Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky

In January 1867 Tchaikovsky wrote two short pieces of incidental music to accompany a performance of Aleksandr Ostrovsky's play Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky (Дмитрий Самозванец и Василий Шуйский) (TH 16 ; ČW 17) [1].


The music is written for a theatre orchestra comprising flute, oboe, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + 2 horns (in F), trumpet (in D), trombone + 2 timpani, cymbals + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Movements and Duration

There are two separate numbers, lasting around 3 minutes each in performance:

  1. Introduction to Act I (Интродукция к 1 действию). Andante non troppo (A minor, 60 bars)
  2. Mazurka (Мазурка) (D minor, 133 bars) [2].


Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky (Дмитрий Самозванец и Василий Шуйский) was a 'dramatic chronicle in two parts' (and six scenes) written in 1866 by Aleksandr Ostrovsky. Tchaikovsky's Introduction serves as a mini-overture to the production, while the Mazurka is performed in the fifth scene of the play.

The book Contemporary Tales of Dmitry the Pretender [3] is to be found in Tchaikovsky's library. Notes on both volumes indicate that Tchaikovsky took a particular interest in them, and was familiar with the historical legend when he wrote the music.


No information has survived concerning the origins of this work. However, in November 1866, Tchaikovsky told his brother Anatoly: There is hope that Ostrovsky himself will write me a libretto from 'The Voyevoda'" [4]. It seems likely that while preliminary discussions were taking place concerning this opera, Tchaikovsky also agreed to write some music for Ostrovsky's new play Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky, which was due to receive its premiere early in 1867.


Tchaikovsky later made an arrangement of the Mazurka for solo piano (ČW 341), the manuscript of which is dated: "1867. Hapsal. 15 June" [O.S.].


The premiere of Ostrovsky's Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky took place at the Maly Theatre in Moscow on 30 January/11 February 1867, and it ran frequently at the Maly Theatre during the 1866/67 season, and also in the following seasons. It appears that Tchaikovsky's music to accompany the play was heard on at least one occasion, since the surviving orchestral parts for both pieces preserved in the theatre's library contain pencil notes indicating that they were used in performance.


Both pieces were published in volume 14 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Irina Iordan (1962) [5].

Tchaikovsky's solo piano arrangement of the Mazurka was published for the first time in 1986 in the Moscow journal Musical Life (Музыкальная жизнь) [6].


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score is preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (a1, No. 47), together with the composer's arrangement of the Mazurka for solo piano, which is written in an album belonging to Vera Butakova (lr, No. 1).


See: Dmitry the Pretender and Vasily Shuysky: Recordings

Related Works

The Introduction was a reworking of the theme and first variation from his student Theme with Variations in A minor for piano (1865).

In 1871 Tchaikovsky reworked the Mazurka for piano as Mazurka de salon—No. 2 of the Three Pieces, Op. 9.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'Dmitrii the Pretender and Vasilii Shuiskii' in TH, and 'Introduction and Mazurka to A.N. Ostrovskij's dramatic chronicle "Dmitrij the Pretender and Vasilij Šujskij"' in ČW.
  2. The score of the Mazurka has no tempo marking.
  3. Сказания современников о Дмитрии Самозванце, in 2 volumes (3rd edition, 1859).
  4. Letter 96 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 8/20 November 1866.
  5. A facsimile of the Introduction was first published in an appendix to Музыка в русском драматическом театре. Исторические очерки (1955), p. 414–428.
  6. See Polina Vaidman, Листы из альбома (1986), p. 14.