Tchaikovsky Research
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Philadelphia is the largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, in the United States of America.

Tchaikovsky in Philadelphia

Tchaikovsky visited Philadelphia on 6/18 May 1891, as part of his American tour. Arriving straight from Washington, his concert given at the Academy of Music by the Boston Festival Orchestra, with their principal conductor Victor Herbert, included the same works that Tchaikovsky had conducted with them in Baltimore on 3/15 May, namely the Serenade for String Orchestra, Op. 48, and the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 75, once again with Adele aus der Ohe as soloist. He departed for New York that same evening.

The composer's diary for 6/18 May 1891 provides only sparse details:

I arrived in Philadelphia at 3 o'clock. I visited Aus der Ohe. Lunched downstairs [1]. A highly importunate Odessan Jew came up and begged for money. I walked. The concert was at 8 o'clock. The enormous theatre was full. After the concert I was at a club, fulfilling a long-standing promise. The return to New York was very tedious and complicated [2].

The following day the Philadelphia Inquirer reported more fully on the concert as follows [3]:

The appearance of Tschaikowski at the Academy of Music last night was a notable event. Slavic music is now popular the world over and of this school Tschaikowski is a leading exponent. His music is familiar to Philadelphians through the symphony concerts of the past few seasons, but his conducting gave an added interest to an unusually good concert. Two of his compositions were played last night; one, a concerto for orchestra and piano in B flat minor, was entirely new; the other, a suite for strings [4], has been heard here before.

The Boston Festival Orchestra is an excellent organization, and its work last night was gratifying. As a conductor Tschaikowski is dignified and at the same time thoroughly alert in watching every portion of the orchestra throughout the score. The concerto was a thoroughly delightful production. The piano part was played by Miss Adele Aus der Ohe, one of the best pianists in this country, who has made a marked impression wherever she appeared. Last night she seemed inspired by the presence of the composer. The long and difficult composition was played without notes, and at its conclusion she was congratulated by Tschaikowski, whose face was one wreath of smiles. The concerto is in three movements, the two last being short, and is thoroughly Slavic throughout. In the first movement the themes are rather involved, and the piano takes a secondary part in swelling the general volume, rather than in forming a leading part for orchestral accompaniment. It is spirited throughout, having in portions a martial character. In the second movement the piano part predominates, the orchestra furnishing the shading. It is poetic, and in general character not unlike Chopin. Miss Aus der Ohe played it with great purity and delicacy. Not even Pachmann [5] could have excelled her technique. The closing movement was full of color and spirit. The composers [sic] and Miss Aus der Ohe received a genuine ovation.

This was the piece de resistance, but the rest of the programme was excellent […] The Tschaikowski suite completed the programme. The audience was large for this season of the year, but not nearly what it should have been. The great composer was given a reception at the Utopian Club after the concert.


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Notes and References

  1. Presumably Tchaikovsky was referring to the Hotel Lafayette on Broad Street, on whose headed notepaper he wrote Letter 4381a to Hermann Wolff on this date.
  2. Diary entry for 6/18 May 1891.
  3. 'At the Play Houses: Tschaikowski appears at the Academy of Music', Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/19 May 1891. We are most grateful to Mr David Perkins for providing a copy of this article.
  4. Actually the Serenade for String Orchestra, being performed instead of the scheduled Suite No. 3.
  5. Vladimir Pachmann (1848-1933), Russian-German pianist noted for performing the works of Chopin, and also for his eccentric manner of performance.