Andante – Allegro con anima
Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza
Valse. Allegro moderato
Finale. Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace
Tchaikovsky’s last three symphonies share the obsession of fate as a common denominator and are in fact often regarded as a triptych. Although they are well spaced out over time, these works can be considered as different stagings of the musician’s tormented inner world. Eleven years after having completed of his 4th Symphony, Tchaikovsky began to compose his Symphony in E minor, not without some difficulty. “I must work harder in the future; I want so much to show not only to others, but to myself, that I still haven't expired... I don't know whether I wrote to you that I had decided to write a symphony. At first it was fairly difficult; now inspiration seems to have deserted me completely” he confided to his admirer Nadezhda von Meck in the course of the composition. Tchaikovsky did not attach a programme as such to the piece, but provided a few guidelines in the margin of the first movement: “Total submission before fate, or, what is the same thing, the inscrutable designs of Providence (…) Murmurs, doubts, laments, reproaches against... XXX (…)
Shall I cast myself into the embrace of faith???” Who or what is XXX? Maybe a person, but it is more likely that the composer was referring here to the crucial problem of his homosexuality. The reference to a “complete resignation” seems however to indicate that he had accepted this fact. The first movement opens with the cyclical theme that will further appears throughout the work: a sad and gloomy motive related both to a march and a chorale. The second movement might correspond to the “consolation” and the “ray of light” that Tchaikovsky went on to mention in his annotations, whereas the third movement moves closer to the world of dance, carried by an elegant waltz. In the last movement, the cyclical theme finally shifts into the major mode. Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony was given its first hearing in St. Petersburg on 5 November 1888, with the composer conducting. It was given a warm welcome by the audience, even if the critics seemed more reserved. This work nevertheless bears the imprint of a profound individuality and concludes on the man’s spiritual impotence.