I said right from the outset that I wanted this site to be collaborative. Here are Judith Harris’s thoughts on the joyful Violin Concerto…
One of the best known Violin Concertos and one of the most difficult for the violin.
The concerto was composed between March and April, 1878. Tchaikovsky composed it following a long period of depression after his disastrous marriage to a former student, Antonina Milyukova. She had written to him and declared her undying love for him and threatened suicide if Tchaikovsky spurned her advances. Their sham marriage lasted only three months (although much of that time was spent apart) and he quickly grew to despise her; so much so that the composer made a half hearted suicide attempt by wading waist-deep in the Moscow River, hoping to contract pneumonia. Through composing this concerto, he once again regained confidence in his abilities.
A personal favourite of mine, because it reminds me of my first classical music concert in Llandudno, Wales, over twenty years ago. And who better to perform this amazing concerto it than my favourite violinist, Joshua Bell with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. It was the centrepiece of the Nobel Prize concert in 2010 in honour of the Nobel Laureates. It was performed with such intensity and emotion that I am moved every time I hear it.
How lovely to hear Judith’s recollections. My own article on the concerto will follow soon but Judith reminds us that we take so much of Tchaikovsky’s music for granted. This concerto is so often played and most often either badly or routinely that we loose sight of what a beautiful and witty work it is. Try listening to it again now, perhaps with Joshua as the soloist (or my own favourite Janine Jansens) and just imagine you’ve never heard it before. And if you haven’t heard it before. what a treat awaits you!