The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final completed symphony, written between February and the end of August 1893. The composer led the first performance in Saint Petersburg on 28 October [O.S. 16 October] of that year, nine days before his death.
After completing his 5th Symphony in 1888, Tchaikovsky did not start thinking about his next symphony until April 1891, on his way to the United States. The first drafts of a new symphony were started in the spring of 1891. However, some or all of the symphony was not pleasing to Tchaikovsky, who tore up the manuscript "in one of his frequent moods of depression and doubt over his alleged inability to create."
In 1892, Tchaikovsky wrote the following to his nephew:
The symphony is only a work written by dint of sheer will on the part of the composer; it contains nothing that is interesting or sympathetic. It should be cast aside and forgotten. This determination on my part is admirable and irrevocable.
The symphony was written in a small house in Klin and completed by August 1893. Tchaikovsky left Klin on October 19 for the first performance in St. Petersburg, arriving "in excellent spirits."However, the composer began to feel apprehension over his symphony, when, at rehearsals, the orchestra players did not exhibit any great admiration for the new work. Nevertheless, the premiere was met with great appreciation.
The Russian title of the symphony means "passionate" or "emotional", not "arousing pity", but it is a word reflective of a touch of concurrent suffering.