A couple or so seasons ago, the young British violinist Chloë Hanslip was scheduled to make her Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra debut, when her last minute illness forced her to cancel. Not to worry, though, since Chloë will be the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s beloved Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 35 when BPO music director JoAnn Falletta returns to the podium in Kleinhans Music Hall for concerts on Saturday (1/30) at 8pm and Sunday (1/31) at 2:30pm.
Born in 1987, Chloë Hanslip first started studying violin at the age of four, and soon after, she began studying with Yehudi Menuhin, while performing, both in Carnegie Hall in New York City and in the Royal Albert Hall in London, before she was ten. Hanslip, who performs on a rare, 1737 Guarneri del Gesu violin, went on to win or place highly in several prestigious international violin competitions. She has recorded several critically acclaimed CDs, while pursuing a very active international touring career.
Both Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and his Piano Concerto No. 1 consistently rank near the summit of any top ten list of the most popular concertos for the respective instruments, confirmed yet again most recently in a 2014 poll conducted by Gramophone, the prestigious British classical music magazine. Yet amazingly, Tchaikovsky suffered much anguish in the circumstances surrounding the public birth of both these pieces, due to the attitudes of the superstar Russian soloists that he hoped would play the premiere of each work.
Pianist Nicolai Rubinstein, director of the Moscow Conservatory, savaged the piano concerto so severely in a conversation with the composer that in a letter three years later, Tchaikovsky still bitterly complained that Rubinstein had said his work “was worthless and unplayable…so badly written as to be beyond rescue.” But after its highly unlikely premiere in Boston, the Piano Concerto No.1 has since gone on to become perhaps the most popular concerto in the repertoire.
Tchaikovsky composed his beautifully melodic concerto for violin and orchestra about four years later, while sunk in a deep depression following his very brief and disastrous marriage to one of his students. The composer had hoped that the violinist Leopold Auer, concertmaster of the Imperial Orchestra in Saint Petersburg would welcome the opportunity to offer the work’s premiere, and he had dedicated the work to him, only to once again experience great disappointment. While Auer was not nearly as vocally disparaging as Rubinstein had been, Auer’s relative reserve was more than made up for by the reaction of the infamously acerbic, and very influential Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick: “Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto confronts us for the first time with the hideous idea that there may be musical compositions whose stink one can hear.” The concerto’s subsequent and continuing triumph proves without a doubt just how wrong so-called critical experts can be—a fact which should prove to be a continual inspiration to contemporary composers.
Another perennial favorite, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, also in the key of D major, is on the program. It had taken a very long time for Brahms to be able to psychologically escape the overwhelming shadow of Beethoven’s symphonies, but after the critical success of his first symphony he was eager to embark on the composition of his second symphony, whose feeling of expansiveness and relaxation has invoked critical comparisons to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. The program also includes the first BPO performance of any work by the little-known contemporary American composer, Paul Gay (b. 1936). The BPO will perform the finale to his music for ballet Due Sorelle, which was inspired by the composer’s discovery of Victorian era photos of two very different sisters, glimpsed during a visit to a historic home in Boston.
Tickets and Information: 885-5000 or www.bpo.org.