Tchaikovsky's enormously popular Violin Concerto had a rough start. After the 1881 premiere, one reviewer famously said it made him wonder "if there can be music that stinks to the ear."
That just added insult to the first injury to Tchaikovsky's pride, which had happened when he tried to dedicate the concerto to Russian violinist Leopold Auer, whose artistry and 1690 Stradivarius the composer had in mind for the work. But Auer dismissed it as "unplayable."
This weekend, you can hear the concerto played on the very same Auer Stradivarius by Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman in performances with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.
"My theory is that Auer was incredibly busy when he received the concerto," Gluzman said. "And, for the time, the piece was over the top, exuberantly emotional. One could have called it tasteless."
But Auer eventually changed his mind. He learned the concerto and loved it.
"If Auer made a mistake at first, he paid his dues," Gluzman said. "Not only did he play it, but almost all his students did too, including Heifetz, Milstein and Elman, which helped the Tchaikovsky concerto take its rightful place in the repertoire."
Auer's violin has been on loan to Gluzman for 13 years, courtesy of the Stradivari Society of Chicago.
"It is an incredible responsibility, but at the same time it is incredibly thrilling," Gluzman said. "This violin has an incredibly dark, rich low register; the high register is also quite stunning. Now I can't imagine playing any other violin. It is my voice."
The Annapolis Symphony performs Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and other works at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St. $10-$45. Call 410-263-0907 or go to annapolissymphony.org.