Today we present one of the most interesting pieces that will be performed on November 25 at the Auditorio de la Paz in Fuengirola by Iberian Sinfonietta , they are the Variations on a Tchaikovsky Theme by Anton Arenski .
Arensky was a Russian composer and music pedagogue who lived between 1861 and 1906. He was born in Novgorod, Russia. He showed aptitude for music from a very young age. He studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, where he was a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He graduated in 1882 with a gold medal and that same year he began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his students we can highlight composers of the stature of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Gretchaninov.
He is a romantically trained musician, influenced mainly by Thaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and although he dominated various genres such as chamber music, works for piano and orchestral music, his best-known piece is the Variations on a Theme by Thaikovsky for orchestra. ropes. He died young, but his work not only as a musician, but as a pedagogue, influenced Russian music for generations.
His work became visible when he began as a professor at the Moscow Conservatory in 1882, at just 21 years old, becoming the youngest professor on the faculty. There he taught classes in Harmony, Orchestration and Composition, with which many of his students recognized Arensky 's influence on their musical training and the development of their compositional language. He introduced his students to the techniques of composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other German composers. His pedagogical method combined practice, analysis and improvisation, encouraging creativity, being a key figure in laying the foundations of Russian musical nationalism at the end of the 19th century. In this way, Arensky 's teaching work in Moscow was key to the formation of a new batch of composers who would take Russian music to levels of great excellence.
The Variations on a Tchaikovsky Theme is a work for string orchestra that dates from 1894, a year after the death of Tchaikovsky, of whom Arensky was a disciple and whose musical influence we will discuss. The theme on which these variations are developed belongs to a popular children's song called “Leyenda”.
After the presentation of the theme by the low strings, the work presents seven variations, as well as a final coda, which recreate the original material with great imagination and contrapuntal technique. In Variation I, the increasing rhythm and the interaction of the voices stand out. The II presents the theme in the high strings suddenly. The III is of a calm nature. In IV the use of pizzicato stands out. The V is expressive, the VI very lively and virtuosic. Finally, the VII resumes the initial character before the final coda.
For Arensky , Tchaikovsky symbolized mother Russia, from whom he drank deeply. This work is a very successful tribute that demonstrates the student's mastery and his mastery of texture and thematic variation. In it we also appreciate influences of German romanticism in contrapuntal writing. It is a gem of the Russian orchestral repertoire that deserves to be more disseminated. We can say that Arensky knew how to express his admiration for his teacher with great delicacy and emotion.
Regarding the relationship between Arensky and Tchaikovsky, we must point out that the former studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory along with other composers of the Circle of Five, such as Rimsky-Korsakov, and there, one of the most prestigious teachers was Tchaikovsky, his influence being very big among students. Arenski 's great admiration for Tchaikovsky is known, since his student years, considering him a role model; in fact, after graduating in 1882, they maintained contact with each other, participating in each other's premieres. Tchaikovsky's premature death in 1893 deeply affected Arensky , who viewed him as a patriarchal figure. This mourning inspired some of his early mature works, such as the second movement of String Quartet No. 2 . Later, the Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky served to pay him an emotional musical tribute.
Tchaikovsky's influence can be seen in Arensky 's melodic vein and orchestral richness, although the work and breadth of his range as a composer makes him worthy of having a personal style. However, we can affirm that he always retained deep respect and filial love for the figure of Tchaikovsky throughout his musical career.
Jorge Rodríguez Morata
Pedagogical content coordinator.