Itzhak Perlman with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra
When Tchaikovsky's only violin concerto was first performed in 1881 in Vienna, it aroused critical hackles. One reviewer wrote, "The strangeness of the composition mystified many." Another called it "barbarously terrible." Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick, in a review so scathing Tchaikovsky memorized it and let it haunt him, wrote that the concerto "brings us face to face for the first time with the revolting idea: May there not also be musical compositions which we can hear stink?" The work still seems erratic; the composer had, after all, begun to realize that Antonina Milyukova, the student he had married in 1877, was going insane. (She bore two illegitimate children, then demanded her husband take over their care.) Today's violinists have more or less mastered what once seemed insurmountable problems in simply playing the notes. The Israeli-born Perlman performs them with his customary warmth and virtuosity, managing for the most part to avoid the trap of shrillness in the sometimes frenetic opening movement. With Ormandy's aggressive support, he produces a reading that is fierce and emotional yet under sublime control.