THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto

On November 16, world renowned pianist Anne-Marie McDermott makes her Rhode Island debut when she performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2

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THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Concerto

Title: Piano Concerto No.2 in G Major, Op.44

Composer: PETER I. TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: This is a RI Philharmonic Orchestra premiere.

Orchestration: The piece is scored for a solo piano, two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

In 1878, Peter I. Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, that his early compositions fell into two categories: those coming from inner compulsion and those inspired by duty or a commission. Among his mature works, all but one, the Piano Sonata, had been “duty” compositions. However, the following year a second work would be added to the list of “inner compulsion” music: the Second Piano Concerto.

In November 1879, Tchaikovsky traveled to Paris, where his Fourth Symphony was scheduled for performance. It happened, at that juncture, that he was without any commission to complete. While still in St. Petersburg, he had at first been relieved not to have any work responsibility, but he soon became bored. To solve his problem, he performed a rare act: He began to compose something from self-motivation. It was to be his Second Piano Concerto.

Now, enjoying the French capital, Tchaikovsky again took pen in hand to complete the concerto. Beginning with the finale, the composer worked through the movements in reverse order. By December 15, the composer could write to von Meck, “My concerto is ready in rough, and I am very pleased with it, especially the second movement, the

Although critics agree that the Second Piano Concerto is not in a class with the First, there are innovative and important features in the work, and audiences find it a satisfying experience. The chunkiness of the opening material, so reminiscent of Robert Schumann, is nonetheless admirably idiomatic to the piano. Tchaikovsky surprises us with a lyrical second theme introduced in an unexpected key. The movement goes far afield with key shifts in the development section, and even in the recapitulation he reviews the second theme in a key that leads back to the home key rather than (by tradition) staying there in the first place.

Biographer David Brown writes, “If this first movement is the most important Tchaikovsky had composed since that of the Fourth Symphony of 1877, the [concerto’s] slow movement is the most ambitious since the Andante funèbre of the Third String Quartet of 1876.” The most significant innovation of this movement is the use of violin and cello soloists on an equal footing with the piano, predictably bringing objections from early soloists. The long-spun lyrical melodies in the outer sections require these instruments, while the piano is predominant in the central portion.

The final movement is more tightly organized and executed than its predecessors. Again, however, Tchaikovsky brings fresh innovations working with various keys, which create novelties in the movement’s harmony layout. Concurrently, we have music that is straightforward and easy to assimilate. Brown summarizes, “Though its melodic material is not as distinctive as that of the parallel movement of the First Piano Concerto, this finale is in certain respects more individual. . . .”

Alexander Siloti (1863–1945) was a composition student of Tchaikovsky, and he became editor for many of Tchaikovsky’s works, notably the two piano concertos. On the concert stage, it is Siloti’s edition of the First Concerto that is most often performed. His edition of the Second Concerto is presented in this performance.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Cranston resident conducting upcoming ‘Generations United’ concert in Scituate

Cranston resident Dr. David Neves served as the director of bands and supervisor for 29 years in the adjacent town of Scituate, where he also taught jazz ensemble, orchestra, chorus, general music … read more

Click Here for Event Details

Source: Cranston resident conducting upcoming ‘Generations United’ concert in Scituate

Meet soloist Anne-Marie McDermott: Appearing with RI Philharmonic for Tchaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto, Nov. 16

World Renowned Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott
makes her Rhode Island debut

Performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2.

The TACO Classical Concert is on Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.


For more than 25 years Anne-Marie McDermott has played concerti, recitals and chamber music in hundreds of cities throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. In addition to performing, she also serves as Artistic Director of the Bravo! Vail Music and Ocean Reef Music festivals, and as curator for chamber music for the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego.

  • Ms. McDermott’s repertoire reaches from Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Scriabin to works by today’s most influential composers.
  • Recorded the complete Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, Bach’s English Suites and Partitas, solo works by Chopin, and Gershwin’s Complete Works for Piano and Orchestra with the Dallas Symphony.
  • In 2013, she released a recording of Mozart concerti with the Calder Quartet. Most recently, she recorded five Haydn piano sonatas and two Haydn concerti with the Odense Philharmonic in Denmark, including two cadenzas written by Charles Wuorinen.
  • Ms. McDermott has performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Bramwell Tovey before.  It was in 2012 with the New York Philharmonic

In recent years, Ms. McDermott participated in the New Century Chamber Orchestra’s silver jubilee Gershwin program, and embarked on a cycle of Beethoven concerti at Santa Fe Pro Musica. She premiered and recorded a new concerto by Poul Ruders with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and played Gershwin with the New York Philharmonic at the Bravo! Vail Festival. Ms. McDermott has also performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Donald Runnicles, Bach’s Piano Concerto in D Minor with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with the New York City-based Le Train Bleu. In 2012, Ms. McDermott performed .

