Tchaikovsky Unfinished Symphony

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Tchaikovsky Unfinished Symphony

Tchaikovsky composed six “numbered” symphonies, seven if you count Manfred, and eight if you count the unfinished symphony, which was supposed to be Tchaikovsky’s sixth numbered symphony.

In 1889, four years before his death, Tchaikovsky wrote, “I want terribly to write a somewhat grandiose symphony, which would crown my artistic career… For some time I have carried in my head an outline plan for such a symphony… I hope that I shall not die without carrying out this intention.”

After working on the symphony on and off for three years, Tchaikovsky decided to abandon it. He wrote:

These past few days, I have given myself over up to important considerations that are fraught with consequences. I have reviewed carefully and, you might say, objectively, my new symphony, which fortunately I didn’t manage to orchestrate and bring out. The impression it makes is not at all flattering. i.e. the symphony was written merely for the sake of having something to write—there’s nothing at all interesting or appealing in it. I have decided to throw it away and forget about it. This decision is irrevocable and I’m glad that I have made it.

Thankfully Tchaikovsky did not set the manuscript on fire; he reworked the first part into his third piano concerto.

In the 1950s, Russian professor Semyon Bogatyrev reconstructed the symphony from surviving manuscripts. You can listen to it here:

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