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Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

Symphony #6 "Pathétique" in B minor, Op. 74


The classical symphonist usually follows the general plan:

  1. Optional intro
  2. First theme statement
  3. Second theme statement
  4. Development – a kind of fantasia on the themes so far
  5. Recapitulation
  6. Optional coda

But for a shortened recap and an extended coda, these are also the markers of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's "Pathétique" symphony.

In his Sixth Symphony, Tchaikovsky was returning to a more classic form and was working very much as a classical symphonist. This analysis attempts to highlight features that can, with some effort, be readily perceived by the casual listener. By no means is this meant to be a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the symphony. Rather, think of this as a listener's guide. Try following the symphony with this analysis in hand as you listen. I hope I have exposed enough of the structure to show Tchaikovsky the master.

Copyright © Steve Schwartz, 1996