Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Sunday, November 12

Tchaikovsky and Brahms in New York

Synopsis

These days, at symphony concerts when a new piece of music is about to be played, it’s not uncommon to overhear someone mutter, “Why do they have to program all this new stuff, when there’s so much Brahms and Tchaikovsky we’d rather hear?”

On today’s date back in 1881, conductor Theodore Thomas chose to open the 40th season of the New York Philharmonic Society’s concerts with a pair of brand-new works: an Overture and a Piano Concerto hot off the press—both published early that same year, in fact.

That 1881 concert opened with the New York premiere of the “Tragic” Overture by Johannes Brahms, and after that, the world premiere performance of the Second Piano Concerto by Peter Tchaikovsky. The soloist in the Tchaikovsky was a certain Madame Madeleine Schiller.

Here’s what the New York Times had to say the following morning: “The return of Madame Schiller to the stage is a welcome event... the only regret being that her efforts had not been devoted to a more interesting work, for, apart from the novelty, it cannot be said that the Tchaikovsky concerto possessed any great merit. There are older works,” the review continued, “of which one never tires, and which, interpreted by Madame Schiller and the superb orchestra of the Philharmonic Society would always be welcomed.”

Ah, some things never change!

Music Played in Today's Program

Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) Tragic Overture Chicago Symphony; Daniel Barenboim, cond. Erato 95192

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 Barry Douglas, piano; Philharmonia Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, cond. RCA/BMG 61633

Additional Information

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