of the Russian Musical Society conducted by Nicolai Rubinstein.
There are few explanations of composers ideas put into this symphony. Very first were descriptions Tchaikovsky gave in letters to his friends. And longest one was addressed to Nadezhda von Meck, whom he characterized in details every part the work. This interpretation shows composer’s formal thinking on the level of associations and emotional connections of the work and personal needs. In letter to Taneyev composer wrote: „Actually my symphony is imitative of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, that is, I did not imitate its musical thoughts, but it’s main idea”. It is founded on classical four-part scheme, but even though, this work is reaching the heights of romantic style.
Many performances show Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony as much classical, disciplined and predictable as it was only a kind of intellectual game. And this is what makes some performances faulty in their assumptions. Reading this music as a traditional formal routine is in adversity to whole composer’s intention. Sometimes even very good renditions are keeping too much distance to emotional profundity of this music. And only best performances are able to establish equilibrium between intellectual capacity of symphonic form and individual work’s expression. Interesting recording of this symphony and came from Moscow Radio Orchestra conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. For two decades it was seen as in new trend but still reliable model of interpreting Symphony F Minor.
Rozhdestvensky recorded complete symphonies by Tchaikovsky with Moscow Radio Great Symphony Orchestra in early seventies when he was principal conductor of the orchestra. It was one of best recordings in his early career. The series of recordings was published by Melodia in 1973 and republished in second half of the eighties in export edition with English and French linear notes. The time of second edition he was prominent conductor of USSR Ministry of Culture Great Symphony Orchestra, achieving lots of successes with orchestras all over the world. And four decades later this rendition is still fresh and clear, even if too much unambiguous or authoritative.