RI Philharmonic Orchestra presents thoughtful program combining artistry and reflection for Veterans Day salute, Nov. 16





Pianist Anne-Marie McDermott performs Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2

Concert highlights Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and RI premiere of a celebrated composition by William Grant Still for thoughtful Veterans Day reflection.

PROVIDENCE, RI—Bramwell Tovey takes to the podium for his third concert of the Orchestra’s 75th season featuring the Rhode Island debut of soloist Anne-Marie McDermott performing Tchaikovsky’s exuberant Piano Concerto No. 2. The concert also includes a celebration of Veterans Day with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra’s debut performance of William Grant Still’s intriguing In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10.

“As our 75th anniversary progresses, we continue to present soloists of the highest caliber.  Anne-Marie McDermott is a world recognized pianist who has performed with the world’s best orchestras.  We are thrilled to have her musicality and passion here to perform Tchaikovsky’s powerful Second Piano Concerto. It is a complex piece often missing from orchestral programs but under the dynamic interpretation of Ms. McDermott, it will be truly inspirational for our audience.”

Tchaikovsky began work on his Concerto for Piano N0. 2 in the fall of 1879.  Following on his iconic First Piano Concerto, he hoped to convince the great pianist Nikolai Rubenstein, a longtime friend, to debut the piece.  Unfortunately, Rubenstein’s unexpected death in 1881 made the wish impossible.  The notoriously difficult concerto displays many virtuosic passages throughout its three movements which reinforce Tchaikovsky’s reputation as a symphonic master.

In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy receives its Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra debut. The composer, William Grant Still (1895–1978), had a long career with more than 150 works, including five symphonies and eight operas. He is often referred to as “the dean of African-American composers.”

“Our November program showcases a seemingly broad range of subjects but in reality it highlights many more similarities,” Artistic Advisor Bramwell Tovey explains.  “Bringing Still and Shostakovich together to celebrate Veterans Day is highly intentional.  Both men struggled with commercial acceptance against the backdrop of artistic and political persecution.  They wished to proclaim their personal patriotism, and the ideals of their nations through emotional pieces that also recognize their country’s faults.  Each piece is a unique testament to the human spirit in the face of great adversity.”

In 1943, Still was approached by the League of Composers to commemorate the on-going war.  He sought to portray the experience of African-American soldiers who showed courage and sacrifice for their country on the battlefield, yet were subject to oppression and inhumane treatment on the home front. Still reflected on the inspiration for his slow march, stating: “Our civilization has known no greater patriotism, no greater loyalty then that shown by the colored men who fight and die for democracy.  Those who return will, I hope, come back to a better world.”  His vision of America’s ideals juxtaposed with the truth that his country did not treat these soldiers as equal to their white counterparts is a key theme intertwined in this patriotic hymn to African-American sacrifice during the war.

Like Still, Shostakovich sought to portray intense patriotism while expressing a stark feeling of persecution in his Tenth Symphony.  He chafed against the Stalinist mandate that music should have a political purpose, promote nationalism, praise the state’s leaders and idealize past heroism.  This struggle was evident in his music, which caused him to fall in and out of favor with the Communist Party throughout his career. The Tenth Symphony is a monumental work.  Upon its debut, the New York Times hailed it as “the strongest and greatest symphony that Shostakovich has yet produced.  One would say that it is the first score in the symphonic form that proclaims the complete independence and integration of his genius.”

The TACO Classical Series concert is on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m. The Open Rehearsal is on Friday, Nov. 15, at 5:30 p.m. Both concerts are at The VETS.

***At a Glance ***

Romantic Tchaikovsky
Saturday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence

Bramwell Tovey, conductor
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano

STILL: In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 2
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10

Tickets start at $15 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at, in person from the RI Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office in East Providence, or by phone 401.248.7000 (Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Veterans Day, Nov. 11). On day of concerts only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime; Saturday, 4 p.m.-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Open Rehearsal
Friday, Nov. 15, 5:30 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence

General Admission is $20. Advance tickets are available at or 401.248.7000 (M-F 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Veterans Day, Nov. 11).  On day of rehearsal only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime).


