Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Violin Concerto (Tchaikovsky)
As with most concerti, the piece is in three movements, the first and last quick, the second slow:
- Allegro moderato
- Canzonetta: Andante
- Allegro vivacissimo
The piece was written in 1878 in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva where Tchaikovsky had gone to recover from the depression brought on by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova (Tchaikovsky was homosexual, and had only married Milyukova out of a sense of duty).
Tchaikovsky was accompanied there by his composition pupil, the violinist Yosif Kotek , and the two played works for violin and piano together, which may have been the catalyst for the composition of the concerto. Tchaikovsky not being a violinist himself, he was advised on the composition of the solo part by Kotek. Swift progress was made, and the work was completed within a month despite the middle movement getting a complete rewrite (a version of the original movement was preserved as the first of the three pieces for violin and piano, Souvenir d'un lieu cher).
Kotek did not have a strong enough reputation to premiere the work, so Tchaikovsky instead intended the first performance to be given by Leopold Auer, and accordingly dedicated the work to him. Auer refused, however, saying the work was unplayable (he did play the work later in his life, however), meaning that the planned premiere for March 1879 had to be cancelled and a new soloist found. The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky on December 4, 1881 in Vienna (Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to him). Critical reaction was mixed, and the piece was certainly not received as the masterpiece it is taken to be today. The influential critic Eduard Hanslick called it "long and pretentious" and said that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear."
Tchaikovsky wrote only one concerto for violin, but wrote three other concerti, all for piano, with the Piano Concerto No. 1 by far the best known.
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