Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor, Op. 23, TH. 55, I: Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito

If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall my post about ten days ago, “Introvert,” a rap song by Little Simz introduced to me by one of our lads.

I commented in that post about the symphonic sounds in the track. He and I discussed it a few days later as I was drawn to those sounds, and I wanted to find some classical music that featured such a strong horn section. He has had extensive education and experience in music, and suggested the music of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) would be a good place to look. Yeah… they were totally in the same ballpark. I also wondered about the Russian Romantic classical composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). I had a piece in mind, which I was trying to figure out the title/composer of; a bit of a challenge, with classical music, but I found it yesterday morning: the first movement (Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito) from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor.

It’s a very grand piece, opening with the dramatic statement from the horn section, and less than 15 seconds later, the piano soloist leaps into the score. Wow!

Tchaikovsky wrote the concerto in late 1874/early 1875 though he revised it as late as 1888. It’s his best-known piano concerto and among the most popular across the genre. Equal to the piece’s drama is a conflict between Tchaikovsky and his friend, pianist, conductor and composer Nikolai Rubinstein (1835-1881). It’s believed Tchaikovsky may have initially dedicated the concerto to his friend, but they fell into conflict when Rubinstein criticized it sharply.

My lad and I chatted about the piece today. Our discussion inspired me to keep looking for more music like this.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the audio from a 1963 recording featuring Russian-Icelandic pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, soloist, playing with the London Symphony Orchestra directed by American violinist, conductor and composer Lorin Maazel (1930-2014). (Most of my family and our partners were fortunate to see Ashkenazy play a concert in the late 1980s in Winnipeg, Canada. It was a pretty big deal and I remember it well.) The video appears on the Vladimir Ashkenazy YouTube topic channel.

And it is always great to see a live performance; here is one (of the entire concerto) played in 1991 by pianist Daniel Barenboim (of Argentina, Israel, Palestine and Spain) with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Russian composer, musical theorist and teacher Sergiu Celibidache (1912-1996). (Barenboim has also conducted the piece, with soloists like Argentine-Swiss pianist Martha Argerich.)

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