Showcase January-February 2015 - page 33

“Although Tchaikovsky
couldn’t please
Dr. Hanslick, he has
no trouble at all
winning us over.”
— Michael Steinberg on the
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Although the concerto is full of bravura passage work,
it also contains a wealth of the pure romantic lyricism
for which Tchaikovsky is so noted. The first movement,
Allegro moderato
, boasts both a lyrical first and second
theme, and even the cadenza emphasizes the expressive
over the virtuosic. The second movement,
, has a certain melancholic wistfulness to it—
soulful, though not mournful. The muted solo violin
presents the first folk-like theme. This brief movement
is followed without pause by the exhilarating
whose themes suggest Russian dance tunes and rhythms,
especially the
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings
Antonín Dvořák
September 8, 1841, Mühlhausen, Bohemia
(now Nelahozeves, Czech Republic)
May 1, 1904, Prague
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Opus 95,
From the New World
vořák’s Symphony No. 9, the
New World
to most listeners, received its world premiere in
New York’s Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893. It
was just one of many works this composer wrote during
his sojourn in America, 1892 to 1895; others were the
Quartet, Opus 96; the String Quintet, Opus 97;
and a cantata,
The American Flag
Although Dvořák’s
New World
Symphony was written
the New World, it is not specifically
the New World.
True, there are themes that could be construed as being
“authentic” songs of the American Indians or African-
Americans, but in fact, as in Dvořák’s Slavonic works,
he did not quote from folksongs—he composed his own,
based on study of the source material.
One “New World” aspect of this symphony is the role
played by Longfellow’s epic poem
The Song of Hiawatha
which Dvořák had read in Czech translation some 30
years earlier. He re-read the poem in America and
claimed that the scene of Minnehaha’s funeral in the
forest inspired the
movement of his symphony,
while staying at Clarens on Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
There he was visiting his composition student, Yosif
Yosifovich Kotek, who was at the time undertaking a
cure for tuberculosis, and who was the one responsible
for introducing Tchaikovsky to the wealthy patroness
Nadejda von Meck. The composer wrote to Madame von
Meck that he was inspired by the “freshness, piquant
rhythms, beautifully harmonized melodies of Lalo’s
Symphonie espagnole,
” and shortly afterwards that his
own concerto “is hurrying towards its end…I started
the work, was seduced by it and now the sketches are
almost completed.” Kotek expressed dissatisfaction with
the second movement, and Tchaikovsky replaced it with
entirely different music. (The original now exists as the
, the first of Three Pieces for Violin and Piano,
Opus 42, known collectively as
Souvenir d’un lieu cher.
the “unplayable” work
Mme. von Meck was not completely pleased by the
concerto either. But the biggest blow was probably
the rejection from the celebrated virtuoso and teacher
Leopold Auer, to whom the work was originally
dedicated—and who pronounced it unplayable. Not until
nearly four years after its completion did Adolf Brodsky
take up its cause, giving the first performance not in
Russia but in Vienna. He was daunted neither by its
technical difficulties nor by the dismal critical reception.
He declared: “One can play the concerto again and again,
and never be bored; this is a most important circumstance
for the conquering of its difficulties.”
Tchaikovsky rewrote the dedication to Brodsky, who
went on to perform the concerto in London, and then in
Moscow, eventually winning public support for it. Even
Auer, in his old age, finally saw its merits, and the work
became a mainstay in the repertories of his protégés,
including Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz and Efrem
Zimbalist. Today’s students readily master yesterday’s
most fiendish difficulties, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin
Concerto is now one of the two or three most popular
works in the genre.
5, 6
Program Notes
1...,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32 34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,...64
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