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A Change of Heart
The Russian Romantic composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), wrote his Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor over a span of four months between 1874 and 1875. He wanted his colleague Nikolai Rubinstein to play the piece for its premiere; however, Rubinstein did not like the piece and refused to play it unless it was heavily edited. Tchaikovsky did not want to make any significant changes to his work, so he reached out to Hans von Bülow instead. The German pianist not only liked the composer’s music, but Tchaikovsky enjoyed von Bülow’s concert performances in Moscow. Unlike Rubinstein, von Bülow admired the piece and agreed to play it.
The Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor premiered in October 1875 in Boston since von Bülow was on a performance tour in the United States. While the piece was a hit with the audience, the critics, like Rubinstein, were not thrilled. After the Russian premiere the following month, Tchaikovsky decided to make a few edits even though the piece was already in print. In 1879, a revised version of the full score was published, but more revisions followed. Tchaikovsky decided to edit the concerto a third and final time in 1888 to further improve his composition, which is the version that most orchestras play today.
Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor found such worldwide success that even Rubinstein had a change of heart. He not only conducted the Moscow premiere of the piece but later performed the solo part of the concerto many times himself. The piece is not only one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular compositions but is considered to be among the best piano concerti ever written.