If one is searching for an extra-musical heading under which to bracket the con- tent of the Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 6 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one cannot really avoid the word “fate”. Personal fate, to be exact. Thus his Symphony No. 4 (1876-78) was a frank confession straight from the soul, a subtle psychological portrait printed on paper. In a letter to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, he talked of “fate, this disastrous power, which prevents our urgent desire for happiness from achieving its objective”. After this, a further 11 years passed before Tchaikovsky attempted to compose another “purely” symphonic work – his Symphony No. 5. Here again, the “concept of destiny” very clearly determined the musical processes: however, here it was rather more a poetic idea, a guiding principle, rather than an established musical programme for the listener.