About this Recording
8.550124 - TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D Major / Serenade Melancolique / Souvenir d'un lieu cher

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)

Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 35
Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Opus 42 (orch. Glazunov)
Serenade melancolique, Opus 26

Ppyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk, the second son of a mining engineer, Ilya Petrovich, who was in charge of the Votkinsk iron foundry, and his second wife, a young woman of part-French extraction, from whom the composer seems to have inherited both an interest in music and a weakness of nerves. In 1844, with the arrival of a French governess Fanny Durbach, he enjoyed a period of security and happiness that was disrupted four years later , when the family moved to Moscow and then to St. Petersburg, and he was sent to school, from which he had to be removed the following year, after an illness. His father's appointment to the management of a private metal works at Alapayevsk led to a further move, but St. Petersburg had at least provided more direct musical experience than Votkinsk. A year later, in 1849, Tchaikovsky was sent to the School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg.

The years that Tchaikovsky spent in St. Petersburg allowed him an opportunity to develop his musical abilities, both as a pianist and as a composer, and to hear a great deal of music at concerts and in the opera-house. In 1859 he started work as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice, but before long began to take lessons in harmony from Nikolay Ivanovich Zaremba. In 1862 he became a pupil of Zaremba at the newly established Conservatory, and resigned his official appointment at the Ministry the following year in order to devote himself fully to music.

Tchaikovsky's subsequent career took him, after the completion of his course at the Conservatory, to the new Conservatory in Moscow, established by Nikolay Rubinstein, brother of Anton, who had set up the institution in St. Petersburg. He was to remain on the teaching staff of Moscow Conservatory for twelve years, only resigning after the personal difficulties that followed his disastrous marriage in 1877, an event that coincided with the acquisition of a measure of financial security through the patronage of a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, whom he was never to meet. From 1878 until his death in 1893 he was able to devote himself fully to composition and to the performance of his music, which had aroused interest abroad as well as in Russia.

It seems likely that Tchaikovsky died by his own hand, forced to this course by a group of former students at the School of Jurisprudence anxious to preserve their school's official reputation by avoiding an open scandal threatened as the result of a supposed homosexual relationship with the son of a nobleman. His suicide, if that is what it was, came soon after the successful performance in St. Petersburg of his Sixth Symphony. It brought to an end a career in which he had proved markedly more successful than his less professional contemporaries, the group of five nationalist composers under the domination of Balakirev, a musician who did his best to bully and inspire Tchaikovsky in what seemed the major task of creating music that was thoroughly Russian. To the nationalists Tchaikovsky seemed cosmopolitan, to foreign critics he could seem all too Russian. Nevertheless it is this synthesis of Western European and Russian, one element complementing the other, that has ensured him a lasting place in the history of music.

The first work Tchaikovsky was to write for solo violin was the serenade melancolique, commissioned by Leopold Auer, who had succeeded Wieniawski at Rubinstein's Conservatory in St. Petersburg in 1868 and was to exercise a powerful influence over the development of violin-playing during the fifty years he spent in Russia. Auer, who had already played Tchaikovsky's string quartets at concerts in St. Petersburg, met the composer at Nikolay Rubinstein's early in 1875, shortly after the latter's emphatic condemnation of the first of Tchaikovsky's piano concertos. By turns sombre and tender in feeling, the Serenade is a forerunner of the concerto that was to follow three years later. It was given its first performance by Adolf Brodsky in a Russian Music Society concert in Moscow a year later, and was played by Auer in St. Petersburg for the first time in November, 1876.

It was in March, 1878, in the Swiss resort of Clarens that Tchaikovsky set to work on his Violin Concerto. Kotek, who had accompanied him, joined him in playing through a great deal of music, including Lalo's new Symphonie espagnole. Two days after playing Lalo's work Tchaikovsky started his own concerto, drawing inspiration from what he described as the freshness, lightness and piquant rhythms of the French composer's music. Two days later the first movement of the concerto was completed and a week later the whole concerto was ready, so that Kotek - Kotik, or Tom-cat, to Tchaikovsky - was able to play it through, much to the general approval of the composer's brother Modest, who had joined the party .The original slow movement. however. seemed less satisfactory, and the present Canzonetta was substituted.

