(1925 – 1996)
Violin Concerto (1969)
Victor Pikaizen (violin)
Odense Symphony Orchestra/Edward Serov
rec. Carl Nielsen Hall, Odense, Denmark, 24 September 1994
NORTHERN FLOWERS NF/PMA 9946 [44:13]
Boris Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is in one vast single movement playing uninterruptedly for more than forty minutes. It is dedicated to the present soloist who collaborated with the composer on several occasions and to whom the Violin Sonata is dedicated. Another unusual aspect of the work is the scoring; it completely dispenses with the woodwinds and reserves brass for the last section, while the percussion section is reduced to sparingly used timpani.
In the long opening section the soloist is accompanied by the strings only, weaving a seamless background to the violin’s musings. To a certain extent this section may bring the Nocturne from Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto to mind, albeit with more restraint and less impassioned outpourings. The mood is meditative and the music unfolds unhurriedly. At about thirteen minutes into the work, there is a short-lived outburst soon cut short; but strings urgently insist in resuming the more animated mood that they had tried to impose. The soloist, however, goes along his own way, at times with insistent gestures, but the overall mood remains. Halfway through the work, the timpani make their first entry. The music now becomes somewhat more animated with increasingly angular motifs punctuated by strings and timpani. This section may thus be regarded as a Scherzo, albeit rather aggressive. The impetus of the music rarely slackens until the brass enter – at about twenty-seven minutes – with punctuation by the timpani, the strings receding in the background. There follows a rather more forceful section in which strings, brass and timpani predominate introducing a short cadenza followed by an angry phrase in the strings. Menacing brass fanfares intervene keeping the soloist at bay for a while. The soloist re-enters over string pizzicatos with a sinuous theme that later tends to assert itself over repeated brass fanfares and string ostinati. A quickly receding forceful brass fanfare leaves the soloist again with the strings and sometimes on his own with yet another cadenza-like section, at times accompanied by the timpani. The violin then unfolds a long peaceful theme over the strings’ rocking accompaniment. The music thins away until the brass return for an abrupt conclusion.
As already mentioned earlier, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto was written for and dedicated to Victor Pikaizen who later made the work his own by playing it on several occasions both in the former Soviet Union and in the West. One may thus reasonably conclude that he has the full measure of this demanding work in which the soloist more or less plays from the very first bar to the last. Moreover the music’s various moods do call for musicality as well as technique which Pikaizen clearly possesses. This performance, however, was recorded live and, although one senses a real feeling of a special occasion, there are a few slight blemishes in the opening section. The recorded sound is globally quite fine though it could not save us from the odd cough. These apparent reservations should not deter anyone from investigating this release. Boris Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is undoubtedly one of his finest and most personal achievements. It deserves to be heard more often.
This is an often beautiful and gripping work likely to move audiences deeply judging by the ovation at the end of this performance. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, this is a great piece of music, albeit rather taxing and demanding. It will probably never become popular because the music disdains showy virtuosity. Tchaikovsky’s deeply humane, lyrical voice more than compensates for the lack of sheer violinistic prowess.
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