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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

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A Celtic Grand Tourist:
Moscow a hundred years ago

'In Russia everything is large and everything is loud. In the vast village of Moscow the buildings are all built broad, not high, because there is so much space to cover. The public squares, unpaved and surrounded by a little rim of cobbles, are as big as meadows. The arcades and passages, with their cellars below, their shops above, their glass roofs, are so enormous that they could hold the Passage des Panoramas, and the Burlington Arcade, and the galleries of Milan, without filling more than a corner of them. Colours shriek and flame; the Muscovite eye sees only by emphasis and by contrast... There are no shades, no reticences, no modulations. The restaurants are filled with the din of vast mechanical organs, with drums and cymbals; a great bell clashes against a chain on all the trams, to clear the road; the music which one hears is a ferocity of brass... To see the Muscovite, that is to say the typical Russian, as he really is, observe him on Sunday, and observe him from morning to evening. Sunday in Moscow is a sort of village feast. The shops are shut, but the street markets (beside which the Good Friday fair at the Rialto would seem but pale) are ablaze with buyers and sellers, all in their best clothes; the women looking like big babies in their high-waisted dresses, bright in colour, shapeless in form. All the morning the bells sound overhead, in their loud, muffled buzz, as of a cloud of bronze insects hovering over the city; and the churches are full of devout worshippers, who kiss the sacred ikons, cross themselves in the elaborate manner of the Russian ritual, kneel, and bow till their foreheads touch the ground. As the day goes on an irresponsible animation seems to be in the air; the traktirs are full of tea-drinkers, and by evening vodka has taken the place of tea. The great mechanical organs in the traktirs roll out their set of tunes, voices are heard, joining in the music; and outside the streets are full of gay noise, a song, a quarrel, the slipping of heavy boots over the uncertain pavement; a sort of drunkenness without brutality, a drunkenness which is in the natural course of things, at the natural end of the feast.'

- Arthur Symons, Cities, remembering Moscow in the summer of 1897


Tchaikovsky for the 21st Century?
Jeremy Nicholas on a new concerto cycle
from KOCH Schwann

All Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra! Authentic performances based on the original scores! Complete and unabridged for the first time! Hear the voice of Tchaikovsky on recently-discovered Edison cylinder! What an intriguing 'come-on'. Being a sucker for that sort of thing, the first thing I played, when this handsomely-presented set arrived, was to hear the Edison cylinder. Every Edison I've ever heard is a disappointment - Brahms, Sullivan, Florence Nightingale (probably a fake) and Gladstone (definitely a fake) - and this one's no exception. What you hear of Tchaikovsky (if indeed it is him) hardly offers a rounded portrait of the man. Let me save you some money. If the recording and documentation are genuine (what we hear on the CD has been edited) you get one minute twenty-five seconds of a seven-sided 'conversation' - Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky and Safonov among them - all singing or whistling or yelling into the new machine like children. The purpose was, apparently, to try and persuade Rubinstein to play something. To his eternal shame (and our loss) we hear him saying 'No!'

But enough. You wanted to hear about the authentic, unabridged, complete works for piano and orchestra. Dr Polina Vaidman, principal archivist of the Tchaikovsky Archives in Klin, and pianist Andrej Hoteev have studied 'all the important sources over many years... [He] now presents the brilliant composer in a completely new mantle. Instead of the traditional Soviet concept of Tchaikovsky "realism," Andrej Hoteev's prime concern is the original romanticism of the music, its deep sincerity and intensity, which is free of all triviality and sentimentality.' These are the words of Professor Lyudmila Korabelnikova, Co-Chair of the Tchaikovsky Society in her endorsement of the project [Moscow, April 7th 1998]. There's a lot more half-baked stuff like this which we can safely ignore. Hoteev himself then lays his cards on the table: 'Tchaikovsky was far closer to the sources of Western culture at that time - Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler ... than has generally been assumed over the past hundred years'. Really? 'All four concertos are based on secret (i.e. unpublished) schemes and together they form an inseparable unit. They are far more mystical, more visionary, more romantic than the "Party" and the KGB would have had us believe, with their projected image of the "naive, simple and popular" Tchaikovsky.' Blimey.

