Picture the scene... It's 1878 and the 38-year old Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is taking a break in Clarens, Switzerland. He is working on a Violin Concerto with his composition pupil Iosif Kotek. Four years previously in 1874, Tchaikovsky had witnessed a performance in Moscow by violinist Leopold Auer (who had championed Tchaikovsky's symphonic works when he was still a little-known composer) and went on to praise Leopold Auer's "great expressivity, the thoughtful finesse and poetry of the interpretation."
Leopold Auer played a 1689 Stradivarius violin; one of the best violins in the world. The sound created by this violin and this violinist must have stuck in Tchaikovsky's mind as he went on to dedicate his Sérénade mélancolique to him a year later.
It is perhaps then little surprise that when it came to dedicating his first (and only) violin concerto that Leopold Auer and his Stradivarius would again spring to Tchaikovsky's mind as his preferred soloist for its premiere, and also its dedication.
The date for the premiere was set for March 1879. However Auer refused and the concert had to be cancelled and a new soloist found.
Initially it was reported that Auer thought the work was "unplayable", but sources now suggest Auer thought that "some of the passages were suited to the character of the instrument, and that, however perfectly rendered, they would not sound as well as the composer had imagined."
Over two and a half years passed and the premiere of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto was eventually given by Adolf Brodsky in Vienna on 4 December 1881. A second edition was published and Tchaikovsky changed the dedication to Adolf Brodsky.
Fast forward 131 years, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto is widely acknowledged to be among the most technically difficult works for violin. It has also become one of the best known and best loved of all violin concertos. And the "ex-Leopold Auer" Stradivarius has a new owner in Vadim Gluzman.
Over the next three nights Vadim Gluzman will join Music Director Peter Oundjian and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on stage to perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on the instrument that was intended to give its premiere. So when you come along to our concerts in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend and marvel at the music you're hearing Vadim Gluzman play, just think: you're listening to the very same instrument that Tchaikovsky wrote it for!