Talk:Piano Concerto No.1, Op.23 (Tchaikovsky, Pyotr)


Edition Dispute for the First Movement of the Concerto

Another request for a check on edition information came up (the last one was the Mozart Piano Sonata K.547a), and I've done some quick research on the history of this piece. However, since currently I'm busy as hell, the research is indeed very quick, and I welcome extra information from other people.

Also, I have taken the liberty to quote excerpts from the e-mail that triggered this research.

However, there's a big problem with the opening piano chords in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1. I noticed because the left hand seems to go up and down in each measure, instead of progressivly upwards with the right hand. On closer inspection, I found that the notes aren't even right. In most editions, the left hand plays (bottom to top of chord) D flat, A flat, D flat, and the right hand plays F, A flat, D flat, F. The first measure and the three after it contain only this chord, moving up an octave each beat and returning to the original position on the first beat of each measure. For those first four measures, the left hand only plays three notes at a time. (Quoted from e-mail with permission)

Edition History

I went and pulled out all the editions of Tchaikovsky's Concerto which were in the library downstairs (about 6-7 editions), and indeed all the editions had this version of the chords (the version described in the e-mail). Eager to find out why, I read the prefaces to the editions, and came across this section from the preface to the Eulenberg edition of the Concerto, which is written by Gerald Abraham:

Smarting under Rubinstein's original criticisms, Tchaikovsky had declared, "I won't alter a single note; I shall print it exactly as it is now". And Jurgenson did publish the orchestral parts and the version for two pianos in 1975 in the original form. But directly after the first Moscow performance Tchaikovsky began to contemplate alterations and wrote to Bülow to tell him so. Bülow replied:

"You write to me that you want to make some changes in your concerto? I shall, of course, receive them with great interest - but I should like to express my opinion that they are not at all necessary - except some enrichment of the piano part in certain tuttis, which I took it upon myself to make, as I did in Raff's concerto also. And allow me one other observation: the great effect of the finale loses something if the triumph of the 2nd motive, before the last Stretta, is played 'Molto meno mosso'."

Dannreuther was bolder. He not only "made changes in the piano part to heighten its effectiveness, without interfering with the composer's intentions", but had the temerity to tell Tchaikovsky what he had done. However, the composer took this in good part, thanked Dannreuther for his "very sensible and practical suggestions", and assured him that he would adopt them "if there is any question of a second edition of my concerto" (letter of March 18/30, 1876). Actually the original version was never published in score until it appeared as Vol. 28 of the Complete Edition in 1955; Jurgenson did not bring out a full score till August, 1879, when it was described as a second edition "revised and corrected by the composer". A genuine "second edition" of the two-piano version was issued at the same time in conformity with this. The changes concern only the layout of the piano part in the first movement and may well embody Dannreuther's suggestions, the originals of which are lost.

While I cannot locate the original edition from which the file is scanned (I'm not the scanner), the changes of the so called "second edition" seemed to fit awfully well with the situation at hand, as I saw no major differences when I skimmed the other three movements, but only the piano part in the first movement.

Other Notes on Current IMSLP Priorities

I will go ahead and quote other sections from the e-mail in order to bring up some things about IMSLP that have not yet been said.

I don't know where you came across that version of the concerto, but I wouldn't trust it. I shudder to think of what else might be wrong if the first notes aren't even correct.

I must note here that (as I said in the reply e-mail), there is no such thing as an incorrect edition, or even wrong notes in an edition unless they are typos (which clearly is not the case here). Different editions can be more or less fitting with the composer's intentions, but they are not inherently wrong. They are just, well, editions, and it's up to the performer to choose which one to use. What must also be noted is that, usually, different editions with minor differences (as is the case here), really do not affect normal study of the piece. Unless you are a performer, or are studying the piece in-depth and musicologically, the difference is really not of much consequence (though to a musicologist or a person who studies the work in-depth this could be a huge difference, as I personally can attest to).

Also, if you feel that your web page is visited, or more importantly, used often, I think you should put a disclaimer on the page, remove the score from the net, or something like that.

There is something about IMSLP I must make clear. Currently, IMSLP is still very much in its early stages; the number of active submitters attest to that (I, however, thank very much the few people who actually submitted to IMSLP). Also, me being a full time conservatory student does not mean that I have tons of free time. I already used what free time I have mainly on IMSLP, and especially in this time of year the free time I have each day can be approximated to 0 hours. On the other hand, I'm not trying to use this to justify anything, but just to point out the priorities of IMSLP. Because of the lack of active submitters and my lack of free time, the priority of IMSLP is to get more scores out there rather than to have flawless scans. There is really no point in having incredibly high quality edition and scans, but only 10 scores in the library.

However, to be fair, the person who sent me the e-mail did offer to help. And I express my thanks to him for that.

--Feldmahler 18:31, 19 April 2006 (CDT)

More on edition history

There are at least three different versions of the text of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. The two-piano transcription and orchestral parts (but not the full score) were published by Jurgenson in 1875. Afterwards Tchaikovsky made some revisions to the piano part with the assistance of Edward Dannreuther, Hans von Bülow and Karl Klindworth, and these resulted in a new version which was brought out by Jurgenson in full score in 1879. At this stage the opening chords of the concerto were still played glissando, and there was an extra passage in the middle of the finale.

From 1886 onwards, Jurgenson's catalogues advertised a "new revised edition" of the concerto, but giving the same plate numbers as the earlier publications. At around the same time Tchaikovsky discussed revising the concerto, but opinions are divided as to whether the version usually played today was printed before or after his death in 1893, or how much he had to do with it. It is known that he authorized the cut in the finale, but not whether he approved of the rewriting of the piano part (including the opening octave chords), or the tempo changes in the first and second movements.

Aleksandr Goldenweiser, who was responsible for editing the score in vol.28 of Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Complete Collected Works (1955), used the earliest version of the score (1875) as the basis of the text, with changes in the 1879 version given as ossia to the piano part, or footnotes. This is why the score appears to be 'wrong'. Maybe someone could upload the later version to avoid confusion?

P.davydov 14:46, 3 July 2008 (EDT)