With piano accompaniment, Op. 38 (1878).
No. 1. Don Juan's Serenade (Серенада Дон-Жуана)
No. 2. It Was in the Early Spring (То было раннею весной)
No. 3. Amid the Din of the Ball (Средь шумного бала)
No. 4. O, If Only You Could (О, если б ты могла)
No. 5. The Love of a Dead Man (Любовь мертвеца)
No. 6. Pimpinella: Florentine Song (Пимпинелла: Флорентинская песня)
The Op. 38 romances were composed by Tchaikovsky at Florence, Clarens, Kamenka, Brailov and Verbovka. between 11/23 February and 13/25 July 1878. Composition of the romances began after work was completed on the Symphony No. 4 and Yevgeny Onegin.
In February 1878, Tchaikovsky expressed his desire to compose "a variety of small pieces" . "This will be something between relaxation and work" . He then asked Nikolay Kashkin (through Pyotr Jurgenson) and Nadezhda von Meck to suggest appropriate texts for the romances. On 27 February/11 March, in response to his request, the latter sent the composer works by Afanasy Fet, Aleksey Tolstoy, Lev Mey, and Fyodor Tyutchev. Tchaikovsky thanked Nadezhda von Meck in a letter of 7/19 March from Clarens: "I am particularly pleased with the Tolstoy, which I like very much... In particular I am interested in Don Juan, which I read a very long time ago. I was enchanted by the section you indicated in Don Juan, and certainly I shall set it to music" .
The first romance was written at Florence on 11/23 February 1878, "between lunch and dinner" . This was the romance The Love of a Dead Man (No. 5)—the only one of Tchaikovsky’s romances set to words by Mikhail Lermontov. "I wrote it because in one of your letters you mentioned to me your view of his poetry set to music. This was in February at Florence" .
The second romance to be written, it seems shortly after the first, was Pimpinella. Tchaikovsky heard this song in Florence performed by a street-singer named Vittorio: "The day before leaving I listened to him once more and noted down the words and music to one song, which I am sending you with my accompaniment. Isn't it a delightful tune? And such peculiar words!" . In another letter to Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky wrote that "amongst my six romances, the melody of one of them is very similar from the one I sent you last year in letter from Switzerland, just slightly altered by me and adapted to the form of a vocal number suitable for a salon concert" . On 15/27 March, Tchaikovsky told Pyotr Jurgenson: "I’ve already done seven small pieces, two romances and the opening of a piano sonata," .
The composer finished the romances in Russia, while staying at Kamenka from 11/23 April to 12/24 May 1878, at Brailov from 17/29 May to 30 May/11 June, at Kamenka from 13/25 June to 26 June/8 July, and at Verbovka from 4/16 July to 5/17 August 1878.
On 30 April/12 May, Tchaikovsky shared his plans with Nadezhda von Meck: "I am sufficiently busy. The sonata is already done, as are 12 Pieces of moderate difficulty for solo piano solo—but that is to say, only in rough... Tomorrow I shall start on a collection of miniature pieces for children... Then I shall take up the romances and violin pieces . By 4/16 March the Children's Album had been composed, but on 27 May/8 June Tchaikovsky told Nadezhda von Meck: "In my case I have a whole mass of sketches. Besides the violin pieces, I have written: 6 romances, around a dozen piano pieces, an album of little pieces for children... a Grand Sonata, and the whole Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. It will take a long time, possibly up to a month and a half, for all these to be put in order and copied out" . From this letter it follows that the remaining romances were written between 4/16 May and 27 May/8 June (Nos. 1 to 4, all to words by Aleksey Tolstoy), at the same time as the violin pieces Souvenir d'un lieu cher and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom.
The violin pieces were the first to be copied out (by 30 May/11 June), and then the composer brought the piano sonata to its final form (from 15/27 June). On 4/16 July he started copying out the romances: "The sonata is already done, and tomorrow I shall start on the fair copies of some romances, which were partly written abroad and partly at Kamenka in April" . One of the romances I am copying out tomorrow is set to the text of Lermontov’s The Love of a Dead Man . On 13/25 July, Tchaikovsky informed Nadezhda von Meck that he had finished copying out all the romances and the Twelve Pieces (Op. 40) for piano .
Tchaikovsky singled out It was in the Early Spring (No. 2) as one of his most popular romances .
In the romance The Love of a Dead Man (No. 5), Lermontov's verses are shortened, and Tchaikovsky made some alterations to the texts in Don Juan’s Serenade (No. 1), O, If Only You Could (No. 4), and The Love of a Dead Man (No. 5).
All the romances are dedicated to Anatoly Tchaikovsky.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 444–446
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013