Saturday, 7 May 2016


Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
Today’s Quote of the Day comes to us from birthday composer Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky of Russia who was born 176 years ago today.

The following extract is from a letter dated 5th of November 1880, and is but one of the many pieces of private correspondence between Tchaikovsky and his wealthy benefactress and close companion Nadezhda von Meck.

The quote, from the hindsight offered by prosperity, is delightfully retrospective: in the quote re-printed below, Tchaikovsky expresses his frustration and intense disregard for the concept of composing a piano trio (which von Meck had requested of the 19th century romantic composer):

“You ask why I have never written a trio. Forgive me, dear friend, I would do anything to give you pleasure but this is beyond me! My acoustic apparatus is so ordered that I simply cannot endure the combination of pianoforte with violin or violoncello. To my mind the timbre of these instruments will not blend, and I assure you it is a torture to me to have to listen to a trio or sonata of any kind for piano and strings. I cannot explain this physiological peculiarity; I simply state it as a fact.”
-Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky, to Nadezhda von Meck, 5th November, 1880

Nadezhda von Meck
Tchaikovsky, of course, would come to eat his own words when he sat down - only one year later - to begin sketching the outline for his breathtaking Piano trio in A minor, which would hold it’s public premiere just shy of two years following the composers' outright refusal to ever pen such a work at the Russian Musical Society at Moscow in October of 1882.

Further correspondence preserved by biographers and scholars of this most influential composer would showcase a gradual yielding to the formation of violin, cello and piano into a seamless whole – perhaps in an effort to appease his beloved Nadezhda, who would go on to support the composer in good times and bad – including during the fallout from Tchaikovsky’s disastrous marriage to his former pupil Antonina Miliukova in 1877, for a period of some thirteen years.

Certainly, Tchaikovsky owed much of his success to the musical savant von Meck, who had supplied the composer with an annual salary in the staggering amount of 6000 rubles - more than enough for Tchaikovsky to dedicate his attentions to composing music full-time.

Whatever Tchaikovsky’s motivation for constructing the work, the Piano Trio in A minor would prove to both speculative composer and admirer alike of the Russian musician's prowess in the arena.

Listen below to the highly emotive “Pezzo Elegiaco,” the 1st movement of Tchaikovsky’s 50th opus, his Piano Trio in A minor, in a luxuriously powerful rendition of the piece by violinist Susanna Yoko Henkel, Monika Leskovar, cello; and Ian Fountain on piano (separated into two parts):



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