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ClassicsOnline Home » TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major / Serenade Melancolique / Souvenir d'un lieu cher
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)
Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 35
Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Opus 42 (orch. Glazunov)
Serenade melancolique, Opus 26
Ppyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk, the
second son of a mining engineer, Ilya Petrovich, who was in charge of the
Votkinsk iron foundry, and his second wife, a young woman of part-French
extraction, from whom the composer seems to have inherited both an interest in
music and a weakness of nerves. In 1844, with the arrival of a French governess
Fanny Durbach, he enjoyed a period of security and happiness that was disrupted
four years later , when the family moved to Moscow and then to St. Petersburg,
and he was sent to school, from which he had to be removed the following year,
after an illness. His father's appointment to the management of a private metal
works at Alapayevsk led to a further move, but St. Petersburg had at least
provided more direct musical experience than Votkinsk. A year later, in 1849,
Tchaikovsky was sent to the School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg.
The years that Tchaikovsky spent in St. Petersburg allowed him an
opportunity to develop his musical abilities, both as a pianist and as a
composer, and to hear a great deal of music at concerts and in the opera-house.
In 1859 he started work as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice, but before long
began to take lessons in harmony from Nikolay Ivanovich Zaremba. In 1862 he
became a pupil of Zaremba at the newly established Conservatory, and resigned
his official appointment at the Ministry the following year in order to devote
himself fully to music.
Tchaikovsky's subsequent career took him, after the completion of his
course at the Conservatory, to the new Conservatory in Moscow, established by
Nikolay Rubinstein, brother of Anton, who had set up the institution in St.
Petersburg. He was to remain on the teaching staff of Moscow Conservatory for
twelve years, only resigning after the personal difficulties that followed his
disastrous marriage in 1877, an event that coincided with the acquisition of a
measure of financial security through the patronage of a rich widow, Nadezhda
von Meck, whom he was never to meet. From 1878 until his death in 1893 he was
able to devote himself fully to composition and to the performance of his
music, which had aroused interest abroad as well as in Russia.
It seems likely that Tchaikovsky died by his own hand, forced to this
course by a group of former students at the School of Jurisprudence anxious to
preserve their school's official reputation by avoiding an open scandal
threatened as the result of a supposed homosexual relationship with the son of
a nobleman. His suicide, if that is what it was, came soon after the successful
performance in St. Petersburg of his Sixth
Symphony. It brought to an end a career in which he had proved
markedly more successful than his less professional contemporaries, the group
of five nationalist composers under the domination of Balakirev, a musician who
did his best to bully and inspire Tchaikovsky in what seemed the major task of
creating music that was thoroughly Russian. To the nationalists Tchaikovsky
seemed cosmopolitan, to foreign critics he could seem all too Russian.
Nevertheless it is this synthesis of Western European and Russian, one element
complementing the other, that has ensured him a lasting place in the history of
The first work Tchaikovsky was to write for solo violin was the
serenade melancolique, commissioned by Leopold Auer, who had succeeded
Wieniawski at Rubinstein's Conservatory in St. Petersburg in 1868 and was to
exercise a powerful influence over the development of violin-playing during the
fifty years he spent in Russia. Auer, who had already played Tchaikovsky's
string quartets at concerts in St. Petersburg, met the composer at Nikolay
Rubinstein's early in 1875, shortly after the latter's emphatic condemnation of
the first of Tchaikovsky's piano concertos. By turns sombre and tender in
feeling, the Serenade is a forerunner of the concerto that was to follow three
years later. It was given its first performance by Adolf Brodsky in a Russian
Music Society concert in Moscow a year later, and was played by Auer in St.
Petersburg for the first time in November, 1876.
It was in March, 1878, in the Swiss resort of Clarens that Tchaikovsky
set to work on his Violin Concerto. Kotek, who had accompanied him, joined him
in playing through a great deal of music, including Lalo's new Symphonie espagnole. Two days after
playing Lalo's work Tchaikovsky started his own concerto, drawing inspiration
from what he described as the freshness, lightness and piquant rhythms of the
French composer's music. Two days later the first movement of the concerto was
completed and a week later the whole concerto was ready, so that Kotek - Kotik,
or Tom-cat, to Tchaikovsky - was able to play it through, much to the general
approval of the composer's brother Modest, who had joined the party .The
original slow movement. however. seemed less satisfactory, and the present
Canzonetta was substituted.
