In this first of a series of articles we look at unfamilar versions of Tchaikovsky's
symphonies and orchestral suites.
Symphony No. 1
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1, subtitled Winter Daydreams, was the first major piece written by Tchaikovsky after has graduation from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in February 1866, and it took at least two major revisions and partial performances before its eventual premiere in Moscow on 3/15 February 1868. Although warmly received at the time, it seems that the symphony was completely neglected for another six years; then, in 1874, Tchaikovsky's principal publisher Pyotr Jurgenson proposed that it should be printed. The composer agreed, but only after he had made made significant revisions, the most drastic of which concerned the first movement, where the original secondary subject was replaced a competely new theme. Tchaikovsky also made minor cuts in the 2nd and 4th movements, with minor alterations to phrasing, dynamic markings and scoring throughout the work.
No commercial recordings of the symphony are known (although in 2007 the BBC broadcast a studio recording, constituing the world premiere of this version); however, you can listen to three movements as they were performed at the premiere in 1868 by clicking on the links below:
Symphony No. 2
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 was subject to even more substantial revisions following its initial composition in 1872. Immediately after the first performance in Moscow on 26 January/7 February 1873, the composer made some small alterations—including lengthening the Scherzo by inserting a repeat of the Trio. Initially the symphony was published only in the composer's arrangement for piano duet, and once again the composer decided to make substantial alterations when it was about to be published in 1879. The last two movements were shortened and the Scherzo re-orchestrated, but the greatest changes affected the first movement, which apart from the introduction and coda was completely rewritten. Only the second movement escaped modification.
In 1982 the original version of the symphony was recorded for the first (and so far only) time by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Simon (see the discography). However, this original version is still widely unknown, even though it was far more ambitious than its better-known successor. We present here three of the movements as modified by Tchaikovsky for the symphony's second performance in Moscow on 27 March/8 April 1873.
Symphony No. 3
While Tchaikovsky's later symphonies escaped significant revisions, one exception is the finale of his Symphony No. 3, which was subjected to cuts, probably between around the time of its first performance in November 1875. In fact these remained undiscovered until 1949, when a critical edition of the score was being prepared.
Suite No. 2
Between 1878 and 1884, Tchaikovsky composed three Suites for symphony orchestra (the fourth, in 1887, consisted of arrangements of music by Mozart). Each of these works was also subjected to changes—for instance, an extra movement was written for the Suite No. 1 (1878) at almost the last moment.
However, the Suite No. 2 (1883) was subjected to sweeping cuts, probably at around the time of its premiere in February 1884. Evidently Tchaikovsky decided that the last three of its five movements were too long in their original form, and prior to publication he shortened them by 210, 36 and 90 bars respectively, mainly by removing repeated sections.
Suite No. 3
The Suite No. 3 dates from a year later (1884) than its predecessor, and is by far the better known of the two. Again the composer's changes involved cuts to two of the movements: these comprised two short repeated sections in the last movement (five bars from Variation 10, and ten bars from Variation 12), while a total 108 bars were removed from the Valse mélancolique.
All sound files are in MP3 format, specially produced
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You are welcome to download them for your own
personal listening, but they may not be broadcast,
Text and sound recordings copyright (c) 2006 Brett Langston
This page was last updated on 09 February 2013