Accompanied by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman performs Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique in B-flat minor for violin and orchestra, Op. 26. Conductor: Yuri Temirkanov. Recorded during the Tchaikovsky Gala in Leningrad (currently Saint Petersburg).

Itzhak Perlman – Serenade Melancolique Op 26 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Sérénade mélancolique

Written in February 1875, Sérénade mélancolique was Tchaikovsky’s first work for violin and orchestra and was written immediately after completing the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23.

Leopold Auer
Leopold Auer (Hungarian: Auer Lipót; June 7, 1845 – July 15, 1930) was a Hungarian violinist, academic, conductor and composer. Photo: wikipedia

The Hungarian violinist, academic, conductor, and composer Leopold Auer (June 7, 1845 – July 15, 1930) had been a professor of violin at the Imperial Conservatory in St Petersburg since 1868. Tchaikovsky was a professor at the Moscow Conservatory from 1866 and would have known Auer at least by reputation. He had certainly seen him perform in public, and has noted: “the great expressivity, the thoughtful finesse, and poetry of the interpretation” in an 1874 review of Auer’s playing.

They met no later than January 1875, when both attended a reception at the home of Nikolai Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky apparently resolved to write a piece for the violinist (one source says Auer commissioned it), and the Sérénade mélancolique was the result. It was completed quickly by the following month.

The first we know of the work was in Tchaikovsky’s letter to his brother Modest on 13/25 February, where he wrote: “I have finished my Piano Concerto, and have already written a violin piece I have promised to Auer”.

The piece was dedicated to Auer on its publication by P. Jurgenson, the largest publisher of classical sheet music in Russia in the early 20th century, in February 1876, but Auer did not premiere it. It was first performed by the Russian violinist Adolph Brodsky (2 April [O.S. 21 March] 1851 – January 22, 1929) on 16/28 January 1876, at the seventh symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow. Auer seems to have been the first to play it in Saint Petersburg, on 6/18 November 1876.

Two years later, Tchaikovsky was offended by Auer’s criticisms of, and refusal to perform, the Violin Concerto in D major written for him, and he withdrew that dedication. The Concerto was premiered by the same Brodsky who had premiered the Sérénade mélancolique. At that time, Tchaikovsky chose also to withdraw the dedication to Auer of the Sérénade, although it was impossible to remove his name from the edition then being printed by Jurgenson.


M. Özgür Nevres

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