The strangely formed Andante consists of a brief lyrical theme interrupted by a little flourish, followed by a mazurka-like interlude, a variation which retains the mazurka rhythm for an accompaniment, a brief reprise of the mazurka, and a short florid coda on the main theme. Clearly, the basic tempo requires several modifications for the various sections to combine happily, and Tchaikovsky makes his intentions clear by his rhythmic layout of the themes where they are combined.
The Scherzo marks the first outing for material which later occupied the same position in the first symphony, and draws attention to the fundamentally orchestral quality of Tchaikovsky’s piano-writing. Sweet though the trio section is, it does not quite match the equivalent but newly composed passage in the later symphony. It returns for the coda, which moves without a break into a dramatic Adagio designed to introduce the finale.
The busy opening of the Allegro vivo is more rhetorical than melodic, and in its youthfully gauche self-importance calls to mind the equivalent movement of Chopin’s early Op 4 Sonata. The second theme has many a characteristic of the later Tchaikovsky despite its reckless asymmetry of phrase, but nothing quite prepares the listener for the sudden abandonment of the main key (now enharmonically shifted to D flat major) at the coda, which only just manages to scramble home in triumph.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1997