D major, Op. 35 (1878).
Early in 1878, Tchaikovsky was staying at Clarens as a guest, with his former student, the violinist Iosif Kotek. Together with Kotek, he played through a large selection from the violin repertoire, and in particular the French composer Lalo's Symphonie espagnole which it seems inspired him to write a violin concerto .
On 5/17 March Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "This evening I was seized ... quite unexpectedly with a burning inspiration..." . He set aside his Piano Sonata, on which he had been working at the time, and began composition of the Violin Concerto . In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 7/19 March, Tchaikovsky noted that for the first time in the life he had begun a new composition before completing the previous one. "On this occasion I could not overcome my desire to make rough sketches for a concerto, and afterwards became so carried away that I abandoned work on the sonata" . In all his letters from this period, the composer remarks that he is carried away with work on the concerto, which, notwithstanding its novelty of form, came very easily to him. On 10/22 March, i.e. after five days, Tchaikovsky finished the first movement of the concerto; on 11/23 March he began the second movement (Andante), and on 14/26 March he told Nadezhda von Meck that he had "reached the finale" and the concerto would soon be ready . On 16/28 March 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote: "Today I finished the concerto. It still has to be copied out and played through a few times... and then orchestrated. I shall start the copying out and add the finishing touches" . The following day he began to make the fair copy .
After playing through the concerto with Iosif Kotek, Tchaikovsky decided to write a new Andante, though the first movement and finale were considered satisfactory . On 24 March/5 April, Tchaikovsky wrote the new Andante, which in his words was: "better suited to the concerto's other two movements". He decided to add two other violin pieces to the original Andante (which was restyled Méditation) to form the cycle Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42) .
Therefore, by 24 March/5 April all the sketches were ready, including the new Andante, and the piano arrangement of the first movement. In a letter of 24 March/5 April, Tchaikovsky told Nadezhda von Meck: "Today my concerto might be called completely finished. Tomorrow I shall launch myself into the full score, and aim to finish this while the work is still fresh in my thoughts". On 30 March/11 April the full score was ready .
The first performance of the concerto was scheduled for 10/22 March 1879 at a concert of the Russian Musical Society in Saint Petersburg, to be performed by Leopold Auer . But Auer and Karl Davydov declared that it was too difficult, and the performance of the concerto did not take place. Attempts by Iosif Kotek and Emile Sauret to play the concerto in Moscow were also unsuccessful. The concerto gained a reputation as unplayable, and no-one would perform it . The concerto was performed for the first time in 1879 [in the version for violin with piano] in New York by the violinist Leopold Damrosch (the exact date of the performance is not known) .
In Europe, and later in Russia, the first performer and advocate of the concerto was Adolph Brodsky. Enraptured by the concerto, Brodsky introduced it in Vienna, at a special Novitätenprobe , conducted by Hans Richter. After the preliminary hearing, it was approved for performance at a Philharmonic Concert on 22 November/8 December 1881. Its success was sensational, despite an unfavourable reception by parts of the audience. The critics behaved with hostility to the work, particularly the well-known critic Eduard Hanslick. Nevertheless, the concerto attracted considerable attention, and Brodsky received offers for concerts in the following season .
The concerto's standing was affirmed by its performance by Adolph Brodsky in London at a "Richter Concert" on 26 April/8 May 1882. Tchaikovsky was impressed by Brodsky's audacity, the young violinist having dared to appear before the Viennese public with a new work by a Russian composer. The composer withdrew the original dedication to Leopold Auer, and replaced it with one to Adolph Brodsky .
In Russia, the Violin Concerto was performed for the first time on 8/20 August 1882 at a concert in the Art and Industrial Exhibition, by Adolph Brodsky, conducted by Ippolit Altani . The concerto had exceptional success.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 324–326
This page was last updated on 14 February 2013