As a young violinist, you explore warhorse pieces like the Tchaikovsky Concerto when you are 12 or 13. I distinctly remember being in my bedroom, listening to recordings of Heifetz and Oistrakh on repeat and being completely obsessed. It’s a trait I still have today – when I find something that really hooks me, I can’t let it go.
Benjamin Beilman. Photo © Stefan Ruiz
When I was 14 or 15, my teachers were very clear. They had three columns of standard violin concertos. Once you completed those in column one (slightly easier ones, maybe Haydn or some of the Mozart concertos), then you went on to column two. I remember Tchaikovsky was very much in column three along with Beethoven, Brahms and Sibelius. My teachers put me through my paces to make sure I was up to the physical and technical demands of the piece.
I couldn’t help but adore the work’s heart-on-sleeve quality and Tchaikovsky’s obsession with these incredible melodies. He doesn ’t always develop them with the same rigidity that maybe Beethoven or Brahms would, but you find yourself overwhelmed by these earworms that he writes for you. I remember...