Suite No. 2
(Сюита № 2)
Suite caractéristique, Op. 53 (1883).
"Mazepa is completely finished; now I shall take a long holiday", Tchaikovsky wrote to Karl Davydov on 31 May/12 June 1883 upon his arrival at Podushkino . However, the autograph date in the notebook containing sketches for the Second Suite reads: "Podushkino. 1 June. Evening", indicating that the day after writing to Karl Davydov, Tchaikovsky began to work on his suite. On 15/27 June he told Nadezhda von Meck: "Idleness is already taking its toll on me; I have rested enough, and am thinking about a new composition, and think about composing something new, probably in a symphonic mould" .
Although at that time he was occupied with the publisher’s proofs of his opera Mazepa, Tchaikovsky managed to write a little of his new orchestral composition, which by this time had already been designated a suite. But its composition dragged greatly. Around 3/15–4/16 July in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky he wrote: "Instead of resting from composition, I suddenly took it into my head to write a suite. But there is no inspiration; every day I write a little and am disappointed afterwards" .
This statement is borne out by the large number of crossings-out in the notebook containing his sketches. On 10/22 August, Tchaikovsky told his brother Modest: "I am now sitting over a suite. My accursed disposition means that I don’t have the ability to relax, although I would like to someday" .
In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 23 August/4 September, he reported on the suite: "The reason I should like to finish it quickly is that if I fail to orchestrate it before the winter season, then I won’t manage to hear it played while I am in Moscow, and it is something I would very much like to hear, since I have made use of some new orchestral combinations, which I think are very interesting" . In the same letter he said that while at Kamenka he was determined to rest; evidently the rough sketches had been completed.
The disposition of the sketches in his notebook indicates the sequence in which the composer worked on each movement. These sketches relate to the first, second, third and fifth movements of the suite. It would appear that the sketches for the first movement were made first of all, with a large number of rejected variants; next were sketches for the Scherzo, a variant of the theme of the Andante, then sketches for the waltz, alternating with the main theme of the Danse baroque; even after working on the scherzo and the waltz, the composer returned afresh to the first movement.
The composer wrote about the new orchestral combinations employed in the suite in letters to Pyotr Jurgenson and Modest Tchaikovsky. In a letter to Jurgenson of 12/24 September 1883. he wrote: "Bear in mind that one number of the suite requires 4 accordions with 10 stops in the key of E major" . Writing to Modest on 26 September/8 October he reported: "My suite is coming along very quietly, but I think on the whole it will be a success, and I am almost certain that the Scherzo (with the accordions) and the Andante (child’s dreams) will please" .
While engaged in orchestrating the suite the composer simultaneously made the arrangement for piano duet, which he considered necessary so that the full score and the arrangement could be printed at the same time. This urgency led him to entrust Aleksandra Hubert with making the arrangement of the suite's first movement, but he wanted to arrange the other movements himself .
On 3/15 October the fourth movement had been completed and despatched to Pyotr Jurgenson, together with the second and third movements and their arrangements . "I still have to do the finale", he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky. "I am very pleased with this suite and I’m sure it will also please you, particularly Child’s Dreams .
On 13/25 October the finale of the suite was completed and on its way to Pyotr Jurgenson (according to the date on the manuscript) . From the beginning of November, Tchaikovsky was occupied with proof-reading the suite for publication . It appears that at this stage, the composer shortened the third, fourth and fifth movements (mainly by excising repeats), with an overall loss of 327 bars. No references to these cuts are found in the composer’s correspondence .
In January 1884 the suite was published by Pyotr Jurgenson. It was performed for the first time in Moscow on 4/16 February 1884, at a special concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Max Erdmannsdörfer . Owing to exhaustion, Tchaikovsky did not attend the concert, earning him a harsh rebuke from the conductor . In order to make amends, he later dedicated his Third Suite to Max Erdmannsdörfer .
The Second Suite is dedicated to Praskovya Tchaikovskaya.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 262–263
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013