Cuts in Tchaikovsky

August 20, 2008 at 08:04 AM · I practice with cuts, but don't want to be perceived as lazy...perhaps I should learn it both ways, but I'm concerned that will just mess me up. Any thoughts?

The International/Oistrakh edition is what I'm working with.

Replies (31)

August 20, 2008 at 12:05 PM · I mean how many, not 'ho many'...

August 20, 2008 at 12:51 PM · I'd say learn it without cuts. Cuts are easy things to do later. 'Sides it is a romantic concerto-thus most of the meat and potatos are in the 1st movement.

That's me tho', and my Henle-Verlag score thinking.

///////////I will resist making witty remarks about thread subject headers/////////////

August 20, 2008 at 01:52 PM · Nicole,

Rachel Barton Pine had a webcast discussing the Tchaikovsky, and gives her reasons for leaving the concerto uncut:

(that should be episode 23, in case the link does't work)

One point she makes, if I remember right, is "Tchaikovsky knew what he was doing", that he did it deliberately. Also, if I recall, she makes the point that what we consider too much repetition is really an imitation of a folk idiom (I'm really paraphrasing here!).

Best if you listen to her, rather than me. -)

Besides, she's so good, and personable.

Larry Samuels

August 20, 2008 at 03:13 PM · I have to respectfully disagree with RBP. The Auer cuts were approved by Tchaikovsky himself and the last movement really does sound like a broken record without the cuts in my opinion. Composers are only human themselves. Many composers have written different versions of their compositions.

August 20, 2008 at 04:46 PM · When Rubinstein hated Tchaikovsky's piano concerto [#1] and said it needed rewriting, Tchaikovsky famously said that he would not change a single note. If he agreed with Auer's cuts, then he probably thought Auer had a point. (Maybe he was simply desperate to get it performed, but the experience with the piano concerto makes me think that's not how he did things)

On the other hand, Tchaikovsky, as far as I know, didn't withdraw his own version and replace it with the cut version; so he probably thought his own work had some merit.

Regardless of what you think about the repetitiveness, I'd recommend learning the complete version. One day you will play it for some important teacher or competition, and you could get nailed. "No no, don't take the cut, play the whole thing. ...What do you mean, you never learned it?! Go sit down." (Or better yet: "you never learned this part? Well, let's hear you play it anyway." Sight reading in public -- good times!)

On the other hand, if you play the whole thing, the famous teacher or judge might just say "oh, you should take the cuts" and then you can do a little vindication dance in the hallway afterward.

August 20, 2008 at 05:07 PM · I'm in the broken record camp. And just for the iPod generation, I'll describe a broken record: Back when everyone listened to vinyl LP records (which looked like oversized CDs) you had to put the record on a turning table and lay a needle onto it to play. The needle would travel from the outside of the circle to the inside, playing the recording. If there was a scratch in the record, the needle would trip backwards. Every time the needle tripped, it would replay a short segment, until someone came over and nudged the needle forward.

I'd always heard the concerto with the Auer cuts, and the first time I heard someone do it without the cuts (a practice has gained popularity rather recently, maybe the last 15 years?) I literally jumped up, thinking it was a broken record. Except, it was a CD. On the radio!

August 20, 2008 at 07:34 PM · I don't really agree with trying to "improve on" Tchaikovsky...the original is pretty damn good, and actually sounds completely balanced between all three movements without the 3rd mvt cuts. Ole Peter knew what he was doing...kudos to those who perform the original version. I'll be playing the original edition this year.

Laurie, maybe this should be your next "poll" - how many play it with/without the cuts! :)

August 20, 2008 at 09:47 PM · Laurie, that's really funny! :-)

Nate, don't forget that Tschaik. originally approved Fitzhagen's carving up of the Rococo Variations, then came to regret it later. There's no knowing if that applies here though ...

August 21, 2008 at 02:19 AM · I'd vote for all repeats to save the right music form.

August 21, 2008 at 03:38 AM · Aha! A poll! :)

August 21, 2008 at 04:58 AM · Joshua Bell thinks the cuts are "horrible" and said as much when he released his second recording a couple of years ago. I don't suppose you had a chance to discuss that with him, Laurie? ;)

August 21, 2008 at 03:47 PM · Laurie,

If my memory doesn't fail me, and it might, I am sure I heard Perlman perform it 'broken-record-style' in the early/mid '70's in London with the LSO.

Loved it and still do:-)))

(If it is cut, think of all the justification for cutting Schubert works……:-)

August 21, 2008 at 05:35 PM · I've always performed it without cuts. If you play each repetition with a different character, it ceases to sound like a broken record...

August 21, 2008 at 05:53 PM · The "broken record" story has made a long way since Milstein's comments about the work...I have never found any real evidence from the composer himself or other serious documentation about the fact that he approved Auer's version... Concerning the Brahms concerto, or the Mendelssohn, there is plenty of evidence of a narrow collaboration with Joachim or David respectively.

Kreisler played the original score in between 1902 and 1928... than he gave the première of his own version in New-York in 1938


August 21, 2008 at 11:34 PM · It's weird--I always thought it was me when I heard a version of the Tchaikovsky for the first time unedited! I always thought the 41st Mozart Symphony (Jupiter) was a lot draggier when they left the repeats in the 1st mvt.

