Orchestral Suite No. 2 (Tchaikovsky) - Structure


The suite is written in five movements.

  1. Jeu de sons: Andantino un poco rubato
    This movement is a sonata structure with a slow introductino which recurs at the end to round off the piece. The Jeu (Play) here is simply between string phrases whose endings are echoed by the woodwinds. However, when the fast movement begins, the constant changes of texture, accompanied by matchingly quick shifts between string and wind tones, are noticeable. The development is a fugue based on the opening of the first theme. It dovetails with the recapitulation, the first subject passing straight into the more melodic second.
  2. Valse: Moderato tempo di valse
    Unlike Tchaikovsky's previous movements, the theme is more animate and wide-ranging and includes changes in pace which would create havoc in a ballet performance. What is most notable, though is not the tune but the orchestration. Tchaikovsky is now introducing in both texture and tone color a more unobtrusive variety into the accompaniment than would be noticed in a ballet where the attention is divided between stage and music.
  3. Scherzo burlesque: Vivace, con spirito
    This movement is more ostentatiously brilliant than the Valse and includes a part for a quartet of accordions. The overall impression is of fragments of melody flying around in all directions, their individuality asserted by their being well spaced out in the texture, often by their contrasting orchestral colors. Minute melodic fragments, even sound dots of one-note jabs from woodwinds or pizzicatos from strings, add their own accents. The bold folksong-like tune in the central section could hardly be a greater contrast.
  4. RĂªves d'enfant: Andante molto sostenuto
    At first a reassuring lullaby, this music diverts into some of the most strange, even unnerving that Tchaikovsky would write in depicting the kingdom of sleep, with strange, delicate, fragmented textures with no recognizable harmonic foundation. At the end of this section there is a pause, and the lullaby resumes as it had begun.
  5. Danse baroque: Vivacissimo
    The name may seem strange for this earthy music, but Tchaikovsky is using the term "baroque" in its original meaning of "quaint" or "grotesque." The subtitle "Wild dance in imitation of Dargomyzhsky" is more helpful. The model for this music is the earlier Russian composer's Kazachok or "Cossack Dance."

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