Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Monday, October 25

Tchaikovsky plays "Who Wants to Premiere a Concerto"

Synopsis

Imagine that YOU are playing "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and the $64,000 question is as follows: "Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 had its world premiere performance in what city:

a) Moscow
b) St. Petersburg
c) Budapest
d) Boston?"

Is that your final answer? If you chose d) Boston, you would have been a winner!

Tchaikovsky finished scoring his First Piano Concerto in the early months of 1875, and the work received its very first performance on October 25th that year at the Music Hall in Boston. The orchestra was a freelance group, mostly members of the Harvard Musical Association — the Boston Symphony wouldn't be founded until six years later. The conductor of the Tchaikovsky premiere was one B.J. Lang -- hardly a name most classical music lovers would recognize today -- but the soloist was definitely world-class: the famous German pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow.

In his day, Bülow was one of the great champions of new music, performing and conducting major works by his contemporaries, Liszt, Wagner, and Brahms. Tchaikovsky dedicated his new Piano Concerto to Bulow after his one-time teacher, Nicolai Rubinstein, a famous Russian concert pianist and conductor in his own right, had said the piece was unplayable. Von Bülow proved him wrong, and was able to telegraph Tchaikovsky from Boston that his new concerto had been a big success.

Music Played in Today's Program

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Piano Concerto No. 1 Van Cliburn, piano; RCA Symphony; Kirill Kondrashin, cond. Philips 456 748

Additional Information

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