The time has now come to Symphony No.4, which – along with No.5 – Tchaikovsky himself often referred to in the context of ‘Fate’, symbolized by a ‘fate motif’ which opens the work and which the composer described as follows: ‘This is fate, destiny, that portentous power that will not permit our quest for happiness to be successful, that jealously stands guard so that our joyfulness and peace are neither perfect nor cloudless, that hangs like the sword of Damocles above our heads and constantly, continually poisons our soul.’ In his description of the end of the work, Tchaikovsky sounds a note of resignation: ‘Look within yourself; do not say that everything in this world is sad. There are simple but strong joys. Rejoice in others’ rejoicing. To live is still possible.’ This last statement seems to be borne out in full by his Serenade for Strings in C major, composed three years later, a carefree expression of happiness that is never seriously disturbed by minor-key sonorities. The programme finishes off with an Elegy, also for strings.
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