For violin with orchestra, Op. 34 (1877).
The Valse was written to fulfil a promise made to Iosif Kotek. Exact information on the work on the Valse-scherzo does not survive. It is only by letters from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky that an approximate date for the piece might be established. On 22 January/3 February 1877, Kotek wrote to Tchaikovsky: "Thank you in advance for the waltz; it will surely be wonderful, as is everything that you compose... this shall be a piece to impress everybody" . In another letter from mid/late February, we read: "Incidentally, about the waltz. Why force yourself if you are tired? Of course, I would be delighted and infinitely glad if you were to write the waltz, especially since it is for me. I am still very glad that you have even started to think about this" .
In the period from March to August we find no further references to work on the Valse. But, given that in March and April, Tchaikovsky wrote his Fourth Symphony, and that in May he was completely absorbed in composing the opera Yevgeny Onegin, it might be supposed that by this time the Valse had already been completed. In a letter of 25 August/6 September, Iosif Kotek enquired of Tchaikovsky: "Do you know whether or not your waltz has been printed?" . At the request of Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, the publication of the Valse-scherzo (and also the Variations on a Rococo Theme) had been entrusted by Tchaikovsky to the Berlin publishers Leichart, but the edition was considerably delayed. Wishing to perform the Valse one evening at Karl Davydov’s home, Kotek wrote to Tchaikovsky: "I asked you to send me the manuscript of the Valse—if it had not been sent for engraving. Now, my dear fellow! I am sorry to pester you with yet another request. This is something that Alesha will enjoy: just imagine, since we met at Hřímalý's or at Brodsky's, I don't know who has the manuscript. Malozemova is learning the accompaniment and we play on Friday of next week" .
The performance took place, but evidently not as scheduled on 23 September/5 October, but sometime later, since Iosif Kotek reported only on 20 October/1 November that "Leopold Semyonovich [Auer] is delighted with the waltz" 
Early in 1878, Tchaikovsky asked Iosif Kotek to intervene with Leichart over the publication of the Valse-scherzo and Variations on a Rococo Theme. He discovered that the publishers had still not begun the printing, and the composer cancelled his agreement with them, turning instead to his principal publisher, Pyotr Jurgenson .
The Valse-scherzo was performed on 9/21 September 1878 at the third Russian concert in Paris (in the Trocadero Hall), with the violinist Stanislaw Barcewicz , and this was probably the first public performance; the next took place at a symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow on 1/13 December 1879, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, soloist Stanislaw Barcewicz.
The Valse-scherzo was published by Pyotr Jurgenson: the orchestral parts and arrangement for violin and piano in June–September 1878. The full score was printed after the composer's death, in April 1895.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 322–324
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It is possible that the waltz was partly or wholly orchestrated by Kotek after Tchaikovsky completed the version for violin with piano. This is suggested by two letters from Kotek to Tchaikovsky: in October 1878, the violinist reported to the composer on an unsuccessful performance of the piece: "Could my instrumentation be the reason that the waltz did not please?", and early in 1879 he wrote: "I think that I badly orchestrated the Waltz—what extraordinarily empty sounds!" . None of Tchaikovsky's letters refers to the orchestration of the piece.
The Tchaikovsky Handbook, vol. 1 (2002), p. 205
This page was last updated on 12 February 2013