Tchaikovsky maintained his life in loving relations with Europe and remained faithful to the Western musical heritage, despite a Russian world where the idea of national music was growing. This European taste was manifested by a number of trips and, in 1890, Florence was the subject of his visit. Tchaikovsky spent a long time in the city, where the first motifs of what would become Souvenir de Florence were sketched. The first movement of this sextet surprises with the dramatic violence of the first theme, in contrast to the idea of Italian sensuality and Renaissance balance that the title might suggest. This initial agitation was followed by the deep lyricism of a beautiful cantabile adagio, while the last two movements – those of the return – proved to be more Slavic.
Tchaikovsky was able to write this Remembrance partly because of Brahms. Indeed, if the sextets remained, in the first half of the 19th century, relatively anecdotal compared to the rest of chamber music production, the Brahmsian proposals changed the situation. Composed in 1860, the Hamburg composer’s first sextet marks an important milestone. Sometimes referred to as the “spring sextet” because of its elegant grace and the pastoral evocations of its light scherzo, the work is smiling. Only the second movement, a poignant andante in D minor, obscures its peaceful course – and this light responds nicely to the great shadows of the Tchaikovskyan path. The music oscillates between these two poles, according to the magnificent possibilities offered by the combination of the six instruments – a guarantee of a rich harmony, where the light shines further away and the night is denser.
Sextuor à cordes n°1 en si bémol majeur Op.18 / J. Brahms
Souvenir de Florence Op.70 / P.I. Tchaïkovsky