1875: Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Bb Minor

WEDNESDAY, February 12, 2020

The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B♭ minor, age 35

It was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875, revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s desired pianist. Rubinstein later repudiated his previous accusations and became a fervent champion of the work. It is one of the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s compositions and among the best known of all piano concertos.

Grandma again…

Argerich can’t possibly have the same insane strength and intensity that she had when much younger, but she does things with this I have never heard before, and for me it is magical, and watching her play is always a treat.

  • Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito, B♭ minor – B♭ major
  • Andantino semplice – Prestissimo – Tempo I, D♭ major
  • Allegro con fuoco – Molto meno mosso – Allegro vivo, B♭ minor – B♭ major

Instrumentation:

  • solo piano
  • 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons
  • 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in F, 3 trombones (two tenor, one bass)
  • timpani
  • strings

Horowitz and Toscanini…

The sound is primitive in 2020. When I was young this was still very good, because I was listening to such recordings before stereo records appeared. But this is one of the most famous recordings ever made, and the style is the absolute opposite of the live Argerich performance. This is flat out demonic energy from the beginning to the end. When I was in 6th grade I had a big debate from another student who later went on to write newspaper editorial pages. At that time Van Cliburn has just won the Moscow competition and was hugely hyped in the US. My friend was talking about how great he was, and his father was a violinist and teacher. I said, “Wait to you hear Horowitz”, but he stuck to his Cliburn recording.

1 thought on “1875: Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in Bb Minor

  1. I think what I’ve heard in the past might have always been Liberace when family’s television was on. I am so glad to have now heard these two versions, which both turn it into something a lot more, each in their own way. I am especially partial to Horowitz this time round.

Leave a Reply