Overture in F major

Tchaikovsky Research

Tchaikovsky's Overture in F major (TH 39 ; ČW 34-35) was written and scored for a small student orchestra in the latter half of 1865, and was subsequently revised and re-scored for larger forces in February 1866.


The first version of the Overture was scored for a small student orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + horn (in F), trumpet (in F) + 2 timpani + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos and double basses.

The revised version has an expanded brass section of 4 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in F), and 3 trombones.


Both versions of the Overture are in one movement:

  • 1st version: Andante—Allegro molto (F major, 377 bars), approximate duration 6 minutes [1].
  • 2nd version: Moderato assai—Allegro con spirito (F major, 687 bars), lasting around 12 minutes in performance.


The Overture seems to have been written as a student assignment sometime between August and November 1865 [O.S.], although no contemporary reference survives concerning the process of composition. It most likely dates from after the composer's return to Saint Petersburg in September 1865, but it could possibly have been written at Kamenka the previous summer, at around the same time that the Overture in C minor was sketched.

The revised version of the Overture was apparently commissioned by Nikolay Rubinstein for a concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow. This seems to be referred to in a letter of February 1866 from Tchaikovsky to his brother Modest: "Rubinstein has tasked me with very important work, which I want to finish by the 3rd week of Lent." [2].

As well as re-scoring the whole Overture for larger forces, the composer greatly extended its introduction and development section, rewrote the transitions in the exposition and recapitulation, and substituted a completely new coda.


The Overture in its original version was performed for the first time on 27 November/9 December 1865 at the 18th conservatory student orchestra concert in the hall of the Mikhailovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, conducted by the composer [3]. This was Tchaikovsky's first public appearance as a conductor.

The second version of the Overture (for large symphony orchestra) had its first performance on 4/16 March 1866, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, at a special concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow. In Saint Petersburg, this version was performed for the first time on 1/13 May 1866, conducted by Anton Rubinstein, at a charity concert in the hall of the Mikhaylovsky Palace [4].


Both versions were published for the first time in volume 21 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Pavel Lamm (1952) [5].


Tchaikovsky's manuscript of the first version of the Overture is now preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (a1, No. 49) [6], while the second version is in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 71) [view].


See: Discography

External Links

Notes and References

  1. An audio reconstruction of the first version of the overture is included in our First Thoughts series.
  2. Letter 87 to Modest Tchaikovsky, written between 8/20 February and 20 February/4 March 1866.
  3. According to the accounts of the Russian Musical Society for 1865/66.
  4. See letter from Aleksey Apukhtin to Tchaikovsky, May 1866 — Klin House-Museum Archive (а4, No. 77).
  5. П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том 21 (1952).
  6. Tchaikovsky's note on the title page reads: "Overture, played under my direction in the presence of G[rand] D[uchess] Yelena Pavlovna in 1865" (Увертюра, игранная под моим управлением у В. К. Елены Павловны в 1865 г. П. Чайковскйй). On the last page are pencil sketches relating to the revised version.