Tchaikovsky, in his first piano concerto, does something different. As the piano is now so powerful an instrument, both physically and culturally, it no longer has to assert itself so starkly. In an interesting turnabout, the orchestra is given the opening theme, but the piano accompanies them, all of them, with a huge chordal figure before taking over the theme itself. Here is how that looks:
After a brief four-measure introduction in the brass, the melody is given to the first violins and cellos--one of Tchaikovsky's great tunes. But this unusual effect, a single instrument accompanying a whole, large orchestra with huge arpeggiated chords (arpeggiated in large clumps, mind you) is a unique effect and makes for a powerful beginning. Then, as I said, the piano takes over the theme:
The Wikipedia article on the concerto says that "One of the most prominent differences between the original and final versions is that in the opening section, the octave chords played by the pianist, over which the orchestra plays the famous theme, were originally written as arpeggios." But didn't I just say that this version, the revised one, has huge arpeggiated chords at the beginning? Of course, there are lots of different kinds of arpeggios. The term is derived from the Italian word for harp, who typically has these kinds of textures:
This example is for piano, but harp arpeggios look just the same. However, to a theorist, prolonging a harmony by spreading it out in different octaves is also an arpeggiation and I was using the word in that sense. Playing the notes of a B-flat minor chord individually, as on a harp or guitar, or in solid groups of six or seven notes, and extending this harmony over one or more octaves for several measures is an arpeggiation to a theorist. Performers think of it differently, though and contrast what they call arpeggios with "solid chords", which is what the piano is playing here. This is because, to a performer, they present different problems of execution. Theorists aren't interested in execution, but they are interested in what the listener hears.
Even from the very first performance, in Boston in 1875 with Hans von Bülow as soloist, the work was a big success. At the premiere, the audience response was so enthusiastic that they had to repeat the finale! I witnessed a response like this myself on one occasion. In Toronto in the late 1970s, John Williams premiered a guitar concerto by Leo Brouwer with the composer conducting and the audience, composed largely of guitarists attending a festival, were ecstatic and delivered a five minute standing ovation. Finally, after having returned to the stage often enough to have shaken the hand of every single member of the orchestra, Williams and Brouwer decided to play the slow movement again. So yes, these things happen. Just not very often!
Without going into further analysis of the piece (for a non-technical one you might look here), let's listen to it. Here is a classic performance with a young Martha Argerich and Charles Dutoit conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in 1975: