Mourning the Best Violinist of Tchaikovsky’s Time

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Sweet pain. © Charles Thibo

Andante, 78 bars – a long introduction. A funeral music, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky knew exactly what he was doing. He was mourning a friend, Ferdinand Laub, the violinist of the Russian Musical Society’s string quartet (“Moscow Quartet”) who had performed Tchaikovsky’s first two string quartets at their premiere. This was the composer’s third string quartet in E flat minor, Op. 30. Tchaikovsky wrote it in a very short time span, in January and February 1876 “I rush at full speed to finish my quartet”, he wrote to his brother Modest on February 10, 1876. Eight days later the score was ready, the premiere took place on March 2 at the Moscow Conservatory.

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Tchaikovsky Finds Inspiration in Lalo’s Work

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Awkwardly beautiful. © Charles Thibo

Do you know Lalo? Of course you do, you have met him in a post two weeks ago! Edouard Lalo composed a piece called “Symphonie Espagnole” (Spanish Symphony) which inspired Pyotr Tchaikovsky to write his Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 35. “Do you know the “Symphonie Espagnole” of the French composer Lalo?”, Tchaikovsky asks in a letter his patron Nadezhda von Meck in March 1878. “I liked this work very much. A lot of freshness, spiking rhythms, beautiful melodies with remarkable harmonies.” All this can be said about Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto.

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Taking it easy with Tchaikovsky’s caprice

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Summer! © Charles Thibo

Together with the Overture “1812” the Capriccio Italien (Op. 45) is the earliest work of Pyotr Tchaikovsky that I listened to. They were both on the same recording I got as a teenager for Christmas, the third piece being the Marche Slave. Its introduction is impressive enough for a young, ignorant mind. Trumpets! More brass joining the trumpets. And then the strings, a dramatic, earnest gesture, a hint of melancholy…

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The lady likes strange and wild harmonies

The violin rules. © Charles Thibo

It felt a little like meeting an old friend after many years. I sat at my desk on a rainy Saturday afternoon and listened to a piano trio written by Edouard Lalo. I was writing letters and my thoughts drifted. “Lalo, Lalo…”, I wondered. “Have I written about him?” Actually I have, in a post in November 2016. So why had I forgotten about him? The trio is beautiful, and he surely has written other lovely pieces. A quick research yielded a wealth of pieces unknown to me, and my joy over these discoveries was such that I had to insert an unscheduled post about Lalo’s Violin Concerto in F major, Op. 20 in my publishing schedule.

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