One of the most popular of all violin concertos, it had a somewhat troubled beginning.
Performed by Arabella Steinbacher and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Xian Zhang, at the orchestra's Great Classics Series concert, Auckland Town Hall, 27 September 2018.
Tchaikovsky’s personal life was often fairly troubled – when he wrote this piece he’d come out of a pretty disastrous sham marriage. And the piece was written for a violinist friend – and maybe lover – of his, called Iosef Kotek. But Tchaikovsky didn’t dedicate the work to Kotek “in order to avoid gossip of various kinds”.
He sketched it in just 11 days in 1878. He wrote in his letters that he wanted to express his longings and that it was healing for him to write this piece. The concerto was like medicine for him. A couple of weeks later the score was ready for the premiere.
Unfortunately, both Kotek and the final dedicatee – the renowned soloist Leopold Auer – decided the piece was ‘unviolinistic’ and refused to play it – too many double stops, glissandi, trills, leaps and dissonances. Other violinists felt the same and it wasn’t until three years later that Adolph Brodsky gave the work its first performance.
One of the first reviews of the concerto said the violin was ‘pulled about, torn, beaten black and blue’.