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Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony

Stephen Johnson charts how Tchaikovsky put the poetry of Byron into his only programmatic symphony, Manfred.

It should never have been by Tchaikovsky at all. His Russian colleague Balakirev was first in line to make a symphony of Byron's lonely Manfred, and he'd passed it to Berlioz. Only when the plan reached Tchaikovsky did it find a composer willing to take the challenge. Stephen Johnson explores how the composer transformed Byron's poetic vision into music, and teases apart the lives of the composer outside and the hero within.

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20 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


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