For piano with orchestra, Op. 56 (1884).
Returning from foreign travels at the beginning of March 1884, Tchaikovsky decided to spend the spring months with his sister at Kamenka. However, this trip was delayed by urgent modifications to the opera Mazepa. On 13/25 March 1884, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Saint Petersburg: "I am feeling a surge of energy, and an impatience to set about something new" . But Tchaikovsky did not manage to start any new work in Saint Petersburg. Only after arriving at Kamenka on 12/24 April, did Tchaikovsky set to work. Initially he was uncertain what the composition would turn out to be. "For the present I have still not started work, and have only been collecting some materials for a future symphonic composition, the form of which has still not been settled" . Captivated by the playing of the pianist Eugen d’Albert, who gave concerts in Moscow during the 1883/84 season, his thoughts turned to a new piano concerto .
In the composer’s diary entry for 13/25 April 1884, we read: "I stopped playing around and came up with something new. Hit upon an idea for a concerto for piano, but it still sounded too poor and unoriginal". On 14/26 April, Tchaikovsky remarked in his diary: "Long period of idleness, without the slightest inspiration". On 16/28 April: "Both in the Trostianka [woods] and at home after dinner, tried to decide on the foundations for the new symphony, but it was all unsatisfactory... Walked in the garden and came up with the seed not of a future symphony, but of a suite" . On 17/29 April and 18/30 April, Tchaikovsky wandered in the Trostianka woods and noted down, in his own words: "wretched ideas" . "Very disappointed with myself that everything that comes into my head is banal", the composer noted on 19 April/1 May. Nevertheless, on the same day, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "Over recent days the form of my future symphonic work has been determined—it shall be a suite" .
After completing the sketches and piano arrangement of the Third Suite in June, while staying at Grankino, Tchaikovsky returned to composing the Concert Fantasia. "Besides orchestrating the Suite, I have taken up a new composition, namely a concerto for piano", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 16/28 June 1884 , but on 14/26 July he told her: "The piano concerto, about which I wrote to you, I want to write in the autumn, or even winter" . In the second movement of the Concert Fantasia, Tchaikovsky included material from Contrastes, the rejected first movement of the suite. Sketches for Contrastes, written in an orchestral variant, date from 10/22–12/24 May 1884. It seems that at this time the form of the composition was still not quite clear to the author. In the majority of his letters he called it a "concerto", and in a letter to Sergey Taneyev of 30 June/12 July, Tchaikovsky wrote: "I have an idea for a concert piece for piano in two movements" . The term "piece" was used in other letters from this same period.
On 20 July/1 August 1884, Tchaikovsky left Grankino for Skabeyevo, near Podolsk, where he spent the summer with Anatoly Tchaikovsky and his family. Here he arrived with the firm intention of starting work on the proposed piano concerto, which until now had existed only as sketches. A new difficulty presented itself when he opened his baggage, since he could not "find the full score of my suite and sketches for the piano concerto" . He was worried by the prospect of working at Skabeyevo without an instrument: "Occupying myself here will be difficult, if not quite impossible... there is no piano, and I came here to work on a piano piece", Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest . But at Tchaikovsky's request, Pyotr Jurgenson arranged for a piano to be brought to him while he was staying at Skabeyevo.
On 1/13 August, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck of his intention to "remain the whole month in the country, reading and steadily working on my piano concerto" . But on 8/20 August he reported: "My work is going very well. The piano concerto is almost prepared in rough and before long I shall commence the instrumentation" .
On 15/27 August, Tchaikovsky wrote that the concerto had been finished in draft, and that he had set about the orchestration, which he was hurrying to finish so that it could be played before the end of the year .
He remained at Skabeyevo until late August/early September. It seems that during a day's visit to Moscow on 26 August/7 September, Tchaikovsky discussed the Concert Fantasia with Sergey Taneyev, and arranged to meet with him on 2/14–3/15 September in Moscow, when Tchaikovsky played his new work to Taneyev . On 3/15 September, Tchaikovsky arrived at Pleshcheyevo. There on 5/17 September , he resumed working on the Concert Fantasia, orchestrating it and at the same time making the arrangement for two pianos. This work went well up to 15/27 September. Then he again returned to Moscow in order to collect the proofs of the suite, and "to see Taneyev, who has already begun to learn the concerto" . On 24 September/6 October, Tchaikovsky finished the full score (according to the date on the manuscript). Evidently he had already sent the first movement to Pyotr Jurgenson, and on 25 September/7 October he despatched the second movement—Contrastes. Tchaikovsky added an appendix to the manuscript—a variant of the full score on six pages—for performers wanting only to play the first movement. Included with this appendix was a short explanatory note in Russian and French. In a letter to Jurgenson of 25 September/7 October, Tchaikovsky for the first time referred to his work as a "fantasia for piano" . On 1/13 October, Tchaikovsky told Nadezhda von Meck: "I have finished all my work" .
During October and November the Concert Fantasia was rapidly engraved, since it had to be ready for a concert of the Russian Musical Society in December, in which it was to be performed by Sergey Taneyev .
In early/mid October 1884, Tchaikovsky left Pleshcheyevo for Saint Petersburg, in order to attend rehearsals of the opera Yevgeny Onegin. Proofs of the Suite and the Fantasia were taken to him in Saint Petersburg .
The composer's unplanned departure for abroad on 1/13 November to see his dying friend Iosif Kotek upset his plans. The second and third sets of proofs were entrusted to Nikolay Krizander, so that they could be given to Sergey Taneyev . Nevertheless, on his return from abroad straight to Saint Petersburg on 7/19 December, and then to Moscow on 17/29 December, Tchaikovsky was still engaged in the task of correcting the proofs of both works .
The performance of the Concert Fantasia was originally scheduled for 15/27 December 1884. For this performance, Sergey Taneyev had already begun to learn the Fantasia in September, in consultation with Tchaikovsky . But owing to the indisposition of the conductor Max Erdmannsdörfer, the performance was postponed. The Concert Fantasia received its first performance on 22 February/6 March 1885 at the tenth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow, played by Taneyev and conducted by Erdmannsdörfer. Tchaikovsky, who attended the concert, wrote to his brother Modest on 25 February/9 March: "I heard a superb performance of the Fantasia by Taneyev and the orchestra, with which I was delighted. It had great success with the public" . In Saint Petersburg, the Concert Fantasia was performed for the first time on 4/16 April 1886 in the tenth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Hans von Bülow, soloist Sergey Taneyev.
The Concert Fantasia was published by Pyotr Jurgenson: the arrangement for two pianos and four hands was brought out in December 1884, the orchestral parts in January 1885, and the full score in March 1893.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 330–334
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013