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Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata in G Major, Op. 37: A critical reevaluation

Dimitar N Nikolov, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The Grand Sonata in G Major, Op. 37, along with most of Tchaikovsky's solo piano repertoire, has been unjustly neglected in the area of musicological research. The piece has enjoyed a significant success in Russia, but is rarely performed outside the Russian borders. Despite some structural weaknesses (orchestral texture, episodic nature of the sections, etc.), the sonata is penetrated by Tchaikovsky's creative genius: unusually beautiful melodic material and emotional content waiting to be expressed. ^ The purpose of this document is to present an analysis which will be useful to prospective performers. Different aspects of the sonata's structure are examined including musical form, melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic organization, tempo, dynamics, and articulation. The structural findings serve as a starting point in outlining a possible dramatic plan that unifies the piece. The interpretational approach chosen by the present author suggests that the sonata's structure is dominated by two music ideas: the opening motif (Grand Motif) of the first movement and section C of the Finale. The melodic pattern of the Grand Motif appears throughout the piece in different expressive contexts. This motif contributes to the increase of tension throughout the piece. The accumulated tension is released in the exuberant section C of the Finale. Theme C searches for reconciliation which is accomplished in the coda of the Finale. All performance suggestions are based on the structural and expressive findings of the present author. A chapter that compares the recordings of five performers presents different interpretational readings of the piece. It also proves the thesis that different performers—not restricted by the suffocating dogmas of tradition—can view the piece from a different perspective. ^

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Recommended Citation

Nikolov, Dimitar N, "Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata in G Major, Op. 37: A critical reevaluation" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3117803.