Skip to content
  • Audio
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

Charles Hazlewood on the Discovering Tchaikovsky programmes

Updated Tuesday 23rd January 2007

The conductor Charles Hazelwood talks about the BBC/OU Discovering Tchaikovsky programmes.

Copyright The Open University Copyright The Open University

The whole idea of these two Discovering Tchaikovskys is to try and get somewhere close to the soul of the man through his music.

Effectively, it’s like performing a kind of open heart surgery, a sort of unpacking, that we take two seminal works of Tchaikovsky, one from very early in his career, arguably his greatest early masterpiece, and his kind of, the epilogue to his life, the last great symphony, the first movement of that, the Pathetique.

And, by unpacking all this open heart surgery thing I’m talking about, it’s delving deep within the kind of muscle tissue, the fibre, the fundamental DNA of what makes these two pieces what they are in an attempt to understand through that kind of very minute exploration, using the orchestra as a kind of tool through which and with which we can explore this extraordinary, extraordinary romantic literature from Russia.

So, with the great help of the BBC Philharmonic, we’re going to be, as I say, delving deep, finding some of the kind of fundamentals of the music, exploring what Tchaikovsky perhaps meant. Of course, that’s always a subjective thing and I would hope that anyone watching the programmes would be licensed, through the programmes and through what might be new revelations for them, to paint their own pictures, not necessarily to take what I say as read in terms of what something might mean. All I’m ever trying to do is to create a series of starting points. So, in the case of Romeo and Juliet and in the case of the first extraordinary movement of the Pathetique Symphony, opportunities to paint your own pictures and to approach this music afresh because, boy, does it deserve it.

The only thing which people need in coming to these two programmes is a lively imagination and the kind of willingness to go with me and the orchestra on a quest to discover some of the fundamental truths enshrined within these two great Tchaikovsky masterpieces.

It’s absolutely, absolutely not important to have any background in music, to play a musical instrument, to have any sense that you are musical. One of the biggest problems I find again and again in this world of ours is that people grow up, the kind of schools they go to, the bad influences which they’re subjected to, perhaps it’s their parents, perhaps it’s the teachers at school, tell them at some point along the way of formative years that they’re not musical, worst of all they’re tone deaf, or that somehow they don’t have the wherewithal and the ability to get inside great music.

And I would say that is the most nonsensical thing. Music is probably the greatest universal language that we have as a species beyond any dialect or tongue. It can speak to people in so many different disparate contexts and people of different origins, different kind of social groupings, at any place in the world. There are still some fundamental universal truths which will speak to those people, so I urge anyone who’s just interested in exploring a world of magic and wonder and sheer genius in the context of the greatest Russian composer perhaps that there’s ever been.


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?