Elliot Moore: How is Tchaikovsky’s Music Relevant Today?

The LSO will be performing Tchaikovsky’s epic Fourth Symphony at our February 24 concert.

In July 2015, I attended a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 4th. Halfway through the performance, the person sitting next to me (an active board member of a well-known orchestra) leaned over and whispered: “I just don’t see how Tchaikovsky’s music is relevant today.” After having heard this, I went home and immediately programmed Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony with an orchestra that I was conducting that season. When the first rehearsal arrived, I took a few minutes to explain to the orchestra members how I came to think that Tchaikovsky’s music was not only relevant today, but in my opinion even more relevant today than ever before. Something happened that has never happened before or since: the orchestra applauded me wildly.

What made that July 2015 performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony so memorable was not the performance itself, nor even the comment from the person sitting next to me, but rather, the fact that a week prior to the performance, the United States Supreme Court passed the Marriage Equality Act. And why is that important to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony? Because Mr. Tchaikovsky was gay and his Fourth Symphony was his artistic response to his disastrous, three-month marriage to a woman, conceived for the sole purpose of appeasing his family, and putting to rest the public rumors surrounding his personal life.

Listening to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony within the context of a newfound American freedom to express oneself makes the work more powerful and poignant than ever before. The triumph over fate that is ultimately expressed in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony may have been the personal triumph of coming to terms with his authentic self in his native Russia. (And I cannot help but consider the irony of the statues that have been erected in Russia honoring this national musical hero, who to this day, would still face massive amounts of discrimination and possible imprisonment.)

I believe that the combination of the spirit of the music and our society’s embrace of marriage equality gives new context and depth to the experience of his work and draws a sharp contrast to those countries who still discriminate against same-sex couples.

As part of the Longmont Symphony’s commitment to engaging the community, I am proud to be giving a presentation at the Longmont’s Out Boulder County on Wednesday, February 21 at 12 PM.  At this community luncheon, we will delve deeper into the meaning of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and relate the music to the experiences of Longmont citizens.  details


Elliot Moore, music director

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