Some neglected Tchaikovsky music for Christmas Day
Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto no. 3 – Denis Matsuev / Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky Orchestra
I was fortunate this winter to see the Royal Ballet’s excellent production of The Nutcracker with my wife, just prior to leaving Britain to spend Christmas in Texas.
For many people, of course, The Nutcracker is the quintessential Christmas music. But I have long felt that Tchaikovsky’s unfairly neglected third piano concerto has an equally festive and magical quality, one which also happens to work better as a standalone piece.
The third piano concerto was left unfinished, with only the first movement completed at the time of Tchaikovsky’s death. However, second and third movements do exist in the form of separate piano outlines which were fleshed out and orchestrated by Sergei Tanayev.
Few recordings exist of the piece in its entirety, but there is an excellent Naxos recording as well as several on YouTube.
The festive atmosphere of the first movement and its hushed bassoon opening contrasts well with the beautiful second movement, which always puts me in mind of a snowy town or village on Christmas night.
When and wherever you happen to be celebrating the holidays this year, I wish you, your friends and family a very Merry Christmas.