(born 1840 in Kamsko-Votkinsk [Russia]; died 1893 in St. Petersburg)

Mélodie in E-flat Major Op. 42 No.3
from Souvenir d'un lieu cher (1878)

Tchaikovsky was a master spinner of melodies. His works sound as though naturally flowing from a bubbling musical spring. Even with a hint of narcissism and self-indulgence, the force of romanticism remains both powerful and memorable. His music combines passion with elegance; whether joyful or tragic, it is always unforgettable.

A precocious child, Tchaikovsky's artistic gifts were clear early on and his parents gave him piano lessons from the age of five. But his family was not musically knowledgeable and a career in music was not an option; thus, at the age of ten, Tchaikovsky was enrolled in preparatory classes for the School of Jurisprudence in St. Petersburg and he subsequently read law for a few years before turning to serious musical study at the age of 21.

As an adult, Tchaikovsky was troubled and unhappy, quite in contrast to the exquisite music he produced. The year 1877 was particularly disastrous for him as a result of his ill-fated marriage to Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, which lasted only a matter of weeks. After a suicide attempt and a nervous breakdown, his doctors ordered a completely different environment for recovery.

Shortly before his marriage, Tchaikovsky had entered into a correspondence with a wealthy widow, Nadejda von Meck, who had become his patroness, offering to sponsor him on the understanding that they never meet. When he needed to get away, Mme von Meck came to the rescue by offering him the use of Brailov, one of her many splendid country estates. Although the mistress of the house was not present, conditions at Brailov were more than comfortable. The house was luxurious, filled with musical scores and instruments, and surrounded by woods and gardens in which Tchaikovsky took refuge.

Before leaving Brailov in June 1878, he entrusted Souvenir d'un lieu cher (Remembrance of a Beloved Place) to Mme Von Meck's chief servant, to be presented to her as a token of Tchaikovsky's appreciation for her hospitality. The work is a triptych for violin and piano, comprised of three short pieces: Méditation (originally intended as the slow movement to his Violin Concerto but rejected as such and reworked), Scherzo, and Mélodie. Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) later transcribed Souvenir d'un lieu cher for violin and orchestra, but in this concert it is performed in the original version.

Mélodie is often performed on its own. It is a charming, sweet, and graceful short piece which succeeds in conveying a sense of calm and nostalgia.


Waltz-Scherzo, Op. 34 (1877)

The Waltz-Scherzo is buoyant, swift, and elegant. Originally written for violin and orchestra, it resembles in character the waltzes of Tchaikovsky's ballet scores. The air of sophisticated glitter and the flowing melodies effortlessly combine flair and virtuosity. Despite the tortured state of his personal life in 1877, the year of his ill-fated marriage, the musical expression in the Waltz-Scherzo is vibrant and light-hearted.

The work was dedicated to Yosif Kotek, the violinist who was also the inspiration for the Violin Concerto that immediately followed it. As in other Tchaikovsky instrumental pieces, the Waltz-Scherzo, written in three sections plus a cadenza (A-B-Cadenza-A), makes great technical demands upon the performer: agility, seamless coordination, and poise, together with a lightness and bounce characteristic of a tri-meter dance. Double-stops in the solo part throughout the work add multiple voices to what might otherwise be a single line, and effectively suggest 19th century cosmopolitan grandeur. The bravura cadenza is both bold and capricious.

(March 2003 and May 2005)
  Notes © 2003 and © 2005 by Midori, OFFICE GOTO Co.Ltd.
Referential sources available on request.