Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto N. 1 (Piano Solo reduction sheet music)

Table of Contents

    Tchaikovsky Klavierauszug Piano Concerto N. 1 (Piano Solo reduction sheet music)

    Track List:

    I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito (B♭ minor – B♭ major) 00:00
    II. Andantino semplice – Prestissimo – Tempo I (D♭ major) 20:45
    III. Allegro con fuoco – Molto meno mosso – Allegro vivo (B♭ minor – B♭ major) 27:45

    The 1st Piano Concerto op. 23 in B flat minor by Pjotr ​​Ilyich Tchaikovsky was composed in 1874 and premiered in Boston in 1875 with Hans von Bülow at the piano, to whom the concerto is also dedicated.

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    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1868)

    Originally, Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate the piano concerto to his friend and mentor Nikolai Rubinstein, to whom he owed a lot, who not only enabled him to receive a musical education, but also offered the penniless Tchaikovsky free board and lodging for a few years.

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    But when he played it for Rubinstein on the piano, the latter expressed only excessive criticism and contempt, deeming the work unsalvageable, but eventually advising Tchaikovsky to thoroughly revise it. Rubinstein’s reaction moved Tchaikovsky so much that years later he recalled this scene with horror in a letter to his patron Nadezhda von Meck (1831–1894):

    ‘I played the first set. Not a word, not a comment… I found the strength to play through the entire concert. Continued silence. ‘Well?’ I asked as I rose from the piano. Then a stream of words poured out of Rubinstein’s mouth. Gently at first, as if gathering strength, and finally erupting with the violence of Jupiter Tonans.

    My concert is worthless, completely unplayable. The passages are so fragmented, incoherently and poorly composed that even corrections are not enough. The composition itself is bad, trivial, vulgar. Here and there I would have stolen from others. A page or two might be worth saving; the rest must be destroyed or composed entirely anew.”

    Tchaikovsky did not change a note of the concerto, but sent it to the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow with a request to form an opinion. He had nothing to criticize about the concerto and replied to the composer: ‘I am proud of the honor you have shown me by dedicating this magnificent work of art, which is enchanting in every respect.’

    He then had the orchestra rehearse it and personally sat at the piano at the premiere in Boston in 1875. But Rubinstein, who changed his mind about the work and gave a legendary performance in Paris in 1878, helped him to achieve real success. From there, the work began a veritable triumphal procession; it became the most frequently recorded piano concerto ever and has not been surpassed by any other concerto to this day.

    Three versions of the concerto by Tchaikovsky have survived, of which he also made a version for two pianos.

    1874–75: composition of the first version, November 1874 to February 21, 1875 in Kamenka.
    1874, October 25: First performance in the Boston Music Hall by Hans von Bülow (piano) and Benjamin Johnson Lang (conductor).

    1875: version for two pianos. The orchestral parts and the version for two pianos are printed by P. Jürgenson in Moscow.

    1876–79: composition of the second version. The changes concern the piano part of the first movement, based on suggestions from Edward Dannreuther, Hans von Bülow and Karl Klindworth.
    1879, August: First printing of the score, printing of the parts and the solo part of the second version.
    1880: Printing of the second version for two pianos by D. Rahter in Hamburg.

    1884, November 29: First performance of the second version at the Russian Music Society in St. Petersburg by Natalia Kalinovskaya-Tschikachewa (piano) and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (conductor).
    1888: Composition of the third version most used today. The changes consist in shortening the third movement by ten bars.

    1888, January 20: First performance of the third version in the Hamburg Philharmonic Society by Wassili Lwowitsch Sapelnikov (piano) and Pyotr Tchaikovsky (conductor).
    1890 or later: First printing of the third version by P. Jürgenson in Moscow. The tempo changes in the first and second movements may not have been authorized by Tchaikovsky.

    1955: First edition of the first version as Vol. 28 of the first Tchaikovsky complete edition.

    The structure

    The great popularity of the concerto, not only among lovers of so-called classical music, is also shown by the fact that its recording by the pianist Van Cliburn sold more than a million copies as a disc at the end of 1961, a hit by no other classical work up to that point achieved record.

    The enthusiasm for the work is likely to be significantly influenced by the opening theme of the first movement, which is accompanied by the piano with powerful chords that reach over all 7½ octaves.

    The movement markings of the concerto are:

    Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso
    Andantino simple
    Allegro con fuoco

    The first movement of the concerto deviates from the form of the main sonata movement that was coined in the Viennese classic period. It begins in D flat major, the key parallel to B flat minor, with a sweeping pathetic introduction that can almost be considered a theme in its own right and initially gives the impression that this is a concerto in D flat major.

    This opening theme has its triumphant counterpart in the coda of the third movement, creating a compelling dramaturgical reference and a wide arc of content from the beginning to the end of the work.

    This introduction (beginning part) is characterized by a melody intoned by the orchestra, which is accompanied by the piano with powerful chords that extend over the 7½ octaves of the keyboard. Already in this part, there is a passage resembling a cadenza (bar 40), in which the piano has a solo part.

    The introduction is followed by the two themes typical of the first movement: the dynamic theme in B flat minor (bar 108) is held in unison in both the right and left hands, begins in triplets (this theme is a Russian folk song) and is first developed by the triplets breaking up in semiquavers -Movements (bar 160) before the entry of the second, lyrical theme (bar 184). This in turn is interwoven with a third theme (bar 205), which actually begins more as a fragment of a theme, but is treated equally alongside the two main themes in the development.

    The recapitulation comes as a bit of a surprise in revisiting the dynamic first theme resolved into semiquavers (bar 445). The solo cadence (bar 539) focuses on the third and finally the second theme and leads to the final sequence, in which the piano and orchestra let the movement end with the third theme. The first movement ends in the key of B flat major.

    The second movement in D flat major begins with a solo melody in the flute, which is then taken up by the piano. In sharp contrast to this lyrical theme, in the middle of the 2nd movement, is a fast section on the French chansonette ‘Il faut s’amuser, danser et rire’ (One must enjoy, dance and laugh).

    This song in the middle of the movement forms the mirror axis of a symmetry, so to speak, because at the end the opening theme is taken up again and brought to an end by piano and oboe.

    The third movement is in the form of a rondo, its themes have their origins in Russian folk dances. The first theme keeps recurring in the interplay between piano and orchestra. Intermediate passages of runs and chordal jumps demand some skill from the soloist and give the final movement its brilliance.

    The pianist Alexander Siloti, a cousin of Sergei Rachmaninoff, made an editing in the form of a drastic cut of a passage due to the excessive length of the movement. Even today, the concerto is mostly performed in this shortened version.

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