Christmas concert with Souvenir de Florence by Tchaikovsky
Souvenir de Florence
was composed as a response to being awarded an honorary membership of the Saint Petersburg Chamber Music Society in 1886.
Tchaikovsky pledged that he would “write and dedicate to your society some sort of chamber music work.”
Thus, Souvenir de Florence was born by June 1887 and originally composed for a string sextet (2 violins, 2 violas & 2 cellos).
Speaking of facts out of Tchakovsky's diary:
“Composed a little start of a sextet. I jotted down sketches for a string sextet, but with little enthusiasm, I haven’t the slightest inclination to work. Because I have only a passing desire to compose, I am beginning to fear that I am losing my powers of composition, and becoming angry with myself.”
It took Tchaikovsky quite some time to complete this sextet, and by December 1890, Souvenir de Florence received its premiere in a private concert in Saint Petersburg. After this performance the composer decided to heavily revise the third and fourth movements after commenting that the sextet “turned out to be astonishingly bad in all respects.”
In 1890, Tchaikovsky spent some time in Florence, where he was also working on a draft of his opera The Queen of Spades. His popular ballet The Sleeping Beauty was being premiered in Florence at the same time, and this is where the inspiration for the title of his sextet originated.
Souvenir de Florence is in four movements:
- Allegro con spirito
- Adagio cantabile e con moto
- Allegretto moderato
- Allegro con brio e vivace
Movement I – Allegro con spirito
Opening with a highly intense melody that is rich in texture with the violins leading with the melody and other other instruments aggressively chugging away underneath. This is then developed into a calmer second subject, which highlights Tchaikovsky’s signature Romantic style.
The movement is in sonata form and this sees the melody stated, developed, recapped and then thrust into a quick coda. The intense atmosphere of this movement is balanced out by the much calmer second movement.