“Bramwell Tovey proved why he is the right man for the job”–Providence Journal review

Photo by DavidCooper


From the Providence Journal

Tovey and the RI Philharmonic have spectacular night

“Tovey looked totally at ease on the podium …was in complete command, making for one of the best Philharmonic outings in some time”

New Rhode Island Philharmonic conductor Bramwell Tovey proved why he is the right man for the job, with an arresting rendition of Gustav Holst’s sometimes tender, often bombastic The Planets.

We’ve been able to witness Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s new conductor, on the podium and at the keyboard for some Gershwin by way of an encore.

But last night at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, we encountered Tovey the composer, as he led the second program of his inaugural season with a jazzy, upbeat score of his Urban Runway, an homage to shoppers on Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue.

Channing Gray
Providence Journal Classical Music Critic

Interestingly, Tovey’s brief but supercharged piece shared the first half of the program with Samuel Barber’s melting violin concerto, which by contrast was tender, introverted and all about the heart—not about a passion for designer clothes.

But the breaking news last night was that Tovey, a Grammy winner with an impressive résumé, proved why he is the right man for the job, with a spectacular rendition of Gustav Holst’s sometimes tender, often bombastic The Planets.

Granted, there was an army of musicians on stage, including two harpists and an organist, and that made for rafter-rattling climaxes in the popular Mars, which opens the massive work with the thundering drums of war, and Jupiter, with a central hymn that I’m guessing had most fans struggling to hold back tears.

Sad to say, I couldn’t stay to hear “Neptune,” with its haunting women’s choir, this time from members of the Providence Singers.

With Tovey, a real talker-in-charge, concerts are running long. He not only gave a blow-by-blow of his own work, but rambled on about the Holst, about old age and huffing and puffing to climb the stairs at The Vets.

There were also two much deserved encores from violinist James Ehnes, who played with such class in the Barber. Encores now appear to be mandatory at Philharmonic concerts, even when, as in this case, it was time for intermission.

Much as I loved Ehnes’ playing, I thought his choice of a Ysaÿe solo sonata, dark and difficult stuff, was off the mark. But his solo Bach was divine.

The orchestra, now celebrating 75 years, was in great shape throughout the evening, sounding especially sweet in the slow movement of the Barber, thanks to Cheryl Bishkoff’s heartfelt oboe solos.

But Tovey could do no wrong in The Planets. He looked totally at ease on the podium, but was in complete command, making for one of the best Philharmonic outings in some time.

RI  Philharmonic Music School’s Youth Symphonic Wind Ensemble  joins the RI Wind Ensemble on stage, Nov. 15



RI Philharmonic Music School Youth Wind Ensemble
Cranston’s David Neves and Scituate’s Robert Franzblau
conduct at Scituate high school


Members of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School’s Youth Wind Ensembles (RIPYWE) Symphonic Winds join their counterparts in a side by side concert with the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble (RIWE), an adult community band based in Providence.

RIPYWE Music Director David Neves, a Cranston resident, and the former Director of Music at Scituate High School, conducts the Youth Wind Ensembles in a concert featuring Gordon Jacob’s William Byrd Suite, Frank Ticheli’s Shenandoah and John Philip Sousa’s Sabre and Spurs. The RIWE, conducted by Robert Franzblau, a Scituate resident, performs Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Four Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein.  

The ensembles combine to perform Henry Fillmore’s The Klaxon and The Circus Bee, Samuel Hazo’s Arabesque and Eric Whitacre’s Sleep. Franzblau and Neves will take to the podium to direct both the students and adults.

 “I am so excited to be partnering with the RI Wind Ensemble and their excellent director Rob. This concert gives our RIPYWE students an opportunity to partner with great adult musicians and live the fact that music making creates bonds among folks of all ages. In addition, getting a chance to conduct again at Scituate High School, where I spent 29 years developing my skills as a band director, is extremely exciting and meaningful. I have lots of great memories. I hope to see  many of my former students—now adults—and their children, attending this very special concert. I hope the concert will be a treat for the Scituate community, which will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Dr. David Neves
R.I. Philharmonic Music School

The concert, Generations United, is on Friday (Nov. 15) at 7:15 p.m. at Scituate High School.

“As a resident of Scituate for over 20 years, I’ve been in the audience at Scituate High School Auditorium many times to hear my children perform in the band, often under the direction of David,” said Franzblau. “It’s wonderful to be able to give something back to my town with this concert, and we are all looking forward to a very special night of musical community-building.”

