Yakov Polonsky

Tchaikovsky Research
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Yakov Polonsky (1819-1898), in an 1875 portrait by Ivan Kramskoy

Russian poet (b. 6/18 December 1819 in Ryazan; d. 18/30 October 1898 in Saint Petersburg), born Yakov Petrovich Polonsky (Яков Петрович Полонский).

After graduating from Moscow University in 1844, he published his first collection of poems in the same year. In 1851 he moved to Saint Petersburg, where he edited the literary journal Russian Word (Русское слово). In later life he worked in the department of the state censor, while maintaining a steady output of poetry.

Tchaikovsky's Settings of Works by Polonsky

Polonsky provided the libretto for Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (1874, revised in 1885 as Cherevichki), based on the story Christmas Eve (Ночь перед Рождеством) by Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852).

The texts of Tchaikovsky's Cantata for the Opening of