Producer’s Note: The present recordings are among Talich’s rarest discs. Although the Violin Concerto has seen limited reissue on small labels, neither recording has ever been available on LP or CD from EMI or in any of Supraphon’s Talich reissue series. (Tantalizingly, the conductor made his only recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony at the same sessions as the Violin Concerto, but it was never released and the masters are presumed lost.) The Piano Concerto makes its first extended play appearance in any form here.
Despite the scarcity of the original discs, two copies of each album were assembled for these transfers, and the best portions of each side were used. Some blasting in the louder passages of the Piano Concerto was present on both copies and may be due to the use of inferior shellac during wartime rather than from wear.
Biographical notes from Wikipedia
Václav Talich (May 28, 1883 – March 16, 1961) was a Czech conductor, violinist and pedagogue. Born in Kroměříž, Moravia, he started his musical career in a student orchestra in Klatovy. From 1897 to 1903 he studied at the conservatory in Prague with Otakar Ševčík. For a short period he was the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, and he was so fascinated by the chief conductor Arthur Nikisch, that he decided to become a conductor himself. His conducting career started in Tbilisi. From 1915 to 1918 he performed as a violist of the Czech Quartet. His career with the Czech Philharmonic started on 30 October 1918 with the poem Zrání (The Ripening) by Josef Suk. From 1919 to 1941 he became chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, raising them to internationally respected levels and touring widely with them. During World War II, in a very difficult situation, he tried to support Czech culture, but after the war was accused of collaboration with the Germans. However, the accusations were refuted and he started to conduct again in 1946. In 1946, he established the Czech Chamber Orchestra, with students of the Prague Conservatory.
In 1935, he was also appointed chief opera administrator at the Czech National Theatre, where he promoted specially works of Leoš Janáček, some of whose works he premiered. He was forced to leave when it was closed by the Germans during World War II, took up the post again after the end of the war, but was fired following disagreements with the government in 1947. He took the post up again shortly thereafter, and was then fired once again in 1948 after the Communist party took over the country. Subsequently, he became conductor of the newly formed Slovak Philharmonic in Bratislava. In November 1954, he conducted his last public performance with the Czech Philharmonic. He spent the last years of his life in Beroun, Czechoslovakia. In 1957 he became a National Artist, the highest distinction in Czechoslovakia.
Particularly noted for his interpretations of Czech composers such as Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana and Josef Suk, Talich also did much to bring the operas of Leoš Janáček into the standard repertoire. Talich also taught a good deal, with Charles Mackerras, Karel Ančerl or Milan Munclinger among his pupils.
Winfried Wolf (June 19, 1900 – October 14, 1982) was an Austrian pianist and composer, born in Vienna, the son of an architect. He showed an early interest in music, and as a schoolbiy conducted a youth orchestra and began to compose.
He studied at the the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin in 1924 and made his deut as a pianist. In the years that followed he toured throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia as a virtuoso pianist of the highest level., and in 1936 took residence in Los Angeles to study twelve-tone technique with Arnold Schoenberg. His first piano concerto was premièred in 1938 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Carl Schuricht, and he went on two write several works for stage, a string trio, a violin sonata, orchestral works and piano concertos.
After the Second World War, Wolf spend two years in Madeira, where he composed his opera 'Amati', and thereafter spent a season each year in Portugal. He taught first in Berlin, then later as a professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where he died in 1982.
Biographical notes from Wikipedia
Wolfgang Eduard Schneiderhan (May 28, 1915 – May 18, 2002) was an Austrian classical violinist.
He was born in Vienna. After briefly studying with Otakar Ševčík in Pisek, he studied with Julius Winkler in Vienna. At age 10 he publicly performed Bach's Chaconne in D minor. The next year he made his debut in Copenhagen playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. He lived in England for some time from 1929, where he appeared in concerts with artists such as Maria Jeritza, Fyodor Chaliapin, Jan Kiepura, and Paul Robeson.
