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Laurie Niles

2012 Tournament, Round 1, Day 8: Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto vs. Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2

March 21, 2012 at 6:33 PM

Today we move to works by Eastern European composers, both which are highly Romantic works that require feats of great violin technique: the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto vs. Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2

Tchaikovsky Wieniawski

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky wrote his violin concerto in 1878 and dedicated it to Leopold Auer, who famously pronounced it "unplayable" and refused to play its premiere. (Adolph Brodsky played the premiere in 1881) Of course, Auer later revised that statement -- after many violinists found it quite playable, indeed: "It is incorrect to state that I had declared the concerto in its original form unplayable. What I did say was that some of the passages were not suited to the character of the instrument, and that, however perfectly rendered, they would not sound as well as the composer had imagined," Auer wrote in 1912. Well, it's all water under the bridge. Auer later embraced the concerto (with a few of his own edits, which some people play and others don't), and the rest of the world certainly has embraced it.

Isaac Stern in his prime, playing with Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, conductor, in 1958. Sorry no visuals!

I. Allegro moderato
II.Canzonetta: Andante
II. Finale: Allegro vivacissimo

Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 by Henryk Wieniawski

Written in 1856, this concerto was most certainly a vehicle for the virtuosity of its composer, the violinist Henryk Wieniawski, though it was dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate. (Here are some informative program notes on the work) The whole concerto is awash in Romanticism; the middle movement heavenly (I like to play it just to feel better about life) and the last movement is a great way to show off your amazing spiccato, if you have it!

Here's another purely musical video, of violinist Michael Rabin performing with the London Philharmonia Orchestra, Eugene Goossens conducting:

I. Allegro moderato

II. Romance: Andante non troppo

III. Allegro con fuoco – Allegro moderato (à la Zingara)

(And just for fun, part of the third movement is here, you can see 14-year-old Itzhak Perlman performing wildly well - he has the amazing spiccato/sautille/everything going on - and also see Ed Sullivan butcher the name "Wieniawski"!

From Wayne Wilkinson
Posted on March 21, 2012 at 6:40 PM
This was easy: Tchaikovsky all the way.

I know some people discuss the technical difficulties of this concerto. However, in my view it is much like the Brahms concerto in that it is not the technical stuff that makes this concerto hard, but getting the expression right and telling a good story with the performance.

I think I' ve heard more differing stories in performances of the Tchaikovsky than any other concerto (knowing what was going on in his life during this time really impacts how one can play this work). People often say the third movement is happy, but I often hear the solo part as being less happy than the orchestra. Its as if the soloist is feigning happiness to keep up appearances - which is what Tchaikovsky was trying to do during this part of his life.

Just my two cents. . .


From Corwin Slack
Posted on March 21, 2012 at 9:38 PM
No contest. Wieniawski 2 is clearly a minor work. I am happy it's in the repertory but I would never trade it for Tchaikovsky The Stern recording was my first.. The Rabin recording was also my first for the Wieniawski.
From Marty Dalton
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 2:25 AM
I love the Wien, but Tchaikovsky is a much more of a Grand piece.
From Karis Crawford
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 4:47 AM
Tchaikovsky is a piece I grew up listening to and is the piece that made me ask my parents at the age of four if I could play the violin. I had to wait two more years to play, but this was definitely the piece that inspired me in the first place so I have to vote for it!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 8:15 AM
I agree with everyone who said that the Tchaik is better by far. In the Youtube clip of 14 year old Itzhak Perlman playing the Tchaik, you can see some fancy bowing technique.

Laurie, thanks for giving us all the information about the pieces. You did a lot of background work, and I've learned a lot.

From elise stanley
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I guess I'm a heretic but I'm not much of a T VC fan. Too much pyrotenics and not enough message. Like L I adore the slow movement of the W VC and his unpredictable music makes me think. And maybe I'm just a bit contrary too...
From Hannah Williams
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 3:51 PM
What a toss-up. I love both of these pieces. But, I if I could only learn one I guess it would be the Tchaikovsky (it only wins by a small margin).
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 4:14 PM
Perlman's recording of Tchaik was one of my very first violin memories. It may actually have been the first concerto of my experience. I can still put myself back in my mom's kitchen, singing to it while we washed dishes.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 22, 2012 at 5:12 PM
Thanks, Pauline! Speaking of memories, I relived some, stumbling across this recording of Eugene Fodor playing the Tchaik; that was the first recording of any violin work I ever had (Yes, I am a Coloradan!):

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