Piano Concerto No. 2
(Фортепианный концерт № 2)
Op. 44 (1879–80).
After completing work on the proofs of the opera The Maid of Orleans, Tchaikovsky decided he should take a complete break, and travelled to Kamenka on 29 September/11 October 1880 with the intention of doing nothing . Even so, on 7/19 October he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "I continue to enjoy my entitlement to dolce far niente , but a new musical idea is starting to take shape in my head" . Soon after this, firmly convinced that he was "absolutely incapable of going for long without working", Tchaikovsky took up his new composition. "Today I started to do something, and the boredom just flew away" . On 12/24 October he told Nadezhda von Meck: "I have begun to write a concerto for piano. The work will not be rushed, and there is not the least chance that I should strain or tire myself out" .
"My new musical offspring is beginning to grow...", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 15/27 October 1879, "... and little-by-little its character is forming. I am writing with great enthusiasm, but deliberately and carefully, rather than with a feverish urgency which is always detrimental to my works" . On 20 October/1 November, Tchaikovsky informed Pyotr Jurgenson: "I have begun to make sketches for the first movement of a piano concerto. Poor Jurgenson! Even so, it won't be ready before the spring" .
On 9/21 November, the composer arrived in Paris, where on 17/29 November he began working on the finale of the concerto . Despite constant complaints that the concerto was "progressing, but with much difficulty" and that he was pausing, "so that the inspiration for work might come to me" , on 23 November/5 December Tchaikovsky wrote: "This morning I worked very successfully, and the finale is near to completion; after finishing it I shall write out the andante, which already exists in my head" . By 1/13–2/14 December the sketches of the concerto had been completed: "My concerto is ready in draft, and I’m quite pleased, particularly with the andante 2nd movement" . In a letter to Pyotr Jurgenson of 30 November/12 December Tchaikovsky reported: "If only I could orchestrate it with the speed of a Roman candle and send it to you, but that’s unlikely to be ready before the spring, since there’s no hurry" .
In late January/early February 1880 he began to make a "fair copy" of the Second Concerto , and by 20 February/3 March the arrangement for two pianos and four hands was ready. On that same day he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "In early March I shall be in Saint Petersburg ... There I will orchestrate the concerto, which is now completely ready in its version for two pianos... I’m still very satisfied and proud of this concerto ..." . Tchaikovsky arrived in Saint Petersburg on 7/19 March, and in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 10/22 March he told her that he wanted to orchestrate the concerto before leaving for Kamenka . But while staying in Saint Petersburg his time was taken up with other matters (correcting the vocal score of the opera The Maid of Orleans, and preparations for its production at the Mariinsky Theatre, etc.) and Tchaikovsky's intention was not carried out. Nor did he manage to orchestrate the Second Concerto while he was staying in Moscow. Only at Kamenka, during late April/early May, did Tchaikovsky work at the orchestration, which was finished on 28 April/10 May (according to the date on manuscript). On 2/14 May the full score was on its way to Jurgenson .
During the course of July–September, Tchaikovsky worked on the proofs of the concerto.
The first performance only took place on 18/30 May 1882 in Moscow , in the concert hall of the Arts and Industrial Exhibition. The soloist was Sergey Taneyev, and the orchestra was conducted by Anton Rubinstein .
Tchaikovsky was very upset by the concerto’s lack of popularity , as he considered it to be among his best works, and one with which he had worked with pleasure.
In 1887, Tchaikovsky made some alterations and cuts to the concerto, as many pianists considered it to be too long .
In 1888, Pyotr Jurgenson wanted to reprint the concerto. Aleksandr Ziloti proposed to Tchaikovsky a number of fundamental changes to the first and second movements. Tchaikovsky did not agree with these, and decided only to make changes to the piano part: "I absolutely cannot agree to your cuts, and especially those in respect of the first movement... my author's sensibilities strongly riled by your displacements and changes, and it is impossible for me to agree to them. I want the Second Concerto in the form I had Sapel’nikov play it, and I have marked your copy accordingly... your idea of transferring the cadenza to the end left a bitter taste, and made my hair stand on end" . In his letter of reply of 1/13 January 1889, Ziloti wrote: "Of course I will play the Second Concerto in the way you indicated, with the big violin solo in the second movement completely cut!" . The concerto was not reprinted in the 1880s.
In 1891 Tchaikovsky returned to the idea of reprinting the concerto. In a letter to Pyotr Jurgenson of 30 March/11 April 1891, he wrote: "The Second Concerto is also impossible in its current form. I recall that you wanted to reprint it—but I don't know your position now. It contains many blunders of mine, but the number of mistakes in the parts is, in a word, disgraceful. I have endured many torments with this concerto at rehearsals" .
However it was not until 1893 that Aleksandr Ziloti began to prepare the concerto in a revised edition, with the agreement of the author. Under intense pressure from Ziloti, Tchaikovsky agreed to many changes, while being careful to preserve its overall form and protect his original concept:
Notwithstanding the fact that Tchaikovsky rejected many of the proposed changes, Aleksandr Ziloti significantly altered the concerto, introducing cuts and transpositions to which the author had not given his consent .
This version of the concerto was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1897, after the composer's death: the full score and orchestral parts in September and the arrangement for two pianos in October.
In 1955 the concerto appeared in the composer’s collected works, edited by Aleksandr Gol'denveizer, in which the author’s text was reproduced from the autograph full score and arrangement for two pianos .
The Second Concerto is dedicated to Nikolay Rubinstein.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 326–330
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013