Cello Concerto

Tchaikovsky Research
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Sketches for a Cello Concerto were found among Tchaikovsky's papers after his death in 1893.

In October 1893, Yulian Poplavsky reported Tchaikovsky's intention to write a concerto for cello with orchestra. "Noticing that he was in particularly good spirits, we [1] approached him about taking up our long-standing request for a cello concerto. 'Why don't you play my Variations?'—was his response. I told him the old story about the difficulty of the variations, and of short cello pieces in general. 'You don't have to play in order to be annoying', Pyotr Ilyich joked... Pyotr Ilyich was then awaiting a libretto so that he could write an opera... a concerto for flute... some small pieces for violin, and then he promised he would write a cello concerto" [2].

It is possible that Tchaikovsky had even earlier considered writing a cello concerto. The Odessan journalist V. P. Sokolnikov remembered that during Tchaikovsky's visit to Odessa in early 1893, he played through some sketches for a cello concerto with the cellist Wladyslaw Alois. However, no documents have yet come to light which might confirm this account [3].

There are more than 60 bars, mainly crossed out, comprising a draft composition for cello and orchestra from the year 1893, found on four sides of the rough draft of the Sixth Symphony... This fragment in the draft of the Sixth Symphony has often been interpreted as the original opening of the symphony's finale... it is notated on three systems, with the melody being noted on the upper system with the bass clef. The style is of genuine violin music. The expansive solos and the general character of this music, with orchestral accompaniment written on the two systems below it, testify to the fact that this fragment must ultimately belong to an unrealised cello concerto. Perhaps Tchaikovsky had already written down the sketch before embarking on the rough draft of the Sixth Symphony. The aforementioned pages happened to be contained within a group of otherwise blank music paper, which the composer used for his work on the symphony. Tchaikovsky found the fragment he had previously written and crossed it out, in order not to confuse it with the draft of the Sixth Symphony—or decided to abandon it [4].

Completion by Yuriy Leonovich

See: Completing Tchaikovsky's Cello Concerto

In 2006, a completion of this concerto was made by Yuriy Leonovich, a Ukrainian cellist living in the United States, using Tchaikovsky's surviving sketches and music from other works [5].

Notes and References

  1. i.e. Poplavsky and the cellist Anatoly Brandukov, during a visit to the composer's home at Klin in October 1893.
  2. Yulian Poplavsky, Последний день П. И. Чайковского в Клину (1894).
  3. Information received from M. Ye. Goldstein in 1948.
  4. Polina Vaidman, Internationales Čajkovskij Symposium, Tübingen 1993. Bericht (1994), p. 284.
  5. A computer-generated recording of Leonovich's completion can be found on his website.