He returned to Vienna to become the first Concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra from 1933-37, and from 1937 to 1951 led the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He nevertheless maintained his career as a soloist in concerts and recordings.
He was the soloist in the Viennese premiere of the Elgar Violin Concerto in 1947.
He formed a string quartet. After Georg Kulenkampff's death in 1948, he replaced Kulenkampff in a famous piano trio with Edwin Fischer and Enrico Mainardi.
In September 1952 he made his benchmark D.G.G. recordings of all ten Beethoven violin sonatas with Wilhelm Kempff in the Konzerthaus, Mozartsaal, Vienna.
He held teaching posts in Salzburg, Vienna and Lucerne. In 1956 he founded the Lucerne Festival Strings together with Rudolf Baumgartner.
Schneiderhan was the husband of the soprano Irmgard Seefried. He died in his native Vienna.
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. It is considered one of the most popular of Tchaikovsky's works and among the best known of all piano concertos.
The work is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B-flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in F, 3 trombones (2 tenor, 1 bass), timpani, solo piano, and strings.
The concerto is famous for the dramatic tension between soloist and orchestra. It is markedly symphonic in character and differs considerably from the more musically conservative and outwardly virtuoso type of concerto that was then widely popular in Russia. Nonetheless, the technical demand placed upon the pianist remains considerable. For example, there are several passages with rapid octave movement. Speed and awkward note arrangement create further difficulties. As well, a performer must keep up with the overall monumental nature of the work with a very powerful tone that often dominates over the orchestra.
The concerto follows the traditional form of three movements:
Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito (B flat minor → B flat major)
Andantino simplice – Prestissimo (D flat major)
Allegro con fuoco (B flat minor → B flat major)
The well-known theme of the introductory section to the first movement is based on a melody that Tchaikovsky heard performed by blind beggar-musicians at a market in Kamenka, near Kiev in Ukraine. This, the best-known passage in the entire concerto, was notable for a considerable time after its composition on its apparent formal independence from the movement and the concerto as a whole. This sense of independence seemed to be highlighted by being not in the work's nominal key of B flat minor but in the relative major key of D-flat. Despite its very substantial nature, the theme is only heard twice, and never subsequently reappears in the concerto.
The key to the link between the introduction and the rest of the concerto is that the opening melody contains the core motivic elements for the entire work. This may not seem obvious because of Tchaikovsky's gift for hiding motivic connections behind what can appear to be a moment of melodic inspiration. A close analysis shows that all three movements are subtly linked. The middle section of the second movement is based on a French chansonette, "Il faut s'amuser, danser et rire." (Translated as: One must have fun, dance and laugh.) A Ukranian vsnyanka or greeting to spring is the first theme of the finale, while the second theme is motivically derived from the Russian folk song "Podoydi, podoydy vo Tsar-Gorod." All these melodies are connected by a strong motivic bond. The relationship between them has often been ascribed to chance because they were all well known at the time Tchaikovsky composed the concerto. It seems likely, though, that he used these songs precisely because of their motivic connection and used them where he felt necessary. Selecting folkloristic material, therefore, went hand in hand with planning the large-scale structure of the work.
Tchaikovsky dedicated the work to Nikolai Rubinstein, whom he also intended to be its first performer. However, when Tchaikovsky proudly showed the work to Rubinstein and another musical friend Nikolai Hubert at the Moscow Conservatory on Christmas Eve 1874, he was met with bitter disappointment. After they had given it a first play-through, Rubinstein hastily dismissed the concerto, in the composer's words, as "banal, clumsy and incompetently written", as well as "poorly composed and unplayable." He then asked Tchaikovsky to undertake a substantial reworking of it in accordance with his own wishes. The composer was deeply hurt and refused Rubinstein's advice.
