Listeners puzzled at the sudden increase in the size of Tchaikovsky's symphonic canon beyond the usual six works should know that the so-called Symphony No. 7 in E flat major is an unfinished work, realized from sketches by a Soviet musicologist in the 1950s. It has been recorded before, notably by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, but it has not always been called the Symphony No. 7. Actually it predates the Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74. Tchaikovsky substantially completed the first movement but then abandoned the work, transforming the opening movement into the single movement for piano and orchestra here designated the Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, Op. posth. 75, and claiming that he had discarded the rest. Enough survived to permit completion (it took the Soviet editor four years), but the remainder often lacks the characteristic Tchaikovsky flavor; the restless Scherzo, probably the most completely sketched out, comes the closest. Tchaikovsky's creative process has been less well studied than Beethoven's, but it would seem that, as with Beethoven, the sketches were a long way from the finished product. None of this is to say that the recording is without interest for Tchaikovsky lovers; the idea of the symphony, a representation of an entire life, was one that occupied the composer from the earliest months of his career, and the single-movement piano concerto (the work also exists in a three-movement version completed by Taneyev) is echt Tchaikovsky. The performances are also a notch above the usual for this kind of investigative recording; the album is part of a complete Tchaikovsky cycle by conductor Dmitri Kitayenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne. It's solidly performed and beautifully recorded, but the music has not thus far and likely will not rewrite the list of Tchaikovsky symphonies.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony No. 7 in E flat|