Symphonic fantasia, Op. 77 (1868).
Information on the composition of the fantasia is given in three letters from the composer to Anatoly Tchaikovsky. On 10/22 September 1868: "I’ve been unable to write anything new, and work has ground to a halt" . On 25 September/6 October 1868: "I’m currently writing something symphonic, entitled Fatum" . On 21 October/2 November 1868: "I’ve written an orchestral fantasia" . Therefore, work commenced on the symphonic fantasia Fatum in the period between 10/22 September–25 September/7 October, and was completed by 21 October/2 November 1868.
During December, Tchaikovsky was engaged in scoring the Fantasia .
On 15/27 February 1869 the first performance of the fantasia took place at the eighth concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. After the concert, Tchaikovsky told his brother Anatoly: "This is, I think, the best thing I have written to date—at least, so others say (a significant success)" .
In Saint Petersburg, Fatum was performed on 17/29 March 1869 at the ninth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Mily Balakirev. It was not a success. In the surviving correspondence between Balakirev and Tchaikovsky, some letters dating from February to May 1869 relate to Fatum and its performance. Among them are two letters from Balakirev containing critiques of the work, of which the one with the most unfavourable judgement was not sent to Tchaikovsky .
The epigraph to the fantasia—a poem by Konstantin Batyushkov—drew harsh criticism from Herman Laroche  and Mily Balakirev. There are two versions of the origins of the epigraph. In one of them, the epigraph was added without the composer’s knowledge . This account of the history of the epigraph was described by Sergey Rachinsky in a letter to Laroche: "As the concert programme was going to press, Nikolay Rubinstein was concerned, as always, with the descriptions given for the Musical Society; in his view the title Fatum was too vague, and he thought it advisable to attach a few simple verses, in order to explain the significance of the title. It so happened that I (not having heard a single note of Mr. Tchaikovsky's symphony) went up to Mr Rubinstein and suggested this poem by Batyushkov, which was hitherto unknown to either Mr Rubinstein or Mr Tchaikovsky. Won over by the beautiful melancholy of Batyushkov’s verse, Mr Rubinstein agreed with me at once, and added them to the concert programme" .
The second version, related in Ivan Klimenko’s reminiscences of Tchaikovsky , attributes the idea for the epigraph to Klimenko himself. After hearing the rehearsals of the fantasia, he stated his opinion that either an epigraph was required to explain the title, or the title should be expunged. He received the support of Sergey Rachinsky who recommended Batyushkov’s verses to Tchaikovsky in the capacity of an epigraph. With the composer's agreement, Rachinsky there and then added the verses to the manuscript score.
Whether under the influence of Balakirev’s criticism, or that over time the composer’s attitude to Fatum changed, the composer destroyed the manuscript score in the 1870s . It was reconstructed from the orchestral parts after Tchaikovsky's death and published by Mitrofan Belyayev in 1896 as Op. 77 . An arrangement of Fatum for piano duet, published at the same time, was made by Nikolay Sokolov.
The lyrical theme (in A♭ major) from the fantasia Fatum appeared almost unchanged (but in the key of D♭ major) in the second part of the duet for Natalya and Andrey in the fourth act of the opera The Oprichnik.
The fantasia Fatum is dedicated to Mily Balakirev.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 277–279
This page was last updated on 12 February 2013