PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY wrote his FIFTH SYMPHONY ten years after the fourth. In the intervening period he went through a lot of events, lost loved ones, changed his views on life, more and more frequently reflected on the insoluble questions of life, wrote his testament, and sought spiritual support in religion. At that time he was fascinated with the character of Hamlet, which he would set down later in his famous overture. Even before he started composing the symphony, he described in his diary on 15 April 1888 the original programme of the work: „complete resignation before fate, or, which amounts to the same, before the inscrutable predestination of Providence… Grumble, doubts, complaints, reproaches … Should not I throw myself in the embrace of faith…”
At the same time, his first triumphal tour in Europe as conductor brought him absolutely opposing emotions. After his return, he created the Fifth within the relatively short span between May and August 1888 and himself conducted the first performance of the work on 6 November 1888 in St. Petersburg. The symphony was met with varying responses, Tchaikovsky himself initially did not think much and was not very fond of his work, which was ridden by inherent contradictions. The overall development of the work is reminiscent of Beethoven’s dramaturgical conception “from darkness to light”, “from tragedy to triumph”. But for over hundred years now conductors and researchers have attempted to locate the precise interpretation, the hidden meaning of the finale – a triumph of man over fate or a victory of fate?