In the first of a two-part article, Hadelich discusses timing, tradition and character in the acrobatic first movement. From the December 2016 issue
This is one of the happiest movements that Tchaikovsky wrote, probably inspired by love. In 1878 he spent several weeks near Lake Geneva, where he was joined by his student Iosif Kotek. Kotek, who had premiered the Waltz-Scherzo a few years earlier, helped to write the virtuosic passages of the concerto; Tchaikovsky would have dedicated it to him if gossip of their forbidden love affair hadn’t already been threatening his reputation in Russia.
Instead he chose to dedicate the piece to Leopold Auer, who delayed the first performance for so long that Tchaikovsky finally withdrew the dedication and gave it to Adolph Brodsky. Brodsky played the premiere in Vienna in 1881. The movement is full of ballet-like jumps, figurations and Classical gestures; Mozart’s influence (Tchaikovsky’s diary referred to him as a ‘musical Christ’) can clearly be heard, for example in the first theme (bar 28), which also resembles the Rococo Variations. The second theme (bar 69) is more sentimental and passionate, with suspensions like longing sighs.
I was twelve when I first tackled this concerto…
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