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Thread: Is Tchaikovsky a greater orchestrator than Brahms?

  1. #1
    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Red face Is Tchaikovsky a greater orchestrator than Brahms?

    Early in my classical listening experience, I exalted Brahms' orchestration as among the best on classical music. As I go further in my journey, I still consider Brahms as a great orchestrator but Tchaikovsky have eclipsed him in my opinion.

    Brahms+-+Tchaikovsky.jpg

    Brahms' orchestration is noted for their skill and genius harmonies.. But oftentimes I found Brahms' orchestral works "dry" and "methodical". On the other hand, I found the melodies of Tchaikovsky' orchestral works ravishing and memorable. Tchaikovsky "sings" in my heart, while Brahms "indulges" me with his genius. Tchaikovsky also wrote a larger body of orchestral works than Brahms.

    These are some of their orchestral works:

    Brahms


    Op. 11, Serenade No. 1 in D major (1857)
    Op. 16, Serenade No. 2 in A major (1859)
    Op. 56a, Variations on a Theme by Haydn (1873)
    Op. 68, Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1876 première)
    Op. 73, Symphony No. 2 in D major (1877)
    Op. 80, Academic Festival Overture, for orchestra (1880)
    Op. 81, Tragic Overture, for orchestra (1880)
    Op. 90, Symphony No. 3 in F major (1883)
    Op. 98, Symphony No. 4 in E minor (1885)

    Tchaikovsky

    Symphonies

    No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13, Winter Daydreams (1866)
    No. 2 in C minor, Op. 17, Little Russian (1872)
    No. 3 in D major, Op. 29, Polish (1875)
    No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 (1877–1878)
    Manfred Symphony, B minor, Op. 58; inspired by Byron's poem Manfred (1885)
    No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 (1888)
    No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique

    Program music and commissioned pieces

    Romeo and Juliet
    The Tempest
    Hamlet
    Capriccio Italien
    Francesca da Rimini
    The Storm
    Fatum
    The Voyevoda
    1812 Overture
    Marche Slave
    Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem
    Festival Coronation March

    Orchestral suites and Serenade

    Orchestral Suite No. 1 in D minor, Op. 43 (1878–1879)
    Orchestral Suite No. 2 in C major, Op. 53 (1883)
    Orchestral Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55 (1884)
    Orchestral Suite No. 4 in G major "Mozartiana", Op. 61 (1887)
    Serenade for Strings

    Tchaikovsky thought in Brahms:

    "With regard to Brahms I do not quite agree with Your Highness. In the music of this master (for his mastery can of course not be denied) there is something dry and cold which repels my heart. He has very little melodic inventiveness; his musical thoughts are never spoken out to their conclusion; no sooner has one heard a suggestion of a melodic form that can be easily appreciated, than the latter has already sunk into a whirlpool of meaningless harmonic progressions and modulations. It's just as if this composer had deliberately set himself the task of being unintelligible; what he does is precisely to tease and irritate one's musical feeling. He does not wish to satisfy the latter's needs, he is afraid to speak in a language that reaches the heart. His depth isn't real—elle est voulue [French = 'it is assumed, artificial']—he seems to have decided once and for all that it is necessary to be profound, and it is true that he has a semblance of depth, but only a semblance. His profundity is empty. One can't say that Brahms's music is feeble and insignificant. His style is always elevated; he never chases after outward effects, he is never banal; everything in him is serious and noble, but the most important thing is missing—beauty.


    "



    In your opinion, who is the greater orchestrator?
    Schubert manages that most supreme of feats, to be melancholy without being maudlin, his pain is not a mockery of pain but truly heartfelt, and he manages to pass that though with all of its complexities in his music.

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  3. #2
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    I voted equal.

    Obviously Tchaikovsky's orchestration is more colourful than that of Brahms. But their artistic aims and aesthetics where of course different. Its a bit like the difference between a colour photograph and a black and white one. Both can be equally fine if done to a high level. Sometimes Tchaikovsky can go overboard but he admitted that (he was his own toughest critic, but so was Brahms).

    A direct comparison is their violin concertos, both in the key of D, but apart from that very different. Tchaikovsky's is more song like, like his idol Mozart his music always comes across as having a tuneful and vocal quality. But Brahms' music tends to feel, like Haydn's, as if he was thinking in terms of music having largely instrumental qualities rather than 'vocal' ones.

    I read on this forum that some people are kind of unhappy with Brahms' use of the triangle in the scherzo of his 4th symphony. I think that's kind of telling of the difference between these two composers. Tchaikovsky often uses the metallic percussion like cymbals, but Brahms just uses the timpani (eg. in his violin concerto). Its that garish colour versus maximum restraint.
    Last edited by Sid James; Oct-03-2012 at 09:07.

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    Senior Member ComposerOfAvantGarde's Avatar
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    In terms of orchestration, obviously Tchaikovsky.
    Cheers, Jeff W (another awesome dude), thanks for the signature mention!

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  7. #4
    Senior Member Mephistopheles's Avatar
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    I voted Tchaikovsky. I wouldn't ever want Brahms's orchestration to be different, but if I wanted to listen to some music specifically for the orchestral colour (rather than form or structure), then Tchaikovsky would be a better choice.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky was very skillful, particularly in letting all of his instrument be heard, and was imaginative - except - he was strings-heavy as much as was Brahms. I rate both of them below Rachmaninoff, who was the master of orchestral harmonies, and him below R. Strauss. Richard managed to hide a triangle in a forte occasionally, but his orchestral effects were superior.

    And then there is Bartók's CfO.

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    Senior Member ComposerOfAvantGarde's Avatar
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    Mahler was probably the best orchestrator of all the Romantic composers.
    Cheers, Jeff W (another awesome dude), thanks for the signature mention!

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    Tchaikovky in terms of orchestration

    Brahms in terms of harmony and beard

  12. #8
    Senior Member peeyaj's Avatar
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    Brahms' melodies never struck me.. It's just too dry.

    Schubert manages that most supreme of feats, to be melancholy without being maudlin, his pain is not a mockery of pain but truly heartfelt, and he manages to pass that though with all of its complexities in his music.

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  14. #9
    Senior Member Mephistopheles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ComposerOfAvantGarde View Post
    Mahler was probably the best orchestrator of all the Romantic composers.
    Shame about the actual music.

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    Inactive Carpenoctem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peeyaj View Post
    Brahms' melodies never struck me.. It's just too dry.

    Blasphemy!

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    Senior Member Ramako's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with being string-heavy as long as it works. I much prefer Tchaikovsky's orchestral music however. Tchaikovsky's above opinion vis-a-vis Brahms is all too true.

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  19. #12
    Senior Member ComposerOfAvantGarde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mephistopheles View Post
    Shame about the actual music.
    Orchestration is part of the music. Music isn't just the melody and the harmony!
    Cheers, Jeff W (another awesome dude), thanks for the signature mention!

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  21. #13
    Senior Member Mephistopheles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramako View Post
    Nothing wrong with being string-heavy as long as it works. I much prefer Tchaikovsky's orchestral music however. Tchaikovsky's above opinion vis-a-vis Brahms is all too true.
    True for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by ComposerOfAvantGarde View Post
    Orchestration is part of the music. Music isn't just the melody and the harmony!
    A much smaller part.

  22. #14
    Senior Member ComposerOfAvantGarde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mephistopheles View Post
    True for you.



    A much smaller part.
    Since the 20th century it has grown to be a much bigger part.
    Cheers, Jeff W (another awesome dude), thanks for the signature mention!

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  24. #15
    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mephistopheles View Post
    Shame about the actual music.
    Just when I was starting to like you...

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