Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5
A composer plagued by inner conflicts, Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840–1893) was not a happy man. In his last three symphonies, he seems to have poured out his feelings in a narrative in which the defiant hero is himself. He completed his last symphony, no. 6, only weeks before his death in dubious circumstances.
Tchaikovsky wrote a precise scenario for his Symphony No. 5 (1888), but evidence has been preserved of only the text for the first movement: the clarinet introduction represents “a complete resignation before fate.” The Allegro that follows expresses “doubts…..reproaches against xxx” (possibly alluding to his homosexuality, in those days a criminal offence). He borrowed the fate theme running right through the symphony from Glinka’s opera A Life for the Tsar. Over the second movement he is said to have written: “Oh, how I love you! oh my friend!, possibly alluding to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck. The third movement enters the world of the ballet to which he always fled from the pressures of real life. In the finale, the fate theme becomes increasingly ominous, as if to underline that there is no escape from fate.