Tchaikovsky would have liked to dedicate the concerto to Kotek, who had been present at its inception, had advised on the lay-out of the violin part and was, in any case, its initial inspiration. Discretion and strategy intervened to offer the work to Auer, who was to reject it as un-violinistic, although he took it into his repertoire shortly before the composer's death. The concerto received its first performance neither from Auer nor Kotek, but from Adolf Brodsky, who played it in Vienna two years after its completion, to the disapproval of the well known critic Eduard Hanslick, who condemned what he regarded as a trivial Cossack element in a concerto that must have seemed to him foreign and barbarous.

The first movement maintains an almost classical balance of form. It opens with a brief introduction of mounting excitement, interrupted as the soloist leads into his first theme. The second subject, of which Auer had approved from the first, is extended by the violinist and is followed by a development section which seems about to embark on the first subject, but changes, to offer a new theme in its place. An exciting cadenza leads back to the principal subject once more, a reworking of the first section of the movement, with an exhilarating conclusion.

The Canzonetta starts with an introduction for wind instruments, after which the soloist, with the simplest accompaniment, plays a typically Russian melody, the substance of the movement. This serves as a necessary respite before the intense nervous energy of the last movement, music couched in terms of the greatest brilliance.

The discarded movement of the concerto was to serve its purpose as part of a token of gratitude to Nadezhda von Meck. Early in April Tchaikovsky left Clarens and returned to Russia, at first to his married sister's estate at Kamenka and then, in May, to the von Meck estate at Brailov, where he remained in splendour during its owner's absence. The concerto movement was included in a set of three pieces, originally for violin and piano, under the appropriately flattering title of Souvenir d'un lieu cher. This D minor Meditation is followed by a C minor Scherzo and an E flat major Melodie, here orchestrated by Glazunov, constituting an unusually substantial bread-and-butter letter.

Mariko Honda
Born in Japan in the 1940's, Mariko Honda studied at leading music schools in Japan and the United States.

After completing her studies she returned to her native Japan to commence a busy career teaching and playing chamber music. She has performed widely in the United Stated and Canada, in South-East Asia and in Eastern Europe.

For Naxos she has recorded works by Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.

The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, established as a professional orchestra in Bratislava (formerly Pressburg) in 1949, has won itself a considerable reputation during its relatively short existence.

Slovakia, which, with Bohemia and Moravia, became the Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918, was the source of a great deal of music during the years of the Habsburg Empire. This musically fertile region has been influenced by Viennese, Hungarian and Bohemian music and it is these influences that have given the Slovak Philharmonic, one of Europe's finest orchestras, its unique character. On its many international tours, and at festivals throughout Europe, the orchestra has been praised for its great musicality and has been compared by enthusiastic critics with such world-class orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic.

The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its distinguished conductors. These included Vaclav Talich (1949- 1952), Ludovit Rajter and Ladislav Slovak. The Czech conductor Libor Pesek was appointed resident conductor in 1981, and the present Principal Conductor is the Slovak musician Bystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvorak.

During the years of its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.

The orchestra has undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international reputation and praise from the critics of leading international publications.

Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) The Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. The orchestra was first conducted by the Prague conductor Frantisek Dyk and in the course of the past fifty years of its existence has worked under the batons of several prominent Czech and Slovak conductors. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has recently given a number of successful concerts both at home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.

Keith Clark
Keith Clark studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Tanglewood, was awarded diplomas and the conducting prize from the Chigiana Academy in Italy, and received his Ph. D. degree with honors in composition from the University of California in Los Angeles. From Vienna's Musikverein to Royal Philharmonic Hall and from Luceme to Los Angeles, Keith Clark has appeared widely as conductor of orchestras and opera. He has participated in the Vienna, Bucharest and Siena Festivals as both conductor and composer, conducted on BBC, Austrian, Hungarian and Netherlands radio and television, and performed and recorded as conductor of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. Following nearly ten years abroad, he returned to California as Founding Music Director of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, and in five years has brought the orchestra to national prominence. For Naxos he has recorded an album of orchestral works with a Spanish flavour, Spanish Festival.

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