Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Tchaikovsky composed this work in 1878. At Clarens, near Geneva, following both his mistake of a marriage and his suicide attempt, Tchaikovsky completed both Onegin and the Fourth Symphony early in 1878. After a round trip to Moscow in February for the symphony's premiere, he was visited at Clarens by the violinist Yosif Kotek. Tchaikovsky, in fondness for Kotek, sketched out a violin concerto in just 11 days and had finished scoring it two weeks later, including a new slow movement in place of one that both Kotek and Tchaikovsky's younger brother, Modest, considered to be weak.

    Pyotr Il'yich dedicated the new concerto to Leopold Auer, the fabled Hungarian émigré who would teach two generations of Russian virtuosi. However, just as Nikolai Rubinstein had vilified the B flat minor Piano Concerto four years earlier, Auer declared this new one "unplayable" (though he too recanted, and became one of the work's champions). It was, therefore, a Viennese audience that heard the first performance with Adolf Brodsky and conductor Hans Richter on December 4, 1881. It was an insufficiently rehearsed and poorly accompanied performance, about which Eduard Hanslick wrote, "It brings to us the revolting thought that there may be music that 'stinks in the ear.'" Yet he also wrote in same review that "the concerto has proportion, is musical, and is not without genius."

    In addition to its structural soundness, the concerto fairly teems with melodies, in such abundance that the orchestra's gorgeous opening tune never returns! Thereafter the soloist gets first crack at the rest of them, beginning with the "very moderate" principal theme. The second one is marked molto espressivo, after which the main theme returns, before the development section that ends in a showy solo cadenza, followed by the reprise and coda.

    The andante Canzonetta ("little song") in 3/4 time with ABA form features a G minor main theme (additionally marked molto espressivo) and a contrastingly quicker, Chopinesque second theme in E flat major. Without pause the next movement lifts off like an SST from the tarmac. It is a Trepak in rondo form, with two extroverted themes of folkloric character, capped by an extended coda that concludes the piece dervishly. No Russian composer before or since Tchaikovsky has ended a concerto with greater finesse or panache, not even Rachmaninov (who learned wherefrom to take his cue early on, with Tchaikovsky's blessing).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro moderato
    2. Canzonetta. Andante
    3. Finale. Allegro vivacissimo

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Naxos 8503293
    2017 Challenge Classics CC 72689
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4815032
    2017 LPO LPO 0094
    2017 Navona Records NV 6079
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796220
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796316
    2016 Urania WS 121153
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88843095342
    2016 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186610
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2016 Praga PRD 250325
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796038
    2016 Cedille Records CDR 166
    2016 Warner Classics 557401
    2016 Sony Classical 88875165122
    2016 Sony Classical 88875183382
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875183402
    2016 EuroArts / Warner Classics 555050
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646777815
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Music & Arts MACD 1282
    2015 Melodiya MELCD 1002349
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794708
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646129775
    2015 Melodiya MELCD 1002300
    2015 Pentatone / PentaTone Classics PTC 5186504
    2015 Radio France FRF 02027
    2015 Claves CL 509313
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794646
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646130115
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795229
    2014 Cobra Records COBRA 0040
    2014 Melodiya / Melody MELCD 1002261
    2014 Naïve NC 40040
    2014 K-Tel 135920
    2014 Intergroove Classics ITG 9
    2014 Avanticlassic
    2014 Avanticlassic AVASACD 1043
    2014 Sony Classical 88843045052
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon 4792936
    2014 ZYX Classics / ZYX Music CLA 101832
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002121
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 RPO RPOSP 046
    2013 Entertainment Group 11706
    2013 Entertainment Group 14136
    2013 Entertainment Group 14137
    2013 Entertainment Group 14138
    2013 Entertainment Group 14139
    2013 Melodiya / Melody MELCD 1001931
    2013 Tahra TAH 755756
    2013 Opus KURA OPK 2103
    2013 Teldec 646771
    2013 MDG
    2013 MDG MDG 64217972
    2013 Naïve V 5325
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94656
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    2013 Decca 4785093
    2012 Entertainment Group 4032
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    2002 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41022
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    2001 ASV 248
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