Children's Album

Tchaikovsky Research

The Children's Album (Детский альбом), Op. 39 (TH 141 ; ČW 150 to 173), subtitled "24 simple pieces à la Schumann", is a cycle of 24 piano pieces composed between May and July 1878.

Movements and Duration

The 24 pieces are very short, and a complete performance lasts only around 30 minutes [1]:

  1. Morning Prayer (Утренная молитва)
    Andante (G major, 24 bars).
  2. Winter Morning (Зимнее утро)
    Allegro (B minor, 64 bars).
  3. Playing Hobby-Horses (Игра в лошадки)
    Presto (D major, 72 bars).
  4. Mama (Мама)
    Moderato (G major, 36 bars).
  5. March of the Wooden Soldiers (Марш деревянных солдатиков)
    Moderato (D major, 48 bars).
  6. The Sick Doll (Болезнь куклы)
    Moderato (G minor, 42 bars).
  7. The Doll's Funeral (Похороны куклы)
    Adagio (C minor, 48 bars).
  8. Waltz (Вальс)
    Allegro assai (E-flat major, 85 bars).
  9. The New Doll (Новая кукла)
    Allegro (B-flat major, 57 bars).
  10. Mazurka (Мазурка)
    Allegro non troppo, Tempo di mazurka (D minor, 52 bars).
  11. Russian Song (Русская песня)
    Allegro (F major, 30 bars).
  12. The Accordion Player (Мужик на гармонике играет)
    Adagio (B-flat major, 22 bars).
  13. Kamarinskaya (Камаринская)
    Vivace (D major, 49 bars).
  14. Polka (Полька)
    Moderato. Tempo di Polka (B-flat major, 30 bars).
  15. Italian Song (Итальянская песенка)
    Moderato assai (D major, 49 bars).
  16. Old French Song (Старинная французская песенка)
    Molto moderato (G minor, 32 bars).
  17. German Song (Немецкая песенка)
    Molto moderato (E-flat major, 26 bars).
  18. Neapolitan Song (Неаполитанская песенка)
    Andante (E-flat major, 54 bars).
  19. Nanny's Story (Нянина сказка)
    Moderato (C major, 48 bars).
  20. The Sorcerer (Баба-Яга)
    Presto (E minor, 45 bars).
  21. Sweet Dreams (Сладкая греза)
    Moderato (C major, 48 bars).
  22. Lark Song (Песня жаворонка)
    Moderato (G major, 32 bars).
  23. The Organ-Grinder Sings (Шарманщик поет)
    Andante (G major, 32 bars).
  24. In Church (В церкви)
    Moderato (E minor, 52 bars).

The sequence of numbers differs in Tchaikovsky's autograph score, where they appear in the following order: 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 9, 6, 7, 8, 14, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 23.


In a letter of 30 April/12 May 1878 to Nadezhda von Meck, the composer wrote: "A while ago I thought that it would not be a bad idea to make a small contribution to the stock of children's musical literature, which is very modest. I want to create a series of little individual pieces just for children, and with an attractive title, like Schumann's" [2].

Some months before this letter was written, while staying in Florence on 14/26 February, Tchaikovsky told Pyotr Jurgenson that he wanted "to write a number of easy pieces, like Kinderstück" [3]. Evidently, the idea of creating a collection of pieces for young people had not been abandoned by the composer, and after his return to Kamenka in April he decided to begin composition. In the aforementioned letter to Nadezhda von Meck, he informed her: "Tomorrow I shall start work on my collection of miniatures for children".

On 1/13 May the composer wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "I'm working well and have done rather a lot" [4]. On 4/16 May the sketches for all 24 pieces were ready [5]. Shortly afterwards, Tchaikovsky accepted an invitation from Nadezhda von Meck to stay at her Brailov estate until the end of May/beginning of June, before spending a few days in Moscow; from there he went to spend five days with his friend Nikolay Kondratyev at Nizy, and in mid/late June he called at Kiev, before returning to Verbovka. In the days following his arrival, he began to put the finishing touches to all the pieces written in April and May. The fair copy of the Children's Album was begun, it seems, on 13/25 July [6].

By 20 July/1 August the copying out was completed, and on 21 July/2 August the composer told Nadezhda von Meck that he was working on the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom [7].


On 29 July/10 August, the manuscript of the Children's Album, along with a number of other compositions, was sent to Pyotr Jurgenson in Moscow [8]. In October, after the proofs had been corrected, the album was published [9].

The Children's Album was published in volume 52 of the Complete Collected Works (1948), edited by Anatoly Drozdov, and in volume 69b of the New Complete Edition of Tchaikovsky's works (2001), edited by Thomas Kohlhase.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score with all 24 pieces is now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 121) [view].


See: Discography


The Children's Album is dedicated to Tchaikovsky's favourite nephew, Vladimir Davydov [10]. On 12/24 December 1878, Tchaikovsky wrote to Lev Davydov: "Tell Bobik that the music has been printed with pictures, that the music was composed by Uncle Petya, and that on it is written Dedicated to Volodya Davydov. The silly little fellow will not understand what dedicated means... Even so, Bobik is an inimitably delightful figure when he's playing, and he might look at the notes, and think that a whole symphony is dedicated to him" [11].

Related Works

Several pieces from the cycle make use of authentic folk tunes. The Russian Song (No. 11) is based on the theme of the folksong 'O my poor head' (Голова ль ты моя головушка), which Tchaikovsky had previously arranged as No. 2 of Fifty Russian Folksongs. In Kamarinskaya (No. 12), the composer makes use of the popular Russian folk tune of the same name. Italian folk melodies appear in the Neapolitan Song (No. 18)—which also occurs in the ballet Swan Lake—and in the Italian Song (No. 15) [12]. Yet another Italian tune forms the basis for the piece The Organ Grinder Sings (No. 23) [13]; this same tune is used in the middle section of the piece Rêverie interrompue—No. 12 of the Twelve Pieces, Op. 40 [14]. The theme of the Old French Song (No. 16) was used again in the Minstrels' song from Act II of the opera The Maid of Orleans.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. The English translations of the following numbers differ in ČW: 4. Mummy; 6. The Doll's Illness; 12. The Russian Peasant Plays the Harmonica; 19. Nurse's Tale; 20. Old Witch; 21. Sweet Dream; 22. Lark's Song; 24. In the Church.
  2. Letter 820 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1878.
  3. Letter 761 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 14/26 February 1878. At this time he began to write the Twelve Pieces, Op. 40.
  4. Letter 822 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 1/13 May 1878.
  5. See Letter 823 to Nadezhda von Meck, 4/16 May 1878.
  6. See Letter 871 to Nadezhda von Meck, 13/25 July 1878.
  7. See Letter 876 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 July/2 August 1878.
  8. See Letter 883 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 29 July/10 August 1878.
  9. See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 16/28 November 1878 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  10. See Letter 977 to Nadezhda von Meck, 24 November/6 December 1878.
  11. Letter 757 to Lev Davydov, 12/24 February 1878.
  12. See Letter 692 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28 December 1877, and Letter 759 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 13/25–14/26 February 1878.
  13. See sketch in Letter 692 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28 December 1877.
  14. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 205.