Tchaikovsky and piano concerto.
No, not that concerto. Another one.
Yes, there are others. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major is an enormously intriguing work, yet it is his ivory-billed woodpecker. The last time it alighted in a Philadelphia Orchestra subscription concert was in 1968, when Gary Graffman played it under Eugene Ormandy, and its return Thursday night, if an artistic vindication, revealed reasons for the rarity.
Specifically, three of them: It requires a pianist of preternatural technique, and a solo violinist and cellist who can conjure a Tchaikovsky pas de deux in mid-piano concerto.
Even recognizing Stephen Hough as this performance's extraordinary soloist, it becomes clear that without violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Efe Baltacigil, Tchaikovsky's unusually structured work would have come across as at least skewed, and perhaps as a failed experiment. The two signaled their heightened second-movement roles by moving forward on stage. More important, they seized on a vision of individuality and shared phrasing so artfully balanced that the piece's identity blurred. With Baltacigil's complex sound and Kang's sophisticated command of her instrument's silver, this was nearly as satisfying a partnership as anything in the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra.