Maestro Gianandrea Noseda and violinist Michael Barenboim with violin concerto by Tchaikovsky. Plus, Rossini's Stabat Mater, a surprising piece for within the typical religious genre, in an operatic style characteristic of Rossini
The first steps of Tchaikovsky’s beloved, famous Violin Concerto on the stage of history did not give the slightest hint of the dizzying success the work would later have, justifiably. Tchaikovsky worked on the piece with a violinist friend and sought his technical advice. He presented the work to violinist Leopold Auer who rejected it saying it was both unplayable and unsuited to the instrument. Tchaikovsky then turned to another violinist, Adolf Brodsky, who accepted to play it. The performance received the harshest possible review. After a long period, the world rediscovered the work and since then it has been performed again and again. The concerto swings between a display of virtuosity throughout the work, lyrical statements particularly in the second movement, and a deluge of the senses in the third movement, deluge which must have intimidated Auer and led to the biting criticisms. It’s a good thing these setbacks are far behind us.
The background to the composition of Rossini’s “Staber Mater,” involves a chain of events that will enthrall and amuse lawyers and fans of intricate legal cases. As for the music, that’s another story. The special versification of the liturgical hymn, which describes a mother’s grief as she stands by her dying son, captured hearts across generations and led to numerous versions of the hymn, the most famous of which is Pergolesi’s which Rossini was acquainted with. The work is full of charm and operatic hues, and the music is so moving that cantors adapted it to Jewish texts even though the mother referred to in the text is the mother of Jesus. The work was received with acclaim. French poet Theophile Gautier wrote that: “It possesses nobility, simplicity and seriousness” while German poet Heinrich Heine wrote that it had “eternal grace and irresistible tenderness; it seemed to me like a vestibule to heaven.” The audience here too was left enthralled.