In this blog, I’m going to be writing about the history behind one of my favorite violin concertos of all time by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The piece is called Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. This piece is one of the best known out of all the violin concertos and is considered by many to be one of the most technically difficult pieces for violin. Tchaikovsky wrote this piece in 1878 in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shore of Lake Geneva while recovering from depression due to a disastrous marriage that quickly ended in divorce. He was there with a composition pupil named Isoif Kotek. While in Clarens, Tchaikovsky regained his inspiration and completed the concerto within a month, although he decided to discard the middle movement and rewrite it. Kotek helped him complete the violin solo part because he was a violinist and Tchaikovsky was not.
When he truly completed the concerto, Tchaikovsky decided that he wanted Leopold Auer, a friend who was the head of the violin department in St. Petersburg Conservatory, to give the first performance. He sent the manuscript to him and Auer sent it back, deeming the concerto as unplayable. Unfortunately for Tchaikovsky, Auer spread that word with such authority that it took three years for this concerto to finally be premiered to the public. The first performance was finally given by a violinist named Adolph Brodsky. He was a former colleague of Tchaikovsky at the Moscow Conservatory. He performed it with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1881.Brodsky must have felt the pressure of performing this work because only one rehearsal was allotted for the new work.The audience applauded Brodsky for his performance but they ridiculed the piece itself. Despite the feedback that was received, Brodsky stood by the concerto and performed it throughout Europe. The work soon began to gain popularity and even Auer, who had once shunned the work, began teaching the concerto to his students.
Here is a recording of the first movement. This movement is the one that is most often performed. I think it is gorgeous and there is a beautiful melody that is introduced by the violin towards the beginning of the concerto and returns throughout the movement. When I first heard a performance of this movement, I fell in love with it. I hope you like it just as much as I do!