In the second of a two-part article, Hadelich discusses Auer’s amendments, the cadenza and applause. From the January 2017 issue
This is one of the most exhausting concertos in the violin repertoire. It is emotionally intense throughout – even in the soft passages – and the technical challenges are immense, so it is physically demanding as well. I always warm up for at least 45 minutes before playing this piece, slowly working through the tricky passages until I feel comfortable. It is not something to start playing when you have cold hands!
Once on stage, I try to focus on the character and emotion that I want the notes to communicate. The more intensely I experience the music, the better I am able to share these feelings with the audience as well. During orchestral tuttis (for example the introduction, before the solo line enters), it’s important not to be too passive or disconnected. I participate in the music internally, silently singing along with the orchestra in my head, so that once I start playing again my line flows in continuation of what the orchestra has just played.
In the first part of this article, I mentioned that I think most of the alterations Leopold Auer made to this work are unnecessary, because Tchaikovsky’s piece as he wrote it is already so perfect and his markings so well considered. Nevertheless, some of Auer’s changes do make sense, such as his suggestion of repeating the scale in bars 319–320 up an octave in the following two bars. I used to play it this way myself, because it can sound very effective; only recently have I gone back to the original version, where bars 319–320 are repeated in the lower octave, as printed here. This is because I find Tchaikovsky’s version more effective in building the momentum of the stringendo through bar 321 and all the way to the più mosso at bar 325.
Following in Mendelssohn’s footsteps, Tchaikovsky wrote his own cadenza for the concerto, rather than leaving it to the performers to write their own. His cadenza sounds like a written-out, searching improvisation, as the soloist explores all the movement’s motifs again, this time alone. It also serves, with regard to the form of the movement, as the development section.
It is important to think about the pacing of the cadenza as a whole: how does one get from the agitated, frenetic beginning to the blissful return of the theme in bar 213? Soloists have the freedom to shape this cadenza in any way they would like. When thinking about rhythmic freedom, I often imagine a scenario in which a listener (without ever having seen Tchaikovsky’s score) is asked to write the piece down on hearing me play it. If it is no longer plausible for them to write down Tchaikovsky’s original note values, then the rubato is too much.
Tchaikovsky sometimes writes pseudo-accelerandos, for example in line 11, when he switches from duplets to triplets. The purpose of this rhythmic change is to give more momentum to the phrase. Rather than executing the change in note values literally, we should view it as being part of this ‘accelerando’, and the change should be more gradual. A similar example can be found in the second line, when the rhythm moves from crotchets (♩) to quavers (♪).
There are many resting points for the violinist in this cadenza, for example on the fermata notes at the end of the third and fourth lines. The first three lines of the cadenza are in A major (the dominant of the D major key of the movement). The G on the fourth line turns the chord into a dominant 7th, and brings with it a feeling of uncertainty, and of searching. Because of this, I take considerably more time at the end of the fourth line. I play both top notes as artificial 5th harmonics, which sound the same as the printed 4th harmonics but are louder and clearer.
At the end of the cadenza, the recapitulation from bar 213 should not be marked ‘Tempo 1’: that would refer to the ♩ = 128 orchestral opening in bar 1, which is faster than the rest of the movement. Rather, it should be ‘Moderato assai’, as in bar 28 (♩ = 80). Perhaps Tchaikovsky simply did not consider the introduction of the movement to be ‘Tempo 1’.
The end of the first movement is exhilarating and exciting – perhaps even more so than the end of the whole piece. Sometimes audiences don’t clap here because they think it is improper to do so, but I still remember, years ago, performing this concerto for a group of high school students in Texas, many of whom had little prior classical concert experience. What was so memorable was how spontaneously they reacted, without any thought of ‘How am I supposed to behave in a classical concert?’ In bar 127, when the first great violin solo reaches its end and the orchestra enters triumphantly, they all started clapping, as one might at the end of a solo in a jazz concert. It was a revelation to me how appropriate it seemed at that moment.
In Tchaikovsky’s time, it was quite normal for audiences to cheer (or to boo, for that matter) while the music was being played, and even to come and go during the concert. I find applause at the end of the first movement to be wonderful, since that is the end of a chapter before something completely new begins. It also gives everyone a chance to catch their breath.
I grew up listening to Oistrakh’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, which I always loved because he plays it so lyrically and naturally. Nevertheless, ultimately the best way to sift through musical ideas and find your own interpretation is by studying the score. I also think it’s useful to listen to other works by Tchaikovksy, such as the Rococo Variations, as well as ballets like The Nutcracker, in order to hear the Mozartian elegance and the dance gestures that can be found in so much of his music.