Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, 1840, 1893
Tchaikovsky wrote 103 songs. While he may not be remembered as a composer of lieder, he produced a larger number of works than their comparative neglect would suggest, often concentrating into a few pages a musical image that would seem to ideally match the substance of the text. The songs are extremely varied and a wide range of genres - drama and short songs of everyday life; folk tunes and waltzes. Tchaikovsky is most successful when writing on the subject of love and its loss or frustration. The songs are marked by several features: artistic simplicity, artlessness of musical language, variety and originality of melody and richness of accompaniment. The songs helped cross-pollinate the composer's work in other genres, with many of his operatic arias closely related to them. While "None but the Lonely Heart" may be the one of his finest songs, as well as perhaps the best-known in the West, the Six Romances, Op. 65 and the Six Romances, Op. 73 are especially recommendable.
Other Famous Music
Brown calls Tchaikovsky's first ballet, Swan Lake, "a very remarkable and bold achievement." The genre on the whole was mainly "a decorative spectacle" when Swan Lake was written, which made Tchaikovsky's attempt to "incorporate a drama that was more than a convenient series of incidents for mechanically shifting from one divertissement to the next ... almost visionary." However, while the composer showed considerable aptitude in writing music that focused on the drama of the story, the demand for set pieces undercut his potential for complete success. The lengthy divertissements he supplied for two of the ballet's four acts display a "commendable variety of character" but divert action (and audience attention) away from the main plot. Moreover, Brown adds, the formal dance music is uneven, some of it "quite ordinary, a little even trite." Despite these handicaps, Swan Lake gives Tchaikovsky many opportunities to showcase his gift for melody and, as Brown points out, has proved "indestructible" in popular appeal. The oboe solo associated with Odette and her swans, which first appears at the end of Act 1, is one of the composer's best–known themes.