Dissertation Index

Author: Wolfe, Daniel R

Title: Popular but Disparaged: Sonata Structures in Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies Four, Five, and Six

Institution: University of Houston

Begun: August 2016

Completed: May 2020


Few composers can claim the same level of popularity with the public and in the concert hall as Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Unfortunately, however, many early-twentieth-century scholars, music critics, and music theorists have discussed Tchaikovsky’s music in a manner which reveals their biases against both the feminine and the queer community. In this document I have first surveyed analytical writing about Tchaikovsky’s symphonies Four, Five, and Six and specifically his use of form in those works. I believe this survey reveals many of the same patterns in musical analysis that other scholars such as Richard Taruskin and Malcolm Brown have already compiled in music criticism and history. My second goal has to been to analyze these three symphonies using James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy’s method: Sonata Theory. By so doing I have attempted to uncover the strategies within a sonata form that are normative for Tchaikovsky, although deformational for other composers. This includes an innovative strategy for parageneric zones, the use of P0 modules, the tri-modular block, and IACs rather than PACs for essential structural closures. My final goal throughout this document is to trace those analysts who describe Tchaikovsky’s music as weak or somehow failing, and correlate that to an intentionally crafted instability on the part of Tchaikovsky. This instability often presents as harmonic or rhythmic weakness, as in symphonies Four and Five, or a kind of melodic stasis that can be created by sequencing. I believe that these thematic areas, generally in the locus of the P theme, create powerfully moving and expressive works of art. By writing this document I hope to fill gaps in the literature regarding Tchaikovsky’s use of form.

Keywords: Tchaikovsky, Sonata Theory, Tri-modular Block, Symphonies, Chaikovsky, Reception, sonata form


1: A Survey of Analytical Writing Regarding Tchaikovsky’s Late Symphonies
2: The Fourth Symphony
3: The Fifth Symphony
4: The Sixth Symphony


Dan Wolfe - wolfedanielr@gmail.com

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