“This evening I was seized … quite unexpectedly with a burning inspiration…On this occasion I could not overcome my desire and afterwards became… carried away” ~ Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, on composing his Violin Concerto in D major.
I’m in luck, first row center
settling my glamorous wrap as
my wide-eyed measure’s taken
by my neighbor, an adorable three-year-old
Suzuki prodigy, solemn and thrumming
with admonitions and pure joy.
He salutes each new voice
“Viola!” and now “Flute!”
in tones one might reserve for
the discovery of a new galaxy.
I am enchanted by my refreshing
tour guide and his anxious parents relax
as I lean to confer after he announces
each necessary ingredient. We rise
with the musicians — so close we could touch
the conductor and the young hip violinist
striding onto the stage in a burst of glory.
The first movement grabs us and we are flying
only remembering to breathe in the brief
silence before we are gently
lured back into the second. Stroked
by all of these dedicated, hidden
hands: the craftsmen who made
these instruments of our delight,
the children in the long and lonely hours
of initiation before this group can claim them.
Singly working toward this moment
when this eager child leads me to magic
a new perception
the layers of coherence revealed, as
taking my important place, I offer
my ears: the necessary
opening to our conjoined hearts.
Since Tchaikovsky was not a violinist, he sought the advice of Iosif Kotek (almost certainly his lover) on the completion of the solo part. “How lovingly he’s busying himself with my concerto!” Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Anatoly on the day he completed the new slow movement. “It goes without saying that I would have been able to do nothing without him. He plays it marvelously.” Tchaikovsky didn’t dare reveal his homosexuality, fearing it would ruin his chances for his work to be performed, and so there is yet another hidden, necessary ingredient in this breathtaking work. And all hail to Nadezhda von Meck, who financially supported him for 13 years.
Here’s David Jarrett playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major op 35, if you have 38 minutes. (Linger for four minutes of applause to settle your heart and enjoy the surprise solo in the final three minutes.)