The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra welcomes pianist Kirill Gerstein into their hall this week. And among his many accomplishments, Gerstein had a rare opportunity in 2015. He was the first to record the rediscovered edition of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto, which Tchaikovsky released in 1879 but had been lost.
After Tchaikovsky passed away, an editor made some “significant changes,” in Gerstein’s words, to the score. That resulted in a posthumous edition published in 1894, which became the most well-known version.
“The story continues, a bit like a detective story with twists,” Gerstein said. “There wasn’t authoritative research that would show us what is by Tchaikovsky in this piece and what has been changed.”
Then in 2015, the Tchaikovsky Museum and Archive in Klin, Russia released an edition where they finally managed to separate the composer’s own input and the meddling of an editor.
A couple of the differences are the iconic opening chords: instead of triumphant hammering, Tchaikovsky meant for them to be rolled. Then, in the third movement, there is an extended slower section.
Gerstein said that overall, there are not that many changes to the score between the 1879 and 1894 version, but the effect that the changes have on the psychological perception is quite large.
“It’s a wrinkle here, a dimple there, but all of a sudden, the portrait of the piece is somewhat different,” he said. “It’s still the Tchaikovsky concerto that we love, but I think the piece and the nature of the piece is a bit more lyrical than we are used to.”
Gerstein perform the 1879 edition of Tchaikovsky’s "Piano Concerto No. 1" this Thursday and Saturday with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m.