Hilary Hahn's supposed to do the Tchaikovsky soon--Wonder if she's going with or without the edits?

August 22, 2008 at 01:39 AM · i dont think there is any "right" answer here.

People should do whatever they want with music, and they do!

This is why we have the extreme of people that are so strict and go by every marking of the composer, often at the expense of their own individuality and expressivity all the way towards the other extreme of people like Vanessa Mae, who do what they do to classical music. AND everything in between.

This is the bell curve. People should just decide what is more importnat to them and find a balance. its about choice.

For me personally, I think "tchaikovsky knew what he was doing" is poor defense of not doing the cuts. I would be very interested, though, to hear of these "folk idioms" that Rachel Barton talks about, as I've never heard about that.

I also agree with Nicolas that if the similar runs are played differently stylistically, this can easily fix the "broken record" issue.

I heard many great violinists play both ways.

I don't think it is a big deal either way :) doesn't take anything away from the performance, unless you have an irrational phobia

August 22, 2008 at 04:15 PM · Larry Samuels posted:

"Rachel Barton Pine had a webcast discussing the Tchaikovsky, and gives her reasons for leaving the concerto uncut:"

What a superb lecture!

August 22, 2008 at 04:56 PM · Rachel Barton said that Perlman did use the cuts. I have a recording right here of Perlman playing the last movement without the cuts.

August 22, 2008 at 05:16 PM · Perlman did both versions - I have recordings where he cut it and several where he didn't. Personally, I like it uncut, but it seems like it's a matter of taste and preference.

August 22, 2008 at 05:34 PM · Wow, look at all the great responses! Thanks!

I guess my problem is that I don't really have a well-thought-out justification. It's just a feeling. I've always thought my instincts were fairly good, but I'll be happy to listen to what Ms. Pine has to say.

August 22, 2008 at 05:44 PM · I just listened to some of that Rachel Barton Pine broadcast. She completely misunderstands certain things about tchaikovsky (such as his "gayness" as she puts it)

The folk thing I can kind of see, but she really doesn't back it up much other than saying how folk is about repetition (not necessarily)

She says some good things, but is a very odd individual... :)

I guess I would play it without the cuts myself though...

August 22, 2008 at 05:44 PM · By the way, Laurie, what's an iPod? :P

August 22, 2008 at 07:27 PM · LOL! Let me connect you with my 11-year-old daughter, who is much more of an expert on this than I am....;)

August 22, 2008 at 07:42 PM · Debra Wade posted:

"Personally, I like it uncut, but it seems like it's a matter of taste and preference."

I believe this is known as "The Jewish Version."

August 22, 2008 at 07:46 PM · Scott, I'm speechless. :)


I do have a cell phone, but it doesn't take pictures.

August 22, 2008 at 07:49 PM · I apologize if I offended anyone.

We'll be here all week!

August 22, 2008 at 08:08 PM · Scott, as the creators of South Park once said, "We apologize to anyone we may have left out."

I was thinking about that folk idiom issue, and it occurred to me that although Tchaikovsky's music does use folk or folk-like tunes, what would the average 19th-century Russian farmer have to say about it; would he quickly espouse it as "his" music? I mean, how authentic is it? I know that sounds like a rhetorical question, but maybe it's not. I'm in the process of reviewing my music history for exams, so can anybody tell me what role overt nationalist rebellion (as with Dvorak) and categorical research (as with Bartok) should or should not play in the interpretation of a composer's works?

Another example -- a teacher of mine suggested that Shakers might have mixed feelings about Appalachian Spring. Would they be honored or find it ostentatious?

Yet another: I've never experienced Yom Kippur. If there are practicing Jews here, how does Bruch's Kol Nidrei compare?

August 22, 2008 at 08:06 PM · To not respond directly to your question :-) -- I believe Rachel meant to defend the repetition in the Tchaikovsky as being part of a folk music tradition. I don't believe she meant anything else by her remark. While I know little about Russian folk music specifically, I agree that in general, far more repetition is traditional in many folk musics of the world than in the classical realm. I've heard a great deal of Eastern European folk music, which can be quite repetitious, even while in 11/4 or 7/4 time! The most obvious exmple is in most traditional African music, which uses repetition to the most hypnotic extent possible (and none other than James Brown brought this into our own popular music).

/end musicology lecture

August 22, 2008 at 08:13 PM · D Kurganov posted:

"I just listened to some of that Rachel Barton Pine broadcast. She completely misunderstands certain things about tchaikovsky (such as his "gayness" as she puts it)

The folk thing I can kind of see, but she really doesn't back it up much other than saying how folk is about repetition (not necessarily)

She says some good things, but is a very odd individual... :)"

Speaking of odd, I find you own remarks to be a bit odd. :-) I thought it was common knowledge that Peter was gay. Do you have information or interpretation to the contrary? At least you should explain your remark.

And, what is it that you find odd about Rachel? I mean besides her shifting? Ha ha.

August 22, 2008 at 09:02 PM · Shoot, it's a podcast. As you might have guessed from my exchange with Laurie, I have no pod to cast to. You've really piqued my curiosity about the gay allusion...

August 22, 2008 at 09:13 PM · If you are running Windows, it should play normally in your Windows Media Prayer, er, Player, after you choose 'open.' Unless you have no sound on you machine. It's just a plain ol' MP3.

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