There is a popular phrase saying, “better late than never”, so why not after more than a century later? 138 years after Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was completed, Pianist Stephen Hough discovered a mistake. After he took a closer look at the manuscript online in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Stephen noticed that a ‘wrong note’ F had been corrected to a B flat in blue pencil. This correction itself could have possibly be made by Tchaikovsky himself.

According to Stephen’s Telegraph blog, he described the revelation as ‘one of the most exciting musical discoveries’ of his life. Even though he had already performed the concerto and instinctively changed the F for a B flat in concert, Stephen did not feel that it was right to change the note without any proper evidence when he recorded the work. In fact, even before taking a look at the manuscript, Stephen had already provided quite a number of reasons to justify changing the note in the score.

On further inspection, the theme actually did repeat a couple of times throughout the entire concerto. However, the F in the flute part only occurred once in the entire piece apparently. Aside from that, the rogue F also created a conflict between both the G flat in the strings as well as changes in the symmetry of the theme, which appears to span five notes up and five notes down in the four-bar phrase.

“Here are four musical reasons why I thought the ‘F’ was wrong. The theme appears numerous times and only once with the ‘F’. No logical explanation for this. The shape of the 4-bar theme is a 5th up and a 5th down – symmetrical and elegant. The ‘F’ spoils this. If the accompaniment were not pizzicato but held string notes we would hear the horrid clash of ‘G flat’ and ‘F’ on the last quaver beat. This is bad harmony (especially how it resolves to the octave) and Tchaikovsky was too good a craftsman to have let this pass. When, in the coda, there is a change to two ‘A flats’ there is a change from the pattern – so much more touching if all the other times it has reached up to the ‘B flat’,” explained Stephen.

Everyone makes mistakes and that is extremely normal. For someone to say that he or she has never made a mistake, that would be rather rare. In fact, making mistakes can actually assist you in the learning process. At Awesome Piano, our teachers will always out the mistakes of students, so that they can learn and improve from there. If you would like to learn more about our piano school, do refer to our website.