Kamenka

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Kamyanka (Кам'янка), also known as Kamianka, is a city and the administrative centre of the Kamyanka district (Кам'янський район) of Cherkasy oblast (Черкаська область) in Ukraine. During Tchaikovsky's lifetime it was known as Kamenka (Каменка), and formed part of the Chigirin district (Чигиринский уезд) in the Kiev province (Киевская губерния) of the Russian Empire.

Tchaikovsky in Kamenka

Kamenka was the home of the composer's sister Aleksandra, and her husband Lev Davydov, who managed his family's extensive estates there. Tchaikovsky visited on a regular basis between 1865 and 1893, and many of his compositions were written in the congenial surroundings at Kamenka. His main visits were as follows:

From Until Notes
June 1865 August 1865 On his first summer spent at Kamenka, Tchaikovsky drafted his Overture in C minor and translated F. A. Gevaert's Handbook for Instrumentation. He also noted down a folk-tune he heard sung by a gardener at Kamenka, which he would subsequently use in the String Quartet in B-flat major (1865) and the piano piece Scherzo à la russe (1867). "Never in my life have I spent a more pleasant summer", he later told Aleksandra [1].
June 1869 July 1869 The whole Tchaikovsky family went to Kamenka in the summer for the wedding of the composer's brother Ippolit to Sofya Nikonova in June. The composer spent the rest of the summer working on the orchestration of his opera Undina, but also noted down another folk-tune that he would go on to use in the famous Andante cantabile movement from his String Quartet No. 1 (1871).
June 1871 early/mid July 1871 Tchaikovsky spent the first half of his summer vacation at Kamenka. According to his nephew Yury Davydov (who was not born until 1876), it was during this summer that the composer wrote a children's ballet for his nephews and nieces, which shared a subject and main motif with his later ballet Swan Lake (1875–76); however, there is no other evidence to corroborate this suggestion.
1/13 June 1872 2/14 July 1872 The composer began work on his Symphony No. 2, the finale of which incorporated the folk-tune "The Crane", which he heard while staying at Kamenka.
18/30 June 1873 26 June/8 July 1873 Tchaikovsky spent just over a week at Kamenka, before travelling to western Europe.
4/16 June 1876 18/30 June 1876 Suffering from a fever, the composer was unable to do any work during his first visit to Kamenka in three years.
30 July/11 August 1877 8/20 September 1877 Leaving his wife Antonina behind in Moscow, Tchaikovsky spent six weeks at Kamenka working on the orchestration of his Symphony No. 4 and the opera Yevgeny Onegin.
11/23 April 1878 12/24 May 1878 During this visit the composer began work on various piano pieces, i.e. his Grand Sonata, the Children's Album, and the Twelve Pieces, Op. 40.
13/25 June 1878 26 June/8 July 1878 Continuing work on the piano pieces and the Six Romances, Op. 38.
4/16 November 1878 15/27 November 1878 Here he composed the last two movements of the Suite No. 1, before leaving for Italy.
9/21 April 1879 3/15 May 1879 During this visit Tchaikovsky orchestrated and arranged his Suite No. 1 for piano duet, before taking up the orchestration of his opera The Maid of Orleans.
14/26 May 1879 20 June/2 July 1879 Completing the orchestration of the first two acts of The Maid of Orleans.
7/19 July 1879 7/19 August 1879 Orchestrating the first two scenes of Act III of The Maid of Orleans.
29 September/11 October 1879 24 October/5 November 1879 Starting work on his Piano Concerto No. 2.
13/25 April 1890 2/14 July 1880 He completed the orchestration of the Piano Concerto No. 2 (28 April/10 May) and the Italian Capriccio (15/27 May), as well as arranging the latter work for piano duet, and correcting proofs of the score of The Maid of Orleans, and starting work on the Six Duets, Op. 46.
31 July/12 August 1880 3/15 August 1880 Correcting the proofs of the Piano Concerto No. 2 and Italian Capriccio.
6/18 August 1880 8/20 November 1880 As well as further proof-correcting, Tchaikovsky wrote the Seven Romances, Op. 47, the Serenade for String Orchestra, the overture The Year 1812, and also revised his overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet.
24 December 1880/5 January 1881 6/18 January 1881 The composer returned to Kamenka to spend Christmas with his family.
29 April/11 May 1881 21 July/2 August 1881 During this visit Tchaikovsky began to compose his All-Night Vigil.
25 July/6 August 1881 8/20 September 1881 While continuing to write his own All-Night Vigil, the composer worked on editing and arranging Dmitry Bortnyansky's church music.
5/17 October 1881 30 October/11 November 1881 More work on Bortnyansky's compositions, before leaving for western Europe.
26 April/8 May 1882 3/15 June 1882 A little work on the opera Mazepa.
26 July/7 August 1882 5/17 August 1882 Further slow progress on Mazepa.
21 August/2 September 1882 26 September/8 October 1882 During this visit Tchaikovsky wrote Six Pieces, Op. 51 for piano, and part of the second act of Mazepa.
28 September/10 October 1882 12/24 November 1882 After completing the draft of Mazepa, Tchaikovsky set about its orchestration.
5/17 October 1883 13/25 October 1883 On this visit he completed the orchestration of the Suite No. 2, and worked on its arrangement for piano duet.
19/31 October 1883 16/28 November 1883 Working on the Sixteen Songs for Children, Op. 54.
12/24 April 1884 8/20 June 1884 Tchaikovsky drafted the whole of the Suite No. 3, and arranged it for piano duet.
29 October/10 November 1885 Around 10/22 November 1885 Working on the Jurisprudence March, which was completed on 5/17 November.
26 August/7 September 1888 2/14 September 1888 Correcting the proofs of the Symphony No. 5.
Around 22 August/3 September 1889 4/16 September 1889 Resting after completing the ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
15/27 August 1890 30 August/11 September 1890 "Concerning my visit to Kamenka, I can say that it has left me with a very sad impression. Everyone seems to have aged, and there is an overwhelming air of melancholy, with no sign of its previous joyfulness" [2].
23 December 1890/4 January 1891 4/16 January 1891 Visiting his family for the Christmas holidays. This would be the last time he would see his sister Aleksandra, who died on 28 March/9 April 1891.
20 August/1 September 1891 27 August/8 September 1891 Working a little on the opera Iolanta.
24 December 1891/5 January 1892 26 December 1891/7 January 1892 A brief visit to his family before leaving for a conducting tour in northern Europe.
26 January/7 February 1893 1/13 February 1893 Visiting between conducting tours in Odessa and Kharkov.

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Notes and References

  1. Letter 70 to Aleksandra Davydova, 24 August/5 September 1865.
  2. Letter 4212 to Nadezhda von Meck, 4/16 September 1890.