Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto: A World-Premiere Recording?

Sep 1, 2015

A world-premiere recording of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto released this year has won an international award. How can such a well-known piece be having a recording premiere? WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

Radio Script: 

Susan Lewis: This is Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto the way we’ve heard it for decades – forceful, athletic - played here by Van Cliburn after he won the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition.

MUSIC: [Van Cliburn]

SL: Pianist Kirill Gerstein says scholars at the Tchaikovsky Museum in Russia believe this familiar version reflects revisions made after the composers death in 1893. Gerstein got a look at the 1879 score Tchaikovsky himself conducted in his last public concert.

Kirill Gerstein: When I saw that, and compared it to the prevalent version, to me it was clear - what is by Tchaikovsky is better, and better serves the musical idea than the posthumously edited one.

SL: Gerstein says the opening chords are among hundreds of small differences.

MUSIC: [opening chords of 1879 version]

KG: When all these alterations are reverted and one goes back to Tchaikovsky's text, and Tchaikovsky's dynamic markings, and the way he writes for the piano, then I think the resulting impression is that it is more lyrical, more musical in some could say a more "Schumannesque" piece than we are used to. 

SL:  Gerstein’s recording of the 1879 version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, on the Myrios Classics label, won the 2015 ECHO Klassik Award for Concerto Recording of the Year.