Movement 1: Allegro appassionato
Movement 2: Andante largamente
Movement 3: Moderato
Movement 4: Moderato con fuoco
The Andante largamente is a simple tripartite conception which launches immediately into its long principal melody in C major. The placid mood becomes gradually ruffled during the central section in A minor, where dotted rhythms are contrasted with pulsating triplets. A delicate modulation (German augmented sixth to tonic 6/4, for those who care about such things) ushers in the principal theme over a florid accompaniment, and the last few bars recall the middle section.
The scherzo, Moderato, is a perky piece in A minor with a tastefully ornamented melody which makes much of the alternative possibilities between G sharp and G natural. The second section, which is repeated, spends some time in C major before returning to A minor and a fortissimo change of gear from 3/8 to four bars of 2/8—something which would have delighted Schumann. The little trio in A major subjects its winsome tune to some quite harmless contrapuntal imitation.
The finale, Moderato con fuoco, is the strongest movement. After a preliminary statement of the theme, a grand Russian outburst reintroduces it in octaves with rushing triplet accompaniment. These rhythms dominate the movement, despite the first appearance of the lyrical second subject—an excellent melody by any standards. The entire development section is given over to a fugue on the first theme, but although young Anton Grigoryevich flexes his academic muscles once or twice the fugal manner actually assists the enormous forward propulsion of the movement. When the second theme returns, the irrepressible rhythm of the fugue continues in the bass, to be displaced only by the grandest possible repeat of this theme, with repeated chords and rich arpeggios, leading (through a harmonic progression that would become Tchaikovsky’s favourite method of heralding a climax) to an enthusiastic conclusion.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996