by Amy Dennison

This season we have tackled some giants – giant pieces and giant composers. I blogged about Brahms and how my admiration for the composer grew through our rehearsals and performance of the Brahms Double Concerto in the Fall. Well ditto this for Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony. Other than for the 3rd movement, which nobody can’t like, I was rather neutral about this piece.

I think after all these years of music making, I finally have unlocked the key to 19th century romantic music. It’s all about the melody. I have really learned to listen for the melody in these giant masterpieces, because like “Where’s Waldo?” it often is hidden by complex rhythms, countermelodies, and harmonies simultaneously being played. So in a nutshell, here’s where in the music I find the hidden gems that make this piece so awesome:

first movement: the very end. Listen for the trumpet melody.It is haunting, evocative and beautiful. It gives me chills and it ends this movement like it begins: quiet and pensive. Did you know there were 354 measures in this piece? Fortunately you don’t need to know that to enjoy the music!

second movement: the middle calm section is a nice contrast to the main melody which is in groups of five. This middle part also comes in at the end of the movement and this part really cleanses the ear. I almost imagine that my blood pressure goes down in these parts!

third movement: what can I say about this movement? Gosh, it sounds like the end of the piece! What I find so humorous in this movement is a short melody heard near the beginning and later on in the movement. It’s seven notes and it sounds exactly like “follow the yellow brick road!” I smile everytime I play that.

final movement: The ending – the final 25 bars slowly evaporate into silence – not many composers have the guts to end a composition like that. Hurrah for Tchaikovsky! Another reason why I am changing my tune about big romantic works!

See you on March 1!

Amy Dennison is an oboist for the Cincinnati Community Orchestra. You can find her blog at