Peter I. Tchaikovsky

Souvenir d'un lieu cher for Violin and Piano op. 42
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello op. 50

Valeria Vilker Kuchment, violin
Robert Merfeld, piano
Beth Pearson, cello
Patricia Zander, piano

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Program Notes

After his disastrous marriage in 1877, Tchaikovsky's doctors advised a complete change and rest. Von Meck offered one of her residences in Brailov for his use. The house was magnificent, the furnishings luxurious and the comfort limitless. Von Meck had a splendid library, an impressive collection of music, and a number of good instruments, including an excellent harmonium. The country around Brailov he found delightful, and Tchaikovsky explored it in full. He had never before lived in such pampered conditions as during this fortnight at Brailov. The sheer peacefulness of his present daily existence enabled him to make easy progress with composition. Though in his letters to the family he pictured himself as a slave of idleness, he had obviously been working steadily, for he informed von Meck in a letter that he had not only completed the Six Romances, op. 38, but had sketched his entire setting of the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. He added two more pieces to the discarded slow movement of the Violin Concerto (Meditation) to make up a set, Souvenir d'un lieu cher (Souvenir of a Beloved Place), for violin and piano, op. 42, and he proposed to leave these behind for his benefactress as a token of gratitude for this interlude at Brailov. Having entrusted the manuscript of Souvenir d'un lieu cher to Marcel, von Meck's servant, to hand over to his employer, Tchaikovsky returned to Moscow.

In 1881, Tchaikovsky was staying in Nice when he received a telegram informing him of the death of Nikolay Rubinstein in Paris on March 23. An outstanding pianist and distinguished conductor, Nikolay Rubinstein was the founder and director of the Moscow Conservatory. Rubinstein had offered Tchaikovsky a teaching position at the newly opened Conservatory in 1866, and during the years that Tchaikovsky held the post had encouraged and supported him. Tchaikovsky's decision to write a trio for piano, violin and cello seems surprising. In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck, he wrote "I cannot hear a mixture of piano with violin or cello. It seems to me that these timbres do not blend with each other, and I assure you that it is a torture for me to listen to a trio or a sonata for these instruments." Yet, a few months later he started writing the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, in a minor, op. 50, inscribed "To the Memory of a Great Artist". It was natural that Tchaikovsky should wish to commemorate his close friendship with Rubinstein, and it is consistent with the entire personality of Tchaikovsky that with such an incentive his inspiration rose to its highest level. The work was performed at the Moscow Conservatory on the first anniversary of Rubinstein's death, but it was not heard in public until October 30. Tchaikovsky made a number of corrections to the score including introduction of possible "cuts" before the piece was performed in public. On each occasion it was played by the three artists whom the composer from the beginning intended should be his executants: Sergey Taneyev (piano), Ivan Hřímalý (violin), and Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (cello).


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