PETER ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–93)
Violin Concerto (1878)
Characterized by ravishingly beautiful passages, graceful melodies, and dizzying virtuosity, this masterpiece has spoken heart-to-heart to generations of adoring audiences. Listening sign posts include the imposing opening Allegro moderato
and a lyrical cadenza from Tchaikovsky’s own hand at the end of the first movement; the songlike, and at times melancholy Canzonetta
that is the second movement; and the folk dance–inspired brilliant finale. It is baffling to us today why Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto ran into difficulties with the hoped-for dedicatees, potential soloists, audiences, and critics when it was premiered. Yet despite the trials and tribulations of getting the concerto to the concert stage, it has gloriously survived and stands as one of the most beloved, demanding, and most often performed in the repertoire. And while contemporary reviews were not kind to the work, they have faded into obscurity, and the pleasure of hearing this iconic masterwork remains.