Song of the Day: Violin Concerto, Movement 1 by Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

I don’t know much about classical music, but I know I love it.

I could easily do a whole week of my favorite Tchaikovsky pieces, but I am bound to the one-artist-per-day rule. So then I have to narrow it down to one song. The Nutcracker Suite is one of the most delightful collections ever, and any of those tracks would be great picks. “Romeo and Juliet,” “1812,” and so many others are unforgettable.

But I have to follow my heart. When I first discovered Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, I listened daily for weeks on end. I obsessed. And that tune from the first movement… it’s inscribed so deeply in my musical consciousness, at this point, that it’s tough for me to talk about coherently.

A concerto, for those Classical Newbies as I still sorta am, is a suite of pieces where one piece essentially solos as the “lead” while the rest of the orchestra accompanies. It’s usually three movements.

Tchaikovsky wrote several concertos (the first five minutes of his first piano concerto is some true Pantheon-level work), but only one violin concerto. It remains a hallmark of technicality and expressive tunefulness.

The first movement glides for a few minutes before building tension towards the five minute mark. The jittery violin line raises the heart rate, then leads to the chorus that surges like a busted water main, fluid and overwhelming.

That first arrival of the chorus at about 6:30 is the movement’s peak in my mind, but there’s plenty of masterful material following, including a dramatic, complicated solo near the ten-minute mark. There’s the bouncy variation on the main chorus at about the eight-minute mark that sounds like a cat playing with a ball of thread.

Really, the entire nineteen minute composition is unmissable and profound, one of my favorite musical pieces ever.

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Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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