Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich: Andante Cantabile for Cello and Strings, op. 11

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet, Op. 11 was one of the composer’s first major successes. He wrote it for a special concert of his music organized by Anton Rubenstein, and it was wonderfully received. Indeed, it received the highest praise for which a 19th-century Russian could ever dream: its second movement, marked Andante Cantabile, reportedly brought tears to the eyes of Leo Tolstoy. The quartet, and its second movement especially, was repeated across Europe, and arranged, and rearranged; the young Tchaikovsky wondered aloud if he would ever hear requests for anything else.

In the case of Tchaikovsky, it is almost enough simply to say that his music is beautiful. In a way that few other composers had done since the time of Mozart, he simply sought to write pieces which were beautiful and pleasing to audiences — an attitude which brought him, and still brings him, no end of scorn from critics, and composers, and academics, and whoever else might be looking for trouble. Meanwhile, the Andante Cantabile, in Tchaikovsky’s own arrangement for solo cello and strings, is as beautiful today as it ever was. And it is enough.

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