Written during the spring and summer of 1888, the Fifth Symphony by Tchaikovsky was premiered in St. Petersburg under the composer’s direction on November 5 of the same year. The work was strongly criticised by the press at the premiere, but a few months later was performed in Hamburg with great success. Among the audience was Johannes Brahms, who after the concert invited Tchaikovsky to dinner. They dined together and drank a couple of bottles of wine; then the German composer frankly told the Russian that the symphony had not pleased him at all.
Although Tchaikovsky pointed out some ideas as a sketch (total submission to fate in the introduction; murmurs, doubts and reproaches in the first Allegro; the contrast between a theme expressing consolation and the answer of the low instruments in the second movement), he wrote to Konstantin Romanov – grandson of Nicholas I and a close friend – that it had no programme. The slow movement (Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza) begins with the celebrated horn solo, followed by the majestic nobility of the second theme on the strings. In the central section the woodwinds play a melancholic motif before the cyclic motto of the symphony (perhaps suggesting fate?) appears on the trumpets, before the return of the initial melody.
This arrangement is based on an early edition by Breitkopf & Härtel. Metronome markings (the same ones of the first edition by Jurgenson) are not included in order not to condition performers: this distinctly different scoring implies, we believe, another sense of tempo. The horn part comprises the monumental opening solo, and also melodies from other wind instruments: it avoids, however, the regular accompaniment role of horns in the original.
- Horn in F