About this Recording
8.550137 - TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 / The Tempest

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840- 1893)

Piano Concerto No.1 in B Flat Minor, Opus 23
The Tempest, Opus 18
Waltz, Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, Opus 24

Tchaikovsky, arguably the most popular of all Russian composers, was born in 1840, the son of an inspector of mines. The relative happiness of his childhood was broken by the departure of his beloved governess, Fanny Durbach, and by the death of his mother, the latter event during his education at the School of Jurisprudence, in preparation for a career in government service. His exceptional musical abilities were fostered in childhood and adolescence by private lessons, leading, in 1862, to his resignation from the Ministry of Justice, and his entry into the newly established St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, under the direction of Anton Rubinstein. Three years later he joined the teaching staff of the Conservatory established in Moscow by Rubinstein's brother Nikolay.

Tchaikovsky was to spend twelve years in Moscow, years that brought growing success to him as a composer and encouragement and interference from the nationalist group of composers led by Balakirev. In fact, however foreign and Russian his music might have seemed to critics like Eduard Hanslick in Vienna, Tchaikovsky represents something of a synthesis between the cruder attempts at creating a recognisably Russian kind of music and the smoother, technically accomplished work of the Conservatories, denigrated by their enemies as "German".

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1 in B Flat Minor was written towards the end of 1874. The composer played it through to Nikolay Rubinstein on Christmas Eve, 5th January, 1875, in Western dating, seeking advice on the lay-out of the solo part. Rubinstein's response was one of utter and devastating condemnation. The concerto was worthless and unplayable, with trite and awkward passages, bad, tawdry and borrowed. Tchaikovsky, diffident at the best of times, was appalled by this reaction. Nevertheless the work survived, with a successful first performance by Hans von B├╝low in Boston in October, and subsequent revisions and performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The concerto has continued to arouse popular enthusiasm and occasional critical disdain, the latter resulting largely from the work's very popularity, and the brood of lesser concertos that it has in part inspired. It uses some borrowed material with Ukrainian folk-songs providing the first subject of the first movement and the opening theme of the last, and the French Il faut s'amuser et rire providing a lighter element in the second.

Tchaikovsky, in common with other artists and composers of the nineteenth century, found a ready source of inspiration in Shakespeare. The suggestion for a musical treatment of The Tempest came from Vladimir Stasov, mentor of the Mighty Handful of nationalist composers to which Tchaikovsky never committed himself. He wrote the work rapidly, over a period of some eleven days in the autumn of 1873. The first performance, under Nikolay Rubinstein, took place on 19th December, 1873, at a Russian Music Society concert.

The programme of The Tempest (Burya), Opus 18, described as a fantasia for orchestra, is derived from Stasov and was printed with the published score: The sea, Ariel, spirit of the air, obeying the will of the magician Prospero, raises a storm. Wreck of the ship bringing Ferdinand. The enchanted isle. First timid feelings of love of Miranda and Ferdinand. Ariel, Caliban. The lovers succumb to their passion. Prospero deprives himself of his magic power and leaves the island. The sea.

The opera Eugene Onegin was written during the most difficult period of Tchaikovsky's life, the year of his marriage, separation, attempted suicide and brief self-imposed exile abroad. It was completed early in 1878 and first performed in Moscow under Nikolay Rubinstein the following year. The libretto was adapted from Pushkin and deals with the unhappy relationship between Eugene Onegin and Tatiana, the former's thoughtless selfishness, the death of his close friend Lensky at his hands in a duel, his exile, and his return after Tatiana has married another. Dances play an important part in the story. The waltz of the first scene of the second act brings Lensky and Olga, Onegin and Tatiana together, while a Mazurka, in which Onegin dances with Olga, provokes Lensky's jealousy. Onegin's return from exile brings him to a ball where he meets Tatiana once more, the poignancy of the scene enhanced by the cheerful Polka danced by the guests.

Joseph Banowetz
Joseph Banowetz is internationally recognized as an artist whose I performances of the Romantic literature of the piano have earned the highest, critical ac claim. Fanfare Record Magazine (U.S.A.) termed him one of "the pre-eminent 'three B's' of Liszt playing."

Born in the United States, part of Banowetz's early training was received in New York City with Carl Friedberg, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After continuing his studies at Vienna's Hochschule fuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Banowetz's career was launched upon his graduating with a First Prize in piano. He was then sent by the Austrian government on an extended European /p>

concert tour. Subsequently he has performed throughout North America, f Europe, Russia, and Asia. In 1966 he was awarded the Pan American Prize 'I by the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Following his first appearances in the Orient in 1981, Banowetz's tours there I have received ever-increasing enthusiastic response. He is the first foreign artist ever to be invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture both to record and , to give world premiere performances of a contemporary Chinese piano concerto (Huang An-lun Piano Concerto, Op. 25b). Banowetz has recorded with the CSR Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Central Opera Orchestra of Beijing.

Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czechoslovak 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. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.

Ondrej Lenard
Ondrej Lenard was born in 1942 and had his early training in Bratislava, where, at the age of 17, he entered the Academy of Music and Drama, to study under Ludovit Rajter. His graduation concert in 1964 was given with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and during his two years of military service he conducted the Army Orchestral Ensemble, later renewing an earlier connection with the Slovak National Opera, where he has continued to direct performances.

Lenard's work with the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava began in 1970 and in 1977 he was appointed Principal Conductor. At the same time he has travelled widely abroad in Europe, the Americas, the Soviet Union and elsewhere as a guest conductor, and during his two years, from 1984 to 1986, as General Music Director of the Slovak National Opera recorded for Opus operas by Puccini, Gounod, Suchon and Bellini.

For Naxos Lenard has recorded symphonies by Tchaikovsky and works by Glazunov, Johann Strauss II, Verdi and Rimsky-Korsakov.

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