Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowsky (1840–1893) Violin Concerto in D major Op. 35
Urtext edited by Ernst Herttrich [vl,orch] Duration: 33'
solo: vl – 188.8.131.52. – 184.108.40.206. – timp – str
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Tchaikovsky had the printing of his epoch-making violin concerto supervised with great care, and he even examined the proofs himself for the publication of the version for violin and piano in 1878, which was followed by the orchestral parts the following year and the score in 1888. After many editions and respective arrangements by Leopold Auer in 1899, Fritz Kreisler in 1939 and, most recently, by Konstantin G. Mostras and David Oistrakh, based on Auer comes an Urtext edition that takes into account all surviving sources and critically evaluates them, a matter of great importance for both scholars and performing artists.
|1. Allegro moderato||(19')|
|2. Canzonetta: Andante||(7')|
|3. Finale: Allegro vivacissimo||(7')|
Petr Il’ič Čajkovskij (1840–1893) wrote his Violin Concerto op. 35 in only 25 days in March and April 1878. He was motivated to write it by the violinist Iosif I. Kotek (1855–1885), who was his composition student at the Moscow Conservatory and later a close friend of his.
After the completion of the Fourth Symphony and the opera Evgenij Onegin in January 1878, Čajkovskij had fallen into a deep personal crisis that was partly related to his separation from his wife Antonina Ivanovna Miljukova. He was tormented not only by a serious depression, but also by doubts as to whether he would find enough “gunpowder for something new.” It was Iosif Kotek who then tried to cheer up his older friend by painting in glowing colors his dream of how Čajkovskij would soon stun the musical world with new works, including a violin concerto that would be performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg with him, Kotek, as soloist and Čajkovskij as conductor.
In February 1878 Čajkovskij retreated to the Swiss spa town of Clarens on Lake Geneva, where his patroness Nadežda fon Mekk (von Meck) put her country estate at his disposal. Kotek came later and arrived there on 2/14 March. Their music-making soon seems to have inspired Čajkovskij to actually begin working on a violin concerto. On 5/17 March he wrote to Madame fon Mekk: “Since this morning I have been seized by an inexplicable fire of inspiration […]. I felt wonderful and was very satisfied with the present day. Work progressed very successfully. Next to a few smaller pieces, I am writing a piano sonata and a violin concerto.” Only eleven days later, on 16/28 March 1878, Čajkovskij finished working on the sketches and wrote to his patroness: “Today I finished the concerto. All that remains is to copy it, play it through several times (with Kotek, who is here) and then orchestrate it. Tomorrow I shall begin to copy it out and elaborate the details.”
Kotek was apparently actively involved in this process. He was most likely responsible for the bowings, phrasings and dynamics of the solo part, and certainly also for many details concerning violin technique. In a letter to the publisher Jurgenson written three years after the work was completed (on 15/27 December 1881), Čajkovskij claimed that “he [Kotek] was responsible for the performability of the violin part.” On 17/29 March Čajkovskij then began working on the piano reduction so that they could play the new work together. He wrote to his brother Anatolij on 22 March/3 April: “Kotek managed to copy out the violin part of the concerto, and we played it together before lunch. It was a great success for both the composer and the performer. Indeed, Kotek played it so well that he could have played it straightaway in public. […] In the evening he played the Andante, which we liked considerably less than the first movement. I myself am not particularly satisfied with it.”
Čajkovskij also conveyed his view of the Andante to Madame fon Mekk in a letter dated that same day: “I was unsatisfied with the Andante after playing it through with the violin; I will either subject it to a radical revision or write a new one. The finale is, if I am not mistaken, just as successful as the first movement.” The fact that he wanted to write a new second movement possibly had nothing to do with any dislike of the original movement as such, but with his feeling that it did not fit well into the overall context of the three movements. At all events, in a letter of 24 March/5 April to Madame fon Mekk, he asserted that the new piece harmonized “better with the neighboring movements of the concerto.” Čajkovskij published the original Andante shortly thereafter as no. 1 of the Three Pieces for Violin and Piano op. 42 with the title Méditation, under which it became very popular.
