We see a host of savage, vulgar faces, we hear crude curses, and smell the booze. In the course of a discussion of obscene illustrations, Friedrich Vischer once maintained that there were pictures in which one could see stink. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto for the first time confronts us with the hideous idea that there may be compositions whose stink one can hear.”
This is often cited as the worst review in western music history and it has lots of competition! Eduard Hanslick definitely earned himself a place in the history books for these epic words. But let’s begin at the beginning mes petits amis and spend a few minutes putting things in context.
One of the nice things about returning to my erstwhile job of Program Director is that I get to spend more time with music! Afterall, it was music and not administration that attracted me to radio and I have spent the last five decades studying it and being fulfilled by these amazing collections of notes. Therefore, I was delighted when the Annapolis Symphony scheduled the work for their first concert. For many years the ASO Music Director Maestro Novo and I have worked together doing radio, the odd Peter and the wolf and the Carnival of the Animals. We share a strong passion for the music we are fortunate to perform/broadcast and spending a few minutes exploring pieces we adore…what could be bad. The concert takes place October 1st and 2nd at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, more information at AnnapolisSymphony.org.
In addition to being the most famous violin concerto, and a beautiful piece of music, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is also the subject of one of music history’s most intriguing stories. It begins with the composer’s disastrous marriage of 1877, continues with his abandonment of his wife after a week and fleeing to Switzerland and ends with a dedication offered to the most famous violinist in Russia, Leopold Auer, being refused!
A while ago I did a podcast for the Baltimore Symphony which tells the tale and provides a good analysis of the piece. Here’s a link, and it would delight me if you gave it a try. You can even download it for future listening pleasure!
Meanwhile here are two recordings of the piece I adore. The first would be Jascha Heifetz with the Chicago Symphony and Fritz Reiner and the second David Oistrakh with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy. Both can easily be found on YouTube, Amazon or Apple Music…or on WBJC for that matter.
Enjoy the podcast and if this is your first experience with this excellent work I am delighted and if these words help create a new bond with an old friend, nothing could make me happier.