Symphony No. 3
(Симфония № 3)
Op. 29 (1875).
No information survives about the early compositional processes of the Third Symphony.
At the end of May/start of June, after the conservatory examinations, Tchaikovsky left for Usovo, where on 5/17 June he began to make the first sketches of the symphony. The title page of the fair copy of the full score has the note: "Begun 5 June 1875 at Usovo. Finished 1 August 1875 at Verbovka".
Tchaikovsky referred to the composition of the symphony in one of his letters to Aleksey and Mikhail Sofronov: "I am now composing a new symphony, but am taking it steadily, not spending all my time on it, and taking long walks" .
At Nikolay Kondratyev’s estate in Nizy, Tchaikovsky started to orchestrate the symphony. And so on 8/20 July 1875 he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson from Nizy: "I’m sorry for writing so little; I’m terribly tired from work (scoring the symphony)" . Judging by the dates of completion found at the end of each movement on the fair copy of the manuscript, the first to be orchestrated was the fifth movement, at the end of which is written "9 July 1875. Nizy"; then, the fourth movement—"13 July 1875. Nizy".
On 14/26 July, Tchaikovsky left Nizy for Verbovka, where he arrived on 17–18 July . Here the composer continued to orchestrate the symphony, i.e. the first, second and third movements, with noting at the end of each movement its date of completion: the first movement—"26 July 1875. Verbovka"; the second movement—"28 July 1875. Verbovka"; the third movement—"31 July 1875. Verbovka".
The full score was completed on 1/13 August, according to a note at the top of the title page of the manuscript. On 14/26 August, in a letter to Sergey Taneyev, Tchaikovsky reported: "The symphony has been written. It was composed in Tambov province, orchestrated partly at Sumy [the district in which Nizy was situated] and partly here. It is written in D major, and consists of five movements" .
The first performance of the Third Symphony, at which the author was present, took place in Moscow on 7/19 November 1875, at the first symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. After its performance Tchaikovsky wrote to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov: "As far as I am concerned, this symphony presents no particularly successful ideas—but in craftsmanship it is a step forward. I am most satisfied with the first movement and both of the Scherzos, of which the second was difficult, and played nowhere near as well as it ought to have been after lengthy rehearsal" .
In Saint Petersburg, the Third Symphony was performed for the first time on 24 January/5 February 1876, at the fifth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Eduard Nápravník, also in the presence of the author. Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest: "My symphony fared very well, and had appreciable success. I was called for and roundly applauded" .
For the Scherzo of the symphony (trio), Tchaikovsky borrowed from his Cantata for the Opening of the Polytechnic Exhibition: the theme from the final part of the introduction (Allegro vivo) and from the tenor solo (No. 4: «Ужели вновь бороться и страдать»). Subsequently, the second movement of the symphony was used by the composer as an entr'acte to Act II in the music to the tragedy Hamlet.
The symphony is dedicated to Vladimir Shilovsky.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 218–220
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013