Only after the piano reduction had been completed did Čajkovskij tackle the orchestration of the work. It apparently mattered a great deal to him that the work on the concerto should be wound up before Kotek’s departure for Berlin. After only six days (25 March/ 6 April to 30 March/11 April) it was finished. At the same time, he was putting pressure on his publisher Jurgenson to have the new work published and wrote him: “Of course I would wish that a piano reduction or the orchestral parts of the concerto could be printed as quickly as possible. […] Couldn’t you write to Bock [Gustav Bock, co-proprietor of the Berlin music publishing house Bote & Bock] to ask him if he might not hand over the piano reduction and score to you? In this case, Kotek, who is in charge of handling all this, could take them with him. Don’t you think it would be possible to commission Bock expeditiously with the transcription of the parts in Berlin? But do as you like. The concerto is in any event with Kotek in Berlin; Bock will know of his whereabouts. […] I would like to state my express wish that none of my works should be printed anymore without my final revision. I thus beg you to publish neither the opera nor the symphony nor the concerto or any other pieces before they have been submitted to me. Moreover, I assume that none of them will be finished before September, and that I can begin with the proofreading after my return to Moscow. […] The concerto must absolutely be corrected by Kotek and no one else, for he is not only a good musician, but also a good violinist.”
As to the further procedure, Čajkovskij informed Jurgenson that Kotek, who was still with him in Clarens, would take everything to Berlin with him. Since the piano reduction was written very sketchily, and he, Čajkovskij, would no longer be able to enter the violin part in the score, Kotek would hand everything over to a copyist. Jurgenson would thus obtain a revised fair copy of the piano reduction and the manuscript of the score. This is exactly what happened. Kotek reported to Čajkovskij on 4/16 May 1878 that he had sent the score to Jurgenson and was going to send him the piano reduction as well on the following day. The copyist had only brought it to him a few days earlier (the Stichvorlage for the piano reduction was thus a copy made by a Berlin scribe). He had found many errors in it, but hoped to have discovered and corrected them all; above all, the slurs and markings were now correct. As agreed upon, Kotek took over the proofreading as well. In late May, or perhaps not before June (the letter is not dated), he informed the composer that he had received the galley proofs of the concerto; part of the work had been engraved very well, but part of it – especially in the first movement and in the Canzonetta – also very poorly. The second correction run took place in August, and the piano reduction was finally published in November. The production of the orchestral parts, in turn, dragged on. According to Kotek’s letters, the parts were copied in Moscow and not in Berlin, as Čajkovskij had suggested. It was not until October that Kotek obtained proofs, and not until August 1879 that the parts were printed.
Another ten years elapsed before the score was finally published. It seems that this project was only taken up in early 1888. On 29 March/10 April, Jurgenson informed Čajkovskij that Eduard Leopoldovič Langer (1835–1905), a German-Russian pianist and composer who worked at the Moscow Conservatory and was a friend of Čajkovskij’s, had already proofread the score; he added by way of reassurance: “Have no fear, I shall not release it without your consent.” Čajkovskij then proofread it himself in Paris while on his first major concert tour as conductor, and wrote to the publisher on 7/19 April 1888: “The score of the violin concerto is in one of the parcels that will arrive, or have already arrived, from Paris.”
In the history of the origins of the violin concerto, the dedication of the work merits a chapter of its own. In view of Kotek’s direct and far-reaching involvement in the genesis of the work, one would have expected Čajkovskij to dedicate the work to him. However, he was so upset by certain rumors about his personal relations with his former student that he shied away from this public gesture. On 1/13 July 1878 he wrote to Jurgenson: “I would like to dedicate the concerto to this Kotek, but in order to prevent gossip, I shall most probably decide to dedicate it to Auer. […] I like Auer very much, both as an artist and a man.” Sure enough, the first edition of the piano reduction was indeed dedicated to the Hungarian violinist Leopold Auer (1845–1930).
