For some strange reason I've yet to post a symphony on here. And because I should wait till I post more Shostakovich, here's my favourite symphony that's not by him:
Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.4: I Andante sostenuto
Played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, cond. Daniel Barenboim.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovksy (1840-1893) was a Russian composer, probably most well-known for his ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty as well as the Serenade for Strings and 1812 Overture (and maybe the Marche Slave as well?). I think he was an incredible composer mostly because his melodies are really beyond comparison. He was quite succesful during his lifetime although apparently rather miserable (partly, or mostly, because he was a repressed homosexual). He wrote 3 ballets, 10 operas, 8 symphonies (although only 6 of them are numbered), 3 piano concertos and whole bunch of other amazing things.
This fourth symphony is definitely one of my favourite symphonies ever. Quite a lot has been written about it, not least of all by Tchaikovsky himself who wrote in his correspondance with his patroness Nadezhda von Meck (to whom this symphony is also dedicated) that the first theme is actually Fate, "this is that fateful force which prevents the impulse to happiness from attaining its goal, which jealously ensures that peace and happiness shall not be complete and unclouded, which hangs above the head like the sword of Damocles, unwaveringly, constantly poisoning the soul. An invincible force that can never be overcome—merely endured, miserably". He also said that: "this is the first time in my life that I have attempted to put musical thoughts and images into words, and I cannot manage to do this properly. I was extremely depressed during the winter when writing the symphony, and it rather echoes my feelings at that time... They remain, in general, memories of most terrible and dreadfully difficult times". But even so, it's certainly not *that* gloomy to listen to, and it ends on quite a high note (though slightly bitter). You really should listen to the entire symphony, here's Mvt II: Andantino in modo di canzona, Mvt III: Scherzo, Mvt IV: Finale.