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Recent Discoveries

I'm wondering what interesting manuscripts have come to light since the fall of the Berlin wall and the opening up of the ex-Soviet archives. I guess what I'm saying is do we have a better idea of Tchaikovsky's known works and have any 'lost' works come to light?

Ian Maxwell

Surprisingly, perhaps, the political changes in Eastern Europe and Russia since 1989 have not resulted in any significant discoveries as far as Tchaikovsky's musical works are concerned. The main discoveries since the centenary of Tchaikovsky's birth in 1940 are referred to in the introduction to vol. 1 of The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2001), p. xxiii:

"Following the publication of the collected works, a number of “lost” compositions came to light. The autograph version of Zemfira's Song, which was hitherto known only from a manuscript copy by the composer’s friend and colleague Karl Albrecht, was found to contain significant differences from the published version. In 1960, the autograph score of the piano piece Moment lyrique turned up at an auction in Marburg. Tchaikovsky's sketches for this piece had been found after his death by Sergei Taneev, who completed and published them under the title Impromptu (Momento lirico), apparently unaware of the existence of the fully-realised composition.

An additional aria for the opera The Oprichnik was discovered among the conductor Eduard Nápravník’s scores in the 1980s, and more recently the chorus Spring and an earlier version of the chorus Evening, were found in a collection published by Karl Albrecht in 1871."

The most recent manuscript to come to light was that of the song Tell Me, What in the Shade of the Branches, which had previously been separated from its companons in the set of Six Romances (Op. 57). However, the whereabouts of a number of Tchaikovsky's manuscripts remain unknwown—including major works such as the Symphony No. 2 (revised version), Coronation March, Sérénade mélancolique, Valse-scherzo, together with other works which have long been considered lost (e.g. Montenegro and The Romans at the Coliseum). Assuming that these have not been destroyed, there is always the hope that they will reappear at some future date.

On the other hand, letters written by the composer continue to surface at the rate of two or three each year. In 2001 a total of 5,248 letters were catalogued in vol. 2 of The Tchaikovsky Handbook, and the autographs of up to a dozen more have appeared at auction in the five years since that volume's publication, although some of these were already known from manuscript copies.

One unfortunate trend in recent years is the increasing number of forgeries being offered for sale. I have seen three such examples since 2003 (one "concerto" and two letters), and it is vital that any prospective purchasers should be satisifed of the authenticity of any new documents offered for sale.

Brett Langston

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013