How the Maestro got me addicted to Tchaikovsky

When you were a kid, what was your favorite Christmas present? Maybe it was a new bike or a special doll? Perhaps a pair of roller skates or even your own pony?

I remember a few special presents, but one stands out more than any other. Not the Nintendo, not the Bazooka Nerf Gun, not even the new Michael Jackson "Dangerous" album (though that was pretty awesome). 

You'll surely roll your eyes and think, "what a nerd," when I tell you what it was. 

Do you remember those old LaserDiscs? In the early 90's my Dad got our family a LaserDisc player. LaserDiscs were the precursor to DVDs. They were as big as old records but were shiny and silver like a DVD or a Blu Ray. We had a whole library of movies on those big old things. 

Christmas 1994

On Christmas Day in 1994 when I was 14 years old, my Dad got me a new LaserDisc. It had a picture of a wild looking German conductor. His left hand was clawing feverishly toward the low brass, his eyes were closed in rapturous intensity, and his hair looked as though he was going 180 mph in a convertible Ferrari on the Autobahn. 

Karajan-Herbert-von-08-c-Siegfried-Lauterwasser-DG-620x310 (1).jpg

It was Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in  Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, the "Pathetique." 

After we'd finished opening presents and had cleaned up a bit, my Dad talked me into turning on the new LaserDisc.

It started off quietly and way down in the basement. I could tell it was serious music, yet it didn't grab me right away.

Then, all of a sudden, the orchestra burst into a mad howl of ferociousness. Of course, my Dad had his score out and was following along. I hadn't been following the score until the music got hot and heavy. "How do a bunch of little black dots on a page make that amazing sound?!" I thought to myself. 

Fire, Heat, Volcanic Fury

I was hooked! The music got more and more intense, and that hair got wilder and wilder. When we got to the thunderous March in the 3rd movement, I was on the edge of my seat. The way the phrases kept stacking more and more layers of orchestration peaking with bombastic cymbal crashes and a mammoth thwacking bass drum..."Holy classical heavy-metal-music, Batman!"

There are many amazing classical symphonies, but Tchaikovsky's 6th is something special. It plums the depths of intense human emotions more than almost any other piece. The melodies are unforgettable and right when you think the emotional rollercoaster is coming to an end, it rockets into hyperdrive. 

As you can probably tell, I'm now a fully fledged Tchaikovsky nut. It's all the Maestro's fault. He got me hooked. But there's nothing quite like hearing his music live. 

Tchaikovsky Gets Me Into Trouble

When I lived in Poland a few years ago, I attended a concert at the National Philharmonic in downtown Warsaw. That night they played Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings." I was so excited at the end that I whistled and hollered. This big Polish guy sitting right in front of me got all upset. He turned around with and gave me a monster "stink eye." 

"Wvhat, doo yoo tink you ahre in zome kind of MacDonaldz or zometing?! Amerikanz!"

Whoops! I guess I got a little too excited. At least, too excited for an austere Polish classical music lover. Haha!


Tchaikovsky's music has such raw power in it. And the 6th Symphony, which some musicologists believe was his suicide note to the world, hits all the emotional hot buttons I have. It's the kind of piece that makes the Maestro's face look like it does in this picture here.

Come and hitch a ride with us on this monumental emotional rollercoaster. You won't regret it. But buyer beware! You may walk away from this concert a Tchaikovsky addict like me...

Click the button below to get your tickets. We'll see you on September 28th and 29th.


Dr. Douglas Pew
Associate Conductor