The five works by Tchaikovsky on this CD form a cohesive whole. They were written to order. There is nothing shameful about this for the creative spirit. The majority of professional composers used to accept commissioned work, and still do. An order means that there is demand for the work, it is financially beneficial and above all – or maybe, most importantly – having a deadline disciplines the creative urge and stimulates inspiration. But in Russia in Tchaikovsky’s time, it was quite unusual for work to be commissioned (even for the members of the ‘Mighty Handful’ such as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev) since many composers, even well-known ones, had ‘amateur’ status. In this and in other ways, Tchaikovsky was the fi rst ‘professional’ Russian composer. A new generation of composers (Stravinsky, Prokofiev) followed in his footsteps; for them, commissions were the norm.
Tchaikovsky, however, usually found working to order irksome but, being a professional, he produced music of the highest quality. He accepted commissions and the result was inspired. The orders were for official purposes. Tchaikovsky wrote for official and public events. He was an official composer from early in his career, on call whenever there was a need for music for state or social occasions. His compositions were well-crafted, accessible and attractive, capturing the mood of his fellow Russians