Tchaikovsky - Symphony #4 - Score Analysis and Discussion
The measures in question are 6 and 7 measures after Rehearsal Letter T. The note in question is on the last beat of the first bar, and the chord on the following downbeat has some additional bearing on the decision as to whether to play an A or a C.
The chord on this final eighth note is F6 therefore both alternatives are chord tones, second violins and violas have a suspended G that resolves to F on the final 16th note, first violins have a Bb that resolves to a C. The following instruments have a C:
horns 1,3, & 4
The following instruments have an F:
trumpets 1 & 2
These instruments have an A:
bassoons 1 & 2
So, the choice seems to be between following the bass line (always a good idea for timpani) OR keeping the same note (C) to match the downbeat of the next bar. Looking at that downbeat chord, the distribution of the chord tones is exactly the same as the previous bar, with the possible exception of the timpani. Why then would the A in the previous bar be preferable to the C?
In my opinion the A is preferred because (1) it follows the bass more closely AND (2) because ACA does NOT muddy the texture like AAA would have done. CCA doesn't follow the bass line as well. Study of similar tutti passages in Tchaikovsky where timpani are playing in harmonically complex tutti passages such as this show how careful he was about such things.
In the final analysis this one is a toss-up, there are convincing arguments for both notes. It is up to the player to try both alternatives in rehearsal and choose the one that satisfies one's own sense of musical "rightness".
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