One wonders, then, why the first edition of the score was published with a dedication to the Russian violin virtuoso Adol’f D. Brodskij (Adolphe Brodsky, 1851–1929). Perhaps the reason can be found in Auer’s memoirs. There he wrote: “When I went over the score in detail, however, I felt that, in spite of its great intrinsic value, it called for a thorough revision, since in various portions it was quite unviolinistic and not all written in the idiom of the strings. I regretted deeply that the composer had not shown me his score before having it sent to the engraver, and determined to subject it to a revision which would make it more suited to the nature of the violin, and then submit it to the composer. I was eager to undertake this work as soon as possible; but a great deal happened to prevent my getting to it, and I decided to lay it aside for a short time. […] In fact, I deferred the matter of its revision so thoroughly, that after waiting two whole years, the composer, very much disappointed, withdrew the original dedication.” Brodskij was most likely selected as the dedicatee because he had given the first public performance of the concerto in Vienna on 22 November/ 4 December 1881. While the work won the hearty and immediate acclaim of the public, it obtained chiefly negative reviews from the press, especially from Eduard Hanslick, who tore the work apart like none other of Čajkovskij’s. Since the violinist and conductor Leopold Damrosch had already played the work two years earlier in New York, albeit with piano accompaniment, one cannot speak of a genuine world premiere. Brodskij then also played the concerto in London in 1882.
Iosif Kotek was originally scheduled to play the solo part at the first Russian performance in Moscow on 8/20 August 1882. But in the end, it was once again Adol’f Brodskij who dazzled as the soloist. It was not until 30 October/11 November, thus over two and a half months later, that Kotek appeared before a Moscow audience to perform the solo part in Čajkovskij’s violin concerto (under the conductor Max von Erdmannsdörfer); however, he did not achieve the same success as Brodskij. Jurgenson wrote to Čajkovskij about the two performances: “Kotek played your concerto well, but he’s still far from Brodskij’s level. Despite his faultless technique, one could feel no passion, neither from the artist nor from the audience … Kotek is completely like his playing, i.e. incredibly precise, even elegant, yet with a certain triviality in the elegance. There is also a trace of triviality in Brodskij’s playing, but at the same time he has fire, energy and a natural perceptiveness.”
Thus neither the dream expressed by Kotek before the creation of the work – to give the premiere performance – nor his idea that Čajkovskij would conduct it himself were fulfilled. The composer did not conduct his violin concerto until much later, and then only three times: on 7/19 February 1888 in Prague with the soloist Karel Halír and half a year before his death, on 14/26 March 1893, in Char’kov, Ukraine, with Konstantin K. Gorskij.
Leopold Auer, the dedicatee of the piano reduction, played the work in public for the first time on 30 January/11 February 1893 in St. Petersburg, and was also the soloist when the concerto was performed there at the composer’s burial on 25 October/ 6 November. It is uncertain whether it was already performed in Auer’s arrangement on these occasions. The violinist’s revision was published in 1899 by Jurgenson, the work’s original publisher. It contains several variants in the violin part and a number of abridgments in the finale. Auer wasn’t the only violinist to publish his own arrangement: in 1939, for instance, the Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962) brought out a free transcription of the concerto. He made substantial interventions in the formal layout and orchestration of the work, and wrote a new solo cadenza for the first movement. Probably in order to make the Canzonetta performable as an independent piece, Russian violinists added a variety of different codas to this movement in their arrangements. They were only known in Russia at first, but later spread through all of Europe. Konstantin G. Mostras and David F. Ojstrach brought out an arrangement that attempted to unite the various versions of the work – those of the piano reduction, of the autograph of the score and of the edition of the score – with several elements from Auer’s revision. They also offered a number of performance variants. This arrangement attained great popularity in the concert hall and in pedagogical practice, no doubt because of the particularly high esteem enjoyed by David Ojstrach.
The publishers and the editor extend their thanks to all the libraries and institutions that provided source material, and especially to Ms Polina Vajdman of the State Čajkovskij House Museum in Klin, on whose preparatory work this edition is based.
Berlin, Spring 2011
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