Accompanied by the Berliner Philharmoniker (The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), Daniel Barenboim plays Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Conductor: Zubin Mehta. The sound and acoustics are well preserved in this 1990s live outdoor concert for this not unexpectedly, excellent performance by Barenboim.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 is composed between November 1874 and February 1875. It was revised in the summer of 1879 and again in December 1888. The first version received heavy criticism from Nikolai Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s desired pianist, who considered the concerto unplayable. Rubinstein later repudiated his previous accusations and became a fervent champion of the work. It is one of the most popular of Tchaikovsky’s compositions and among the best-known of all piano concertos.
The work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat, two bassoons, four horns in F, two trumpets in F, three trombones (two tenors, one bass), timpani, solo piano, and strings.
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 semplice – Allegro vivace assai/Prestissimo (D flat major)
- Allegro con fuoco (B flat minor → B flat major)
The title cut from Pink Martini’s 2009 album Splendor in the Grass employs the famous theme from the first movement.
1. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito
The concerto’s first movement is a captivating display of virtuosity and emotional depth. It begins with a majestic orchestral introduction, setting a dramatic tone. The solo piano then enters with a powerful theme that showcases the pianist’s technical prowess and expressive capabilities. The movement unfolds with intricate melodies, contrasting moods, and lush orchestration, seamlessly blending moments of introspection with grandeur. Tchaikovsky masterfully crafts a musical narrative that engages listeners with its intensity, lyricism, and sheer brilliance.
2. Andantino semplice – Allegro vivace assai/Prestissimo
The second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 offers a stark contrast to the vigorous energy of the first movement. It is a serene and introspective Adagio, showcasing the composer’s ability to create deeply emotional and expressive music. The movement begins with a tender melody presented by the solo piano, accompanied by delicate orchestral textures.
Tchaikovsky weaves a tapestry of lyrical and melancholic themes, evoking a sense of yearning and contemplation. Throughout the movement, the piano and orchestra engage in a dialogue, exchanging poignant musical ideas and creating a rich, heartfelt atmosphere. The second movement serves as a moment of respite and introspection within the larger concerto, displaying Tchaikovsky’s gift for crafting poignant melodies and captivating listeners with his profound musical expressions.
3. Allegro con fuoco
The finale of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is a thrilling and exhilarating finale that showcases the virtuosity and technical prowess of both the solo pianist and the accompanying orchestra. It is a fast-paced and energetic movement, filled with dazzling runs, rapid arpeggios, and intricate passages that push the limits of the pianist’s abilities.
The movement is characterized by its infectious and lively melodies, accompanied by the rhythmic drive of the orchestra. Tchaikovsky incorporates elements of Russian folk music, infusing the movement with a sense of nationalistic pride and vibrant musical colors. The third movement builds up to a grand and triumphant conclusion, leaving the audience captivated and enthralled by its breathtaking display of musical fireworks.
- Piano Concerto No. 1 (Tchaikovsky) on Wikipedia
- Pavarotti sings Di Quella Pira at the Madison Square Garden, New York  - October 1, 2023
- Mozart: Symphony No. 35 “Haffner” [Bernard Haitink, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra] - September 30, 2023
- Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” [Rosalía Gómez Lasheras] - September 28, 2023