Violin Concerto (Tchaikovsky)

Violin Concerto (Tchaikovsky)

The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the best known of all violin concertos. It is also considered to be among the most technically difficult works for violin.

The concerto is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and B-flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in D, timpani and strings.

As with most concerti, the piece is in three movements, the first and last quick, the second slow:

#Allegro moderato (D major)
#"Canzonetta": Andante (G minor)
#"Finale": Allegro vivacissimo (D major)

There is between the second and third movements.

A typical performance runs approximately 35 minutes.

Tchaikovsky wrote only one concerto for violin, but wrote three other concertos, all for piano (the first concerto being the best known).


The piece was written in 1878 in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva where Tchaikovsky had gone to recover from the depression brought on by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Miliukova.

Tchaikovsky was accompanied there by his composition pupil, the violinist Yosif Kotek, and the two played works for violin and piano together, which may have been the catalyst for the composition of the concerto. Tchaikovsky was not a violinist, and he sought the advice of Kotek on the completion of the solo part. Swift progress was made, and the work was completed within a month despite the middle movement getting a complete rewrite (a version of the original movement was preserved as the first of the three pieces for violin and piano, "Souvenir d'un lieu cher").

Kotek did not have a strong enough reputation to premiere the work, so Tchaikovsky instead intended the first performance to be given by Leopold Auer, and accordingly dedicated the work to him. Auer refused, however, saying the work was unplayable (he did play the work later in his life, however), meaning that the planned premiere for March 1879 had to be cancelled and a new soloist found. The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky on December 4, 1881 in Vienna, under the baton of Hans Richter. Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to Brodsky. Critical reaction was mixed, and the piece was certainly not received as the masterpiece it is taken to be today. The influential critic Eduard Hanslick called it "long and pretentious" and said that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear". Hanslick also wrote that "the violin was not played but beaten black and blue", as well as labelling the last movement "odorously Russian".

In popular culture

It is widely believed that the sweeping march theme Bill Conti composed for the 1983 motion picture, "The Right Stuff", was largely derived from parts of the first movement of this concerto. The resemblence is quite obvious. Whether this paraphrase constitutes plagiarism is debatable; passages from Gustav Holst's "The Planets" are quoted verbatim in the film score, as are a number of popular songs. The actual first movement of the concerto has also been used as intermission music for premium cable television broadcasts of the film.


Erich Korngold's Violin Concerto shares the same key and opus number with the Tchaikovsky.


External links

* [ Listen to the Berkshire Symphony Orchestra Perform the First Movement]
* Akiko Suwanai plays Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in International Tchaikovsky Competition [ 1st Mov. Part1] [ 1st Mov. Part2] [ 2nd Mov.] [ 3rd Mov.]

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