Faculty Sponsor

Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


Composed in 1878, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto shows evidence of an important collaboration that took place during the genesis of the work. As is widely acknowledged, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto was composed with the assistance of virtuoso violinist Yosif Kotek whose violin-technical advice Tchaikovsky gratefully accepted. Tchaikovsky himself acknowledged: “there is no denying that without him [Kotek] I could not have done anything” (Roland John Wiley, Tchaikovsky [New York: Oxford University Press, 2009], 193). The planned dedication to another violinist — Leopold Auer — who eventually did not want to perform the piece; and the official dedication to yet another violinist — Adolph Brodsky — who did perform the piece, have contributed to a story of the genesis, which largely excludes Kotek’s important input.

Only recent research by queer theorists including Terry Teachout and Raymond has revisited the importance of Kotek on the basis of an alleged risqué relationship between Tchaikovsky and Kotek, which may have been the reason why Tchaikovsky distanced himself from dedicating the work to Kotek.

My research revisits accusations of gender nonconformity, which were thrown at Tchaikovsky during his lifetime, including an alleged “neurosis”, “morbidity”, and “hysteria”, as well as a lack of “manliness” (Terry Teachout). On the musical side, my research investigates how hearing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto in terms of the “changing background technique” (James Hepokoski) allows for a deeper understanding of this concerto and avoids falling into some of the discriminatory traps of his contemporaries, who viewed Tchaikovsky’s music as lacking Russian character and Austro-German “large form”.