Dr. Robert Franzblau
Rhode Island Wind Ensemble

At a Glance

Generations United
7:15 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15
Scituate High School
94 Trimtown Rd., North Scituate

 Tickets available at the door on the evening of the concert: $12 General Admission $7 Children, Students and Senior Citizens. For more information, call 401.248.7038, or email Cat Walsh, youth ensembles manager,

Dr. David Neves, who lives in Cranston, is currently the Director of Youth Wind Ensembles for the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School and the Coordinator of Music Education at the University of Rhode Island. He is active as a music education clinician, conductor, performer, and private Instructor, providing workshops throughout New England. In 2017, Dr. Neves retired as Director of Fine and Performing Arts for the Needham Public Schools in Massachusetts. Prior to Needham, Neves served 29 years as the Director of Bands and Supervisor in Scituate, RI. While in Scituate, Neves also taught jazz ensemble, orchestra, chorus, general music, and strings. As Supervisor, he developed curricula and assessments that still serve as models throughout the region. Neves received his B.M. in Music Education from Berklee College of Music and his M.A.T. from Rhode Island College, with a concentration on saxophone performance. In 2006, he received his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Johnson & Wales University.

Dr. Robert Franzblau of Scituate has lived and worked at the intersection of musical performance and music education for 40 years. He currently serves as coordinator of graduate programs in music education at Rhode Island College, the oldest public institution of higher education in the state. In addition to teaching courses in music education methods, music theory, and ear training, his duties include field placement and supervision of pre-service teachers. Previously, he served for 21  years as director of bands at Rhode Island College, conducting the wind ensemble and chamber winds. Under his direction, the Rhode Island College Wind Ensemble performed to enthusiastic reviews at regional conventions of the College Band Directors National Association and the National Association for Music Education. This fall, he begins his tenth year as conductor and artistic director of the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble, an adult community band based in Providence.

The mission of the RI Wind Ensemble is to preserve the classic American wind ensemble genre in the tradition of John Philip Sousa by presenting to audiences, music of the finest quality and variety with powerful and sensitive interpretations.

Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School’s Youth Wind Ensembles (RIPYWE): Founded in 2002, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensembles was created to give advanced woodwind, brass and percussion students from Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut an outstanding opportunity to rehearse and perform high quality wind ensemble repertoire. RIPYWE offers these students a challenging and rewarding musical experience. Dr. David Neves, who lives in Scituate, is the Music Director of RI Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensembles and conducts the top-level Symphonic Winds for advanced middle and high school students, and John Knasas conducts the Wind Ensemble for intermediate to advanced middle and high school students. Both ensembles rehearse on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.

About The Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Ensembles: The Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Ensembles (RIPYO, RIPYWE, RIPYJazz, & Chamber) provide quality rehearsal and performance experience for talented young musicians from Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts. Students range in grades from elementary school through high school.

 For more information on The Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School’s Youth Wind Ensembles (RIPYWE) or Youth Orchestras (RIPYO), call 401.248.7038, or email Cat Walsh, youth ensembles manager, for information on more Philharmonic Music School activities and performances.



Bramwell Tovey on Public’s Radio talking about the RI debut of his composition ‘Urban Runway’

bramwell tovy photo

Click here to hear Bramwell Tovey interviewed on the Public’s Radio

Bramwell Tovey conducts, women of the Providence Singers for Holst’s The Planets and premieres one of his award-winning compositions, October 18-19

Grammy winning violinist James Ehnes
makes his RI debut performing
Violin Concerto

Women of the Providence Singers featured in Holst’s The Planets

The TACO Classical Concert is on Saturday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
The Amica Rush Hour Concert is on Friday, Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m. 

 At a Glance

The Planets
TACO Classical Concert
Saturday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts

Bramwell Tovey, Artistic Advisor
James Ehnes, violin
Women of the Providence Singers, Christine Noel, Artistic Director
TOVEY: Urban Runway
BARBER: Violin Concerto
HOLST: The Planets

The Planets
Amica Rush Hour concert
Friday, October 18, 6:30 p.m.
The VETS, One Avenue of the Arts
Bramwell Tovey, Artistic Advisor
Women of the Providence Singers, Christine Noel, Artistic Director
TOVEY: Urban Runway
HOLST: The Planets


Tickets start at $15 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at, in person from the RI Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office in East Providence, or by phone 401.248.7000 (Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.). On day of concerts only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime; Saturday, 4 p.m.-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. Questions can be emailed to