Hoteev then adumbrates precisely what errors he has spotted in all the published versions compared to the autograph scores. In the First Concerto these amount to sixteen missing bars in the third movement, half a dozen changes of tempo indications (the original opening tempo was altered to Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso; it should be Andante non troppo e molto maestoso - which is, rather puzzlingly, what my old Augener score says anyway [likewise Gerald Abraham's introduction to the Eulenburg miniature score, which lists variants and changes additional to Hoteev's; and Vol II of David Brown's definitive study of the composer, 1982. Ed.].) and seven minor changes in dynamics. Hardly earth-shaking. In the Second Concerto, Hoteev notices that the opening tempo is marked Allegro brillante not, as in Siloti's edition, Allegro brillante e molto vivace. Gosh. (Not that this deters Hoteev from playing it Moderato maestoso, as we'll see.) Naturally, the cuts Siloti made in the second movement are replaced (there have been a number of fine recordings of the original, not least from Pletnev [with the same conductor as Hoteev, Vladimir Fedoseyev. Ed.], Donohoe and Douglas). The Third Concerto is presented as originally intended (i.e. the well-known single-movement Op.75 followed by the work that has come to be known as the Andante and Finale, Op.79). The Fourth Piano Concerto turns out to be the familiar Concert Fantasy, Op.56. The Fantasy on Bohemian Melodies or Concerto in the Hungarian Style (whatever you want to call it - the booklet does both) by Sophie Menter (orchestrated by Liszt and/or Tchaikovsky) is based on the autograph edition of 1892, not the Schirmer edition of 1909 which has numerous abridgements and deviations from the autograph. On whether these were made as the result of Menter's second thoughts, whether or not they are improvements or valid, and exactly what differences there are between the two versions, Mr Hoteev is silent.

So much for the scholarship. What about the music-making? Yes, you've guessed. Like so many scholar-pianists, Hoteev is unable to set the pulse racing or the senses tingling in music that is supposed to do just that. He is far more concerned with reproducing an idea of an interpretation than playing with genuine inspiration or (if he had any) musical imagination. While observing the dynamic and tempo markings of which the booklet makes so much, he fails to respond to many of Tchaikovsky's other indications, the most glaring and obvious example being the Allegro vivace assai section [subsequently changed to Prestissimo, Ed.] of the second movement of the First Concerto (track 2 at 3:13). Not only does Hoteev take this at practice tempo but he ignores the composer's request to play pianissimo and leggierissimo, thus quite destroying the raison d'etre of Tchaikovsky's 'scherzo'. The final movement's Allegro con fuoco is not so much a blazing bonfire as a charcoal-brick barbecue. I could go on but in fact all the tempos are on the lumbering side. Only technical limitations or a perverse interpretative rationale could allow him to adopt these speeds and if Hoteev can't be trusted with undisputed markings then it throws doubts on the whole enterprise. (Of course, speed isn't everything, but to give you some idea of the difference between this new recording and others, the first movement of Concerto No 3 with Werner Haas lasts 15:19 while Hoteev takes 21:11; in the first movement of No 2, Pletnev steams in at 19:46 - Hoteev limps home in 26:40.) Maybe what he does is an attempt to emphasise Professor Korabelnikova's contention that Tchaikovsky is not 'naive, simple and popular,' and to lend the 'brilliant composer' some of the Teutonic gravitas of Wagner and Mahler. If so, instead of nobility or grandeur or whatever else Hoteev sought to bring to these marvellous scores, it all makes for a dull and unrewarding experience after Gilels or Richter in the First Concerto (let alone Horowitz), Pletnev or Cherkassky in the Second, Gary Graffman in No 2 and the first movement of No 3, or the under-rated Werner Haas in his 1971 recordings of all the works here (with the exceptions of the brief Allegro in C minor and the then undiscovered Hungarian Concerto; for the latter, turn to the world premiere recording from 1983 with Cyprien Katsaris and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Ormandy). And, I'm sorry, but I would rather trust in the musical gifts and judgements of Messrs Richter, Pletnev and Horowitz and the others mentioned above than the well-meaning but misguided Mr Hoteev.

