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A Tchaikovsky duet

Movement 3 of the Violin Concerto


Critic Eduard Hanslick wrote of this concerto  “the violin was not played but beaten black and blue.




In 1878, aged 38 and recovering from a giant depression brought on by marrying Antonina Miliukova, Tchaikovsky went to Clarens, Lake Geneva. He was joined there by his young pupil, violinist Josef Kotek. Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate the concerto to Kotek – who undoubtedly helped shape the piece – but felt constrained by gossip that they were lovers. (Tchaikovsky called Josef “Kotik” meaning little tomcat). Kotek refused to play the Violin Concerto, believing it might damage his budding career.

Next, Tchaikovsky turned to Auer with a premiere scheduled for March 1879. But Auer refused, explaining much later (in 1912) “On closer acquaintance with the composition, I regretted that the great composer had not shown it to me before committing it to print. Much unpleasantness might then have been spared us both…

The first performance was eventually given by Adolph Brodsky on December 4, 1881 in Vienna, with conductor Hans Richter.

Kotek continued studying with Joseph Joachim in Berlin until 1882. He contracted tuberculosis two years later whilst teaching at the Hochschule für Musik and went to Davos, Switzerland, for treatment. Tchaikovsky put aside their differences and visited him, ministering to him for six days, before returning to Moscow. Kotek died on 4 January 1885, aged only 29. Tchaikovsky was entrusted with the task of informing Kotek’s parents of the death.