Tchaikovsky grappled with the issue of fate in an early symphonic poem, and in his 4th symphony, when he described it as a ‘fatal force.’ But, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, in his 5th symphony he suggests a way to be happy in the face of events beyond our control.
Susan Lewis: The idea of fate is expressed with words such as destiny, providence, and fortune. And in music?
[Music: Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5]
Cristian Măcelaru: Most composers have orchestrated fate as a motive that’s relentless, driven by rhythmic pulse, it doesn’t allow the listener to become comfortable.
SL: Conductor Cristian Măcelaru
CM: Tchaikovsky portrays it in a very melodic way, but he still portrays it in a language that is dark.
SL: In notes about his Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky writes of ‘submission before Fate," ideas you can hear in contrasting themes, says Măcelaru.
CM: The first theme, in a minor key, has this constant breathlessness to it, giving us all this darkness, this angriness about the fate, that actually resolves into acceptance of it.
SL: Acceptance, which is not bad thing, says Măcelaru.
CM: Accepting that life goes on; it doesn’t stop with every speed bump in the road. In the same way, fate continues to take its course. I think this is what Tchaikovsky was saying: the acceptance of it, that’s the only way to find happiness or peace within fate.
SL: The symphony premiered in 1888; in its early days, critics were divided, but, as fate would have it, it became one of Tchaikovsky’s most acclaimed works.