© Jeremy Nicholas, March 26th 1999

A Knot Garden, Oh! Calcutta! era ago, hours of practising behind me, years of learning to come, I read James Friskin's Music & Letters essay, 'The Text of Tchaikovsky's B flat minor Concerto' (April 1969). What he had to say about the 1874-75 original, the 1879 Dannreuther-enriched second printing and the 1889/90 revision on which Tchaikovsky consulted Siloti, was a revelation - and still is. It's in their treatment of the opening, of course, that, audio-physically, the first and last editions differ the most dramatically. On the one hand, favoured by the late Malcolm Frager, delicate, harp-spread forte chords across four-and-a-half octaves. On the other, in the arsenal of every red-blooded romantic of the age, plunging, hammer-blow fortissimo ones across six-and-a-bit. 'Unabridged Original Versions' flash KOCH Schwann, gold-leaf on black. In suspense I wait. What do I hear? No! Surely not! All those familiar old fistfuls - Siloti's or whose we'll never know - tiring their way up the keyboard? Original Version? Perhaps Andrej or Andrey (the inlay cards, pressings and accompanying booklet can't seem to agree on a consistent spelling) would be so kind as to let us in on his definition of the word. Even the 1879 compromise quoted specifically in his sources doesn't get a look in here. 'The authentic sound of this great music ... the recording is a stroke of luck and a delight,' cries Lyudmila. 'The discoverer of the original Tchaikovsky,' fawns Polina. Well, someone out there likes it anyway. Does New Russian art know a thing or two Cold War Red artistry missed?

© Ates Orga, March 26th 1999



Vol I
Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor, Op 23 *
23:59 7:27 8:43 - TT: 40:09
     Sources: Composer's piano arrangement, MS December 21st 1874;
                   orchestral score, MS February 9th 1875;
                   conductor's score, published August 1879
Concert Fantasy in G, Op 56 (‘Piano Concerto No 4’) †
     22:17 15:59 - TT: 38:16
     Sources: Composer's piano arrangement & score,
                   MS September 28th 1884;
                   piano reduction, published December 1884;
                   conductor's score, published March 1893


Vol II
Piano Concerto No 2 in G, Op 44 ‡

     26:40 16:28 9:04 - TT: 52:34
     Sources: Composer's piano arrangement, MS February 19th 1880;
                   score, MS April 22nd 1880;
                   conductor's score, published February 1881
Allegro in C minor
     TT: 3:34
     Source: score, MS 1864


Piano Concerto No 3 in E flat, Op 75/79 §

     21:11 12:54 11:24 - TT: 45:29
     Sources: Piano arrangement & particella of the three completed
                   movements, MS July 10th 1893;
                   1st movement score, MS October 4th 1893;
                   1st movement conductor's score, published December 1894;
                   2nd & 3rd movements [Op 79] composer's piano arrangement,
                   published 1896;
                   2nd & 3rd movement orchestrated Sergei Taneyev,
                   published 1897
Fantasy in F minor on Bohemian Melodies ('Concerto in the Hungarian Style')
     TT: 23:28
     Sources: score, MS October 2nd 1892;
                   score, published 1909 [attributed Sophie Menter];
                   performing edition Andrej Hoteev, MS 1997
Edison Wax Cylinder (1890 [unnumbered])
     TT: 1:25
     Source: Pushkin House, St. Petersburg, discovered by
                 Vaidman & Korabelnikova, 1997


Andrej Hoteev, piano
     Steinway Model D No 523150
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra Moscow/Vladimir Fedoseyev
     * Viktor Simon, cello
     † Viktor Simon, cello; Viktor Galkin, horn
     ‡ Michail Schestakov, violin; Viktor Simon, cello
     § Michail Schestakov, violin; Viktor Simon, cello
Recorded: Vol I February 1998; September 1996.
     Vol II November 1996; August 1997
     Vol III September 1996; August 1997
Venue: Mosfilm-Studio, Moscow
Producer: Vadim Ivanov
Balance Engineer: Vladimir Schuster
Editor: Farida Usbekova

KOCH Schwann 3-6487-2, 3-6488-2. 3-6489-2 DDD stereo
CD Liner notes: Eckhard van den Hoogen; Booklet notes: Polina Vaidman; Lyudmila Korabelnikova; Andrej Hoteev

a co-production with the Belaieff Foundation


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Jeremy Nicholas

Jeremy Nicholas is an actor, writer, broadcaster and composer. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for his solo performance of Three Men In A Boat and won a Sony Radio Gold Award for the best speech and music programme of 1996. Apart from his own radio shows for the BBC, he has starred in numerous television series, and has written the music for many television and stage productions, as well as countless songs for BBC Radio 4's Stop the Week. He is the author of the Classic FM Guide to Classical Music (Pavilion), The Beginner's Guide to Opera (Ebury), and Godowsky - The Pianists' Pianist (APR) - the definitive biography, with a foreword by Jorge Bolet (1989).