When the 35-year-old Pjotr Tchaikovsky wanted to dedicate his first piano concerto to Nikolai Rubinstein, thus hid his dislike so badly that Tchaikovsky withdrew his invitation and dedicated it to Hans von Bülow, who also premiered the work.
Rubinstein’s refusal remains incomprehensible to this day, as the work continues to enjoy unbroken popularity to this day, whereby the beginning is certainly best known. A blazing horn and powerful tutti chords alternate, followed by a lively melody based on a Ukrainian folk song.
However, contrary to popular belief, this is not the theme of the work, but only part of the skilfully constructed introduction. What a great idea of the composer!
The most famous interpretation is certainly by the ingenious Vladimir Horowitz. The piece can hardly be played more vehemently, ecstatically and thrillingly than he.
“… Horowitz was supposed to take the place of a suddenly ill pianist. He asked for a glass of milk, shaved himself, hurried to the concert hall where the symphony had just ended and the conductor had no idea whether a soloist would come at all. He came into the artist’s room, hardly looked at the young pianist, said with a few words what tempos he would take …
Already after the second chord the conductor stared at the young stranger and raced to the grand piano. The concert ended with a hysterical success, and the critics said that such a triumph had not been experienced in Hamburg since the appearance of Enrico Caruso”.