Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

by Max Derrickson

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky     b Kamko-Votinsk, Russia, May 7, 1840; St. Petersburg, November 6, 1893

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
1. Allegro moderato
2. Canzonetta (Andante)
3. Allegro vivacissimo

One would never suspect that Tchaikovsky’s first and only violin concerto, with all its freshness and jubilance, was born like an extraordinarily beautifulPhoenix, emerging from the fire of the most traumatic moment in Tchaikovsky’s life.  Despite that, it comes about as close to perfection as just about any piece in the concerto repertoire.

It is fairly well known that Tchaikovsky was openly (more-or-less) homosexual.  Even so, nearly on a lark, in July of 1877 he married a young woman named Antonina Milyukova, a long-time admirer of his.
[. . .]

There is no lack of extraordinary violin writing in this work — a remarkable feat for Tchaikovsky’s first and only attempt at a violin concerto.  But he had enlisted the advice of the young and brilliant violinist Iosif Kotek (1855-1885), a composition student of Tchaikovsky’s from the Moscow Conservatory.  The talented Kotek served as an advisor on violin technique, and as we can hear in the exquisite cadenza in the first movement (indeed throughout the entire concerto), the solo writing is exceptional and seamless.

The Concerto begins with a lovely short introduction, one that seems to speak like an old story: “Once, a very long time ago…”  And so the Concerto begins,
[. . .]

The gorgeousness of the Canzonetta strays right into the lively and boisterous finale without a break.  Several themes of vastly different moods make up this movement, and its sheer genius that they cohere so magically.
[. . .]
until at last it explodes in its exhilarating conclusion.