Hello, I have just recently started Tchaikovsky's flute concerto.
Do you have any information about it other than what is published with
Hello Jessica. We have
this article in our section on unfinished and projected works, and
the following information appears in the catalogue of works in volume 1 of
The Tchaikovsky Handbook (2002):
On 20 June 1888, Tchaikovsky wrote to
Léonce Détroyat about his
future plans: ‘I have made promises to write concertos for piano, violin,
cello, flute, etc. to many famous artists (including two in Paris,
Taffanel)’ (letter 3598a). However, none of
these projects was realised within the next five years.
On 7 October 1893, Tchaikovsky told the cellist
Iulian Poplavskii that
‘during October he expected to write a concerto for flute which he had
already conceived (he intended it for
[Claude-Paul] Taffanel, the
well-known Parisian virtuoso)’ [...].
After the composer’s death on 25 October 1893, some very short sketches
relating to a work for flute and orchestra were found among his
The 'very short sketches' consist of two themes in C major (of 2 and 3
bars respectively), headed "Concert[st]ück for fl[ute]".
In 2004 a Brazillan flautist, James Strauss, has produced his own version
of the concerto, which I understand doesn't include either of the above
themes, while the central movement is an adaptation of one of Tchaikovsky's
early student pieces. The work is said to have been based on manuscripts
tracked down by Mr Strauss himself, but as far as I know the authenticity of
these sources has yet to be independently verified.
This foreword to the new printed score of this supposed work appeared
recently online. I am wondering how much of James Strauss’ claim is genuine
and how much is pure fabrication.
For years, many flutists have heard stories about the existence of a
flute concerto by Tchaikovsky. The Concertstück was composed in 1893, the
same year that Tchaikovsky composed the Symphony in b minor, later titled
Symphony Pathetique by his brother Modeste. The last movement, “adagio
lamentoso”, has been considered Tchaikovsky’s Requiem, however it may be
that the Flute Concerto postdated this great symphony. 1893 was a
productive year for Tchaikovsky, who presented himself as conductor and
composer to audiences in Switzerland, France and Belgium. In June 1893, he
received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa conferred by Cambridge
University. At the same occasion, Saint-Saens and Arigo Boito received
honorary degrees. On June 20th, Tchaikovsky wrote to his friend and
journalist, Léonce Détroyat (1829-1898) about his future plans: “Dear
Leonce, I have made many promises of writing concerts for piano, violin,
cello and flute for many famous performers and two of them in Paris,
Taffanel and Diémer. (letter No 3598).
On October 7th he told his friend and violoncellist Iulian Poplavski,
“I have the concert for flute ready in my mind and it will be for the
flute of Taffanel...” On October 28th he directed the première of the
“Symphony Pathetique” without much success. Shortly after that, on
November 6, 1893, Tchaikovsky died in mysterious circumstances. There are
two versions of his death: death due to cholera or suicide. Whatever was
the cause, a national day of mourning was decreed in Russia. More than
8000 people accompanied the procession to his final resting place, the
Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg.
In January 1998, Jean Pierre Rampal enthusiastically told me about
Tchaikovsky’s concert for flute, saying that he had almost had access to
it. Furious at being prohibited access to the manuscript while in Moscow,
he asserted: “It is absurd that [the concerto], would be hidden from the
world. It is ridiculous to hide such a discovery!” Rampal confided to me
that copies of the concerto were both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow. So
then I began my search. Following some tips, I came to a family in St.
Petersburg who had some 19th Century manuscripts and sketches of an
unknown author with the title “Concertstuck dle flet”. After much
negotiation, I was only allowed to hand copy that manuscript. The
manuscript contained 20 complete bars, a space and 14 more bars and the
beginning of a “cadenza” to the first movement. After looking once again
at sketches which were included in the manuscript of the Symphony
Pathetique, I became convinced that these sketches included parts of the
third movement of the Concertstuck, consisting of some 57 bars, with many
incomplete corrections. After returning to my home in Finland, I began to
suspect that the "Concertstuck" was an elaborated version of an
introduction and allegro for 2 flutes and strings which dates from 1864.
At that time Tchaikovsky himself was a flutist. At this point I used the
piece as a model to re-assemble the manuscript with a certain degree of
success. Then in 2000, I found a second source for the flute’s part. I
found sheet music for flute from the 19th century originating from Russia,
which had belonged to Theodor Wateerstra, a flutist in St. Petersburg.
Amongst the Ciardi, Kölher, Serov, Alaibiev, was a flute part with the
Cyrillic title “Concertstuck dle Flet”.
The allegro vivace, (Mvt.3) was different from the part which I had
rebuilt – more variations and embellishments - however I only added and
followed the original orchestra.
Still the second movement was yet to be found. Then In September of
2000, while in a used music shop on the Rue de Rome, I discovered some
scores which had belonged to Georges Barrere. Amongst these was
Tchaikovsky’s “Chanson sans Paroles” arranged by Taffanel for flute and
piano in a Russian edition, and a separate hand written part with a
slightly different title: “Chanson sans Paroles pour flute et orchestre a
cordes” arranged by Taffanel. Here then was one possible second movement.
Following the orchestration used by Tchaikovsky, The Cadenza, proposed by
Professor John Wion, is modified from Tchaikovsky’s opera, “The Maid of
Orleans”. I am forever grateful to Jean Pierre Rampal, who inspired my
efforts, and I am certain that wherever he may be, he will be very content
with this new addition to our repertoire.
- James Strauss
Hopefully we can shed some more light on this issue, and settle it one
way or the other.