Tchaikovsky would have liked to dedicate the concerto to Kotek, who had
been present at its inception, had advised on the lay-out of the violin part
and was, in any case, its initial inspiration. Discretion and strategy
intervened to offer the work to Auer, who was to reject it as un-violinistic,
although he took it into his repertoire shortly before the composer's death.
The concerto received its first performance neither from Auer nor Kotek, but
from Adolf Brodsky, who played it in Vienna two years after its completion, to
the disapproval of the well known critic Eduard Hanslick, who condemned what he
regarded as a trivial Cossack element in a concerto that must have seemed to
him foreign and barbarous.
The first movement maintains an almost classical balance of form. It
opens with a brief introduction of mounting excitement, interrupted as the
soloist leads into his first theme. The second subject, of which Auer had
approved from the first, is extended by the violinist and is followed by a
development section which seems about to embark on the first subject, but
changes, to offer a new theme in its place. An exciting cadenza leads back to
the principal subject once more, a reworking of the first section of the
movement, with an exhilarating conclusion.
The Canzonetta starts
with an introduction for wind instruments, after which the soloist, with the
simplest accompaniment, plays a typically Russian melody, the substance of the
movement. This serves as a necessary respite before the intense nervous energy
of the last movement, music couched in terms of the greatest brilliance.
The discarded movement of the concerto was to serve its purpose as part
of a token of gratitude to Nadezhda von Meck. Early in April Tchaikovsky left
Clarens and returned to Russia, at first to his married sister's estate at
Kamenka and then, in May, to the von Meck estate at Brailov, where he remained
in splendour during its owner's absence. The concerto movement was included in
a set of three pieces, originally for violin and piano, under the appropriately
flattering title of Souvenir d'un lieu cher.
This D minor Meditation is followed by a C minor Scherzo and an E flat major
Melodie, here orchestrated by Glazunov, constituting an unusually substantial
Born in Japan in the 1940's, Mariko Honda studied at leading music
schools in Japan and the United States.
After completing her studies she returned to her native Japan to
commence a busy career teaching and playing chamber music. She has performed
widely in the United Stated and Canada, in South-East Asia and in Eastern
For Naxos she has recorded works by Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, established as a professional
orchestra in Bratislava (formerly Pressburg) in 1949, has won itself a
considerable reputation during its relatively short existence.
Slovakia, which, with Bohemia and Moravia, became the Republic of
Czechoslovakia in 1918, was the source of a great deal of music during the
years of the Habsburg Empire. This musically fertile region has been influenced
by Viennese, Hungarian and Bohemian music and it is these influences that have
given the Slovak Philharmonic, one of Europe's finest orchestras, its unique
character. On its many international tours, and at festivals throughout Europe,
the orchestra has been praised for its great musicality and has been compared
by enthusiastic critics with such world-class orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the
work of its distinguished conductors. These included Vaclav Talich (1949-
1952), Ludovit Rajter and Ladislav Slovak. The Czech conductor Libor Pesek was
appointed resident conductor in 1981, and the present Principal Conductor is
the Slovak musician Bystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and
distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most
successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvorak.
During the years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic
has worked under the direction of many of the most distinguished conductors
from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal
Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to
Germany and Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus
label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo
and Naxos labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growing
international reputation and praise from the critics of leading international
Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) The Czech Radio Symphony
Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded
in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent
personalities in the sphere of music. The orchestra was first conducted by the
Prague conductor Frantisek Dyk and in the course of the past fifty years of its
existence has worked under the batons of several prominent Czech and Slovak
conductors. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its
conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has recently given a number of successful
concerts both at home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria,
Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.
Keith Clark studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Tanglewood, was
awarded diplomas and the conducting prize from the Chigiana Academy in Italy,
and received his Ph. D. degree with honors in composition from the University
of California in Los Angeles. From Vienna's Musikverein to Royal Philharmonic
Hall and from Luceme to Los Angeles, Keith Clark has appeared widely as
conductor of orchestras and opera. He has participated in the Vienna, Bucharest
and Siena Festivals as both conductor and composer, conducted on BBC, Austrian,
Hungarian and Netherlands radio and television, and performed and recorded as
conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. Following nearly ten years abroad,
he returned to California as Founding Music Director of the Pacific Symphony
Orchestra, and in five years has brought the orchestra to national prominence.
For Naxos he has recorded an album of orchestral works with a Spanish flavour,
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