The first performance of the original version took place on October 25, 1875 in Boston, Massachusetts, conducted by Benjamin Johnson Lang. The soloist was Hans von Bülow. Bülow had initially engaged a different conductor, but they quarrelled, and Lang was brought in at short notice.Tchaikovsky appreciated Bülow's combination of intellect and passion in his playing, and Bülow was a fervent admirer of Tchaikovsky's music. Although the premiere was a resounding success, George Whitefield Chadwick, who was in the audience, recalled in a memoir years later: "They had not rehearsed much and the trombones got in wrong in the ‘tutti’ in the middle of the first movement, whereupon Bülow sang out in a perfectly audible voice, The brass may go to hell". Tchaikovsky rededicated the work to Bülow, who had described the work as "so original and noble" (although he later dropped the concerto from his repertoire). Interestingly, Benjamin Johnson Lang himself appeared as soloist in a performance of the concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on February 20, 1885, under Leopold Damrosch.
The Russian premiere took place on 13 November in Saint Petersburg, with the Russian pianist Gustav Kross and Czech conductor Eduard Nápravník. In Tchaikovsky's estimation, Kross reduced the work to "an atrocious cacophony" .
The piano soloist in the Moscow premiere, on December 3, 1875, was Sergei Taneyev. Despite his strong reservations about the quality of the work, Nikolai Rubinstein conducted the orchestra, and later played the solo part several times. At that time, Tchaikovsky considered rededicating the work to Taneyev, who had performed it splendidly, but ultimately the dedication went to von Bülow.
The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the best known of all violin concertos. It is also considered to be among the most technically difficult works for violin.
The concerto is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and B-flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in D, timpani and strings.
As with most concerti, the piece is in three movements, the first and last quick, the second slow:
Allegro moderato (D major)
Canzonetta: Andante (G minor)
Finale: Allegro vivacissimo (D major)
There is no break or pause between the second and third movements.
A typical performance runs approximately 35 minutes.
The piece was written in 1878 in Clarens, a Swiss resort on the shores of Lake Geneva where Tchaikovsky had gone to recover from the depression brought on by his disastrous marriage to Antonina Miliukova.
Tchaikovsky was accompanied there by his composition pupil, the violinist Yosif Kotek, and the two played works for violin and piano together, which may have been the catalyst for the composition of the concerto. Tchaikovsky was not a violinist, and he sought the advice of Kotek on the completion of the solo part. Swift progress was made, and the work was completed within a month despite the middle movement getting a complete rewrite (a version of the original movement was preserved as the first of the three pieces for violin and piano, Souvenir d'un lieu cher).
Kotek did not have a strong enough reputation to premiere the work, so Tchaikovsky instead intended the first performance to be given by Leopold Auer, and accordingly dedicated the work to him. Auer refused, however, saying the work was unplayable (he did play the work later in his life, however), meaning that the planned premiere for March 1879 had to be cancelled and a new soloist found. The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky on December 4, 1881 in Vienna, under the baton of Hans Richter. Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to Brodsky. Critical reaction was mixed, and the piece was certainly not received as the masterpiece it is taken to be today. The influential critic Eduard Hanslick called it "long and pretentious" and said that it "brought us face to face with the revolting thought that music can exist which stinks to the ear". Hanslick also wrote that "the violin was not played but beaten black and blue", as well as labelling the last movement "odorously Russian".
The violinist who did much early work to make the work popular with the public and win a place for it in the repertoire was Karol Haliř (who in 1905 was to premiere the revised version of the Sibelius Violin Concerto). When Tchaikovsky attended a performance of the work in Leipzig in 1888, with Haliř as soloist, he called the event "a memorable day".
In popular culture
It is widely believed that the sweeping march theme Bill Conti composed for the 1983 motion picture, The Right Stuff, was largely derived from parts of the first movement of this concerto. The resemblance is quite obvious. Whether this paraphrase constitutes plagiarism is debatable; passages from Gustav Holst's The Planets are quoted verbatim in the film score, as are a number of popular songs. The actual first movement of the concerto has also been used as intermission music for premium cable television broadcasts of the film.