String Quartet No. 1
(Струнный квартет № 1)
Op. 11 (1871).
The main theme of the quartet's second movement, Andante cantabile, comes from an old Russian song, well-known during the 1870s, with the words "Vania sat on the divan, smoking his tobacco pipe" [«Сидел Ваня на диване, курил трубку с табаком»]. Tchaikovsky heard this song at Kamenka in the summer of 1869 from a carpenter, who was a native of Kalush province .
The quartet had great success both in Russia and abroad .
In 1876 the Moscow Conservatory organised a musical evening in honour of Lev Tolstoy, the programme of which included the Andante cantabile. It greatly moved the writer. In his reply to Tolstoy’s letter, Tchaikovsky wrote: "I cannot express how honoured and proud I felt that my music could make such an impression on you" .
The Andante Cantabile was arranged by Tchaikovsky for cello accompanied by string orchestra. Evidently this arrangement was made in the late 1880s for Anatoly Brandukov, in whose archive the manuscript was discovered.
The first performance of the quartet took place in Moscow on 16/28 March 1871 at a special concert of Tchaikovsky's works.
The quartet is dedicated to Sergey Rachinsky.
Tchaikovsky originally intended that Vasily Bessel should publish the quartet. He wrote of this to Hans von Bülow on 1/13 December 1876: "Regarding my quartet, about whose success you wrote to me, I would like to tell you one thing... When, some years ago, I approached the publisher Bessel in Saint Petersburg, and suggested that he should publish this quartet gratis, he consulted with Anton Rubinstein for advice on whether he should print it. 'No'—my former tutor replied—'it is certainly not worth it', and Bessel sent me his verdict and a humiliating rejection" .
The quartet was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1872.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 368–370
This page was last updated on 14 February 2013