The Virtuoso II
CD 11 of 24
Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) was one of the great writers of melodies. His Nutcracker is one of, if not the, best-loved works in the ballet repertoire; his symphonies are permanent fare in symphonic programmes and Eugene Onegin is adored by opera lovers. The First Piano Concerto is a pianistic staple and the Violin Concerto a fan favourite, but the Violin Concerto barely made it past opening night. The original dedicatee, Leopold Auer, one of the great violinists and teachers in his day, suggested to Tchaikovsky that it was unplayable, so would he mind making a few changes? Tchaikovsky did mind! Three years later, unchanged, it was given its debut, being ravaged in the press in the process. Eduard Hanslick, the leading critic of the day, wrote it “stinks to the ear”. Odd what a difference a few thousand performances can make. As for me, my ears pick up no odor.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847), was a Romantic Era Renaissance man. While many of his works received regular performances, in his day he was known for so much more than his compositions. He was a musical dynamo who taught, promoted and conducted music – and an excellent painter on top of all that!
Coming from a very respectable family, Mendelssohn was introduced to and was sought out by the cultural élite of the first half of the nineteenth century. At the age of 9 his father took him to see Cherubini (heard on CD 7), to find out if he had the talent to make it (he did). He met the poet Goethe on numerous occasions, the great violinist Kreutzer and the renowned opera composer Rossini as well. Chopin and he became friends. In 1835 he was appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and he used this position to promote the Baroque masters, programming a series of historical concerts featuring the music of Handel, Mozart and most critically, J.S. Bach. Mendelssohn is credited with the revival of Bach’s music, a love affair with listeners that continues to this day. In 1839 a musically inclined philanthropist bequeathed funds in order to have a Music Academy built in Leipzig. Mendelssohn was responsible for the organization and staffing at the school, one of the teachers he hired being Robert Schumann. During the 1840s Mendelssohn promoted Berlioz, establishing the Frenchman’s name throughout Germany and in between all of this he wrote: lieder, sonatas, incidental music for plays, oratorios, solo piano works and concertos, the most famous being the Violin Concerto in E minor of 1844. Written for his friend Ferdinand David, concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Symphony Orchestra, the concerto is novel in having the soloist make an almost immediate entry and for having three movements, in the classical fast-slow-fast sequence, segue into each other, making this concerto a non-stop masterpiece.
As seen by his dates, Mendelssohn lived too short a life. His friend Zelter said of him “it is not his genius which surprises me… it is his incessant toil”. It was if after a scant 36 years he had worked himself into the grave.
(Please find our recommended audio excerpts for this CD on the bottom of the "Overview" page.)
- Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893)Violin Concerto in D, Op.35
- 1. 1. Allegro moderato17:02
- 2. 2. Canzonetta (Andante)6:14
- 3. 3. Finale (Allegro vivacissimo)8:57
- Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64, MWV O14
- 4. 1. Allegro molto appassionato11:29
- 5. 2. Andante7:49
- 6. 3. Allegro non troppo - Allegro molto vivace6:26Nathan Milstein, Wiener Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado