Tchaikovsky wrote four works for piano and orchestra: the three concertos, and the Concert Fantasy in G Op.56 (1884). The First Concerto ranks today as possibly the most famous piano concerto ever composed. Its entry into the world was, however, far from easy. Dismissed by critics as a flop, and by its dedicatee Nikolai Rubinstein as unplayable – which caused a rift between Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky, the concerto was premiered in Boston in the USA in 1875, and the dedicatee was Hans von Bülow, who conducted the performance with Benjamin Johnson Lang as soloist. Its success was never in doubt from then on. Rubinstein relented and undertook to champion the concerto. It is a large, dramatic work with its roots firmly in the Chopin/Mendelssohn school.
The underrated Second Concerto (1880) was for many years performed in a cut version made by Tchaikovsky’s pupil Siloti. This cut the jewel of the concerto – the ‘triple concerto’-like second movement for violin, cello and piano. Happily the recording in this set is of the original version. It is a very strong work, with great tunes and a tremendously virtuosic solo part – the huge cadenza in the first movement is especially impressive.
The Third Concerto (1893) – today only performed as a one-movement Konzertstück was created out of the abandoned Seventh Symphony in E major. The first movement of both concerto and symphony are almost identical, but then Tchaikovsky wrote an Andante and finale (orchestrated by Taneyev) as the other two movements, but abandoned these as well in favour of the one-movement work we hear today. The Third Concerto is technically very challenging for the performer, and contains some wonderful music.
Recording made in 1982
“Postnikova brings the necessary Russian fire and melancholy to these works”
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