Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42: No. 1, Meditation
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
In July 1877, Tchaikovsky married Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova - two months later, he had fled. In the emotionally fraught aftermath, divorce was an on-again-off-again proposition. Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky's patroness, offered 10,000 rubles as part of the financial settlement which Tchaikovsky's brother Anatol took to Antonina in Moscow in April 1878.
The composer himself went to Brailov, Meck's country estate. In the end, Antonina refused to sue for divorce, though she did agree to leave Moscow. (The unconsummated, much-regretted marriage endured legally for the rest of Tchaikovsky's life.) Nonetheless, the weeks alone at Brailov were a welcome respite, and the estate became the titular "dear place" of the Souvenir d'un lieu cher, a suite of three short pieces for violin and piano.
The most substantial of these is the opening Méditation. This Andante molto cantabile was the original slow movement of Tchaikovsky's just-completed Violin Concerto. In the main a darkly soulful song with a mock-strummed accompaniment, it crests several times, ever more urgently. The piano part for the whole suite was later arranged for full orchestra by Alexander Glazunov; Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields perform the Méditation in an arrangement for string orchestra.
- John Henken is the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Director of Publications.