‘Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35' sees Julia perform with pianist Yakov Kreizberg and the Russian National Orchestra in a performance full of emotion which earned the recording five stars from Fonoforum, ClassicsToday.com and the Independent on Sunday.
Editor's Choice: ‘Fischer again demonstrates what a great and distinctive artist she is.' Gramophone
Recording of the Month: ‘Her reading is so fresh, so full of fire and vitality and wistful tenderness...' MusicWeb International
‘Julia Fischer plays these pieces superbly on this recording.' Classic FM
Julia Fisher violin
Yakov Kreizberg piano (Tracks 6-8)
Russian National Orchestra
Yakov Kreizberg conductor (Tracks 1-5)
Recorded in DZZ Studio 5, Moscow 1st-5th April 2006 and MCO Studio 5, Hilversum 6-8th April 2006
Executive Producer: Job Maarse
Recording Producers: Job Maarse and Sebastian Stein
Balance Engineers: Erdo Groot and Jean-Marie Geijsen
Recording Engineer and Editor: Sebastian Stein
The solo violin did not occupy a central position within the oeuvre of Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893). He was himself a pianist, and composed three piano concertos, as well as chamber music, operas and ballets. That probably explains why he composed no more than one violin concerto. Certainly, it was composed shortly after the most profound crisis in his personal life, i.e. his marriage to Antonia Milyukova in 1877: "The marriage ceremony had only just taken place, and I had been left alone with my wife, realizing that fate had linked us inseparably, when it suddenly came upon me that I did not feel even simple friendship for her - rather, an aversion in the truest sense of the word. Death seemed to me to be the only way out, yet I could not even contemplate suicide." Admittedly, his friends, such as Nikolai Kashkin, were aware of this personal disaster: "Tchaikovsky himself looked somewhat bewildered, did not say a word about this new situation during our conversations, and his marriage remained - as it did for his other friends - a mystery to us." However, Tchaikovsky did not seem to change as far as the rest of the world was concerned, as endorsed by his colleague Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who mentions the following in his autobiography My musical life: "After approximately 1876, Tchaikovsky - who was living in Moscow at the time - regularly visited our home about once or twice a year. Whenever he came to St. Petersburg, he enjoyed coming to see us. Usually, his visits took place on the days when our musical circle came together... In those days as also later on, Tchaikovsky was an endearing person with whom to talk and, in the best sense of the word, a noble man". He reacted to his disappointment in the marriage with illness (gastritis, headaches, insomnia) and sought refuge in work: a hasty removal to St. Petersburg also helped him to overcome this "tense situation", as his friend Nikolai Kashkin later recalled.
In order to convalesce, Peter Tchaikovsky went to the Swiss health resort Clarens on the shores of Lake Geneva: "One only realizes just how powerful the love of one's friends is, when one is separated from them. I am now living in Switzerland, in the midst of breath-taking nature. If I had stayed in Moscow just one more day, I would have lost my mind, or drowned myself in the stinking waves of the Moskwa." March 1878 became a time of great inspiration for him. His interest in the violin was heightened by his study of Edouard Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, which encouraged him by its "freshness, lightness, unusual rhythms, marvellous and impressively harmonized melodies", so that composing came to mean the purest of pleasures to him, as he wrote to his patroness, Madame von Meck. Here for the first time, he devoted a great deal of time to the violin, supported by his former student, Josef Kotek - now in the role of mentor - who was visiting him: "Without him, I would never have been able to finish the Violin Concerto." He gave important advice with regard to violin technique, which Tchaikovsky took into account in the extremely difficult work - most particularly in the variations of the caressing motif in the Allegro moderato. The Andante canzonetta has the effect of a love poem, thanks to its Russian-Italian sound, and the Finale with the noisy fanfare turns into a virtuoso capriccio of Russian gypsy music.
Tchaikovsky had intended to dedicate the Violin Concerto to the violinist Leopold Auer: however, the latter turned it down, and also declined to give the première planned in 1879 in St. Petersburg due to the extreme technical demands. Thus the performance of the Violin Concerto was delayed until Adolf Brodsky was prepared to play it at his début in Vienna in December 1881.
In Russia, Tchaikovsky's music met with a controversial reception, as he did not compose in a typically nationalistic style: western-European influences were clearly audible in his music. However, the same was the case in Vienna, where the influential critic Eduard Hanslick wrote the following about the Violin Concerto: "The Russian composer Tchaikovsky is certainly not an everyday talent: however, his talent is forced, that of an obsessive genius, indiscriminate and tasteless. What we already know of him contains a rare mixture of originality and uncouthness, of fortunate ideas and despairing refinement. This is also the case with his latest, a lengthy and demanding violin concerto. (...) Here, the violin is not played, but thrown about, ripped to bits, beaten to within an inch of its life. I am not sure whether it would even be possible to play this outrageously difficult music." This review is more a testimony of his feelings of helplessness and ignorance in the face of new sound possibilities than a reliable assessment, for this brilliant violin concerto now occupies a firm position in the standard concert repertoire.
The Valse - Scherzo for Violin and Orchestra - an extremely difficult Allegro, which Tchaikovsky had written in 1877, as it were, as a prelude to his Violin Concerto - is a little-known piece. This furioso waltz is dedicated to Josef Kotek. From the original Andante of the Violin Concerto (which Tchaikovsky then replaced by the Canzonetta), the composer developed the piece "Méditation" in his work Souvenir d'un lieu cher (Souvenir of a beloved place, 1878), which contains two other pieces: a "Scherzo" and a "Mélodie". This is a nostalgic work for violin and piano, the composition of which gave him little pleasure. The elegiac Sérénade mélancholique for violin and orchestra dating from 1875 is of greater importance: "Melancholic passion, hopeless yearning and bitter thoughts of death seem to us to be unreal, false, almost kitschy in the dragging waltz disguise. And yet the music of the Sérénade is so simple and natural, so vividly true to life," thus wrote Tchaikovsky's biographer Richard Stein about this music. Although it was dedicated to Leopold Auer, it was again Adolf Brodsky who gave the première on January 16, 1876 at the Russian Music Society in Moscow.
If one looks at the narrow window of time during which the works for solo violin were composed, i.e. between 1875 to 1878, one realizes that these compositions must have formed an outlet for certain feelings during a personal crisis. Yearning and melancholy dominate in this music, which however also demonstrates the composer's ambition with regard to the technical level of the Violin Concerto and of the Valse - Scherzo. At least in the case of his Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky successfully met the challenge of writing music for the violin which would survive the test of time.