What piece is that?

That’s a game I like to play when I get into the car and turn the radio on. It’s a bit like a musical equivalent of the Cambridge English school “practical criticism” where students were expected to identify “unseen” extracts of texts according to the internal hints they gave of style, genre and period.

I was sure I knew the piece, but the opening was a pastiche of antique churchiness – a slow procession – which masked the composer’s native style a bit. Soon things got moving and then I was pretty sure who he was:


Those woodwind suspensions are unmistakeably Tchaikovsky. In retrospect, even pastiche should have been a hint because he made a bit of a habit of that.

It didn’t sound like any of the symphonies I knew (though I’m a bit vague on 1, 2, 3). A moment later this really distinctive big tune (here the string parts only) burst out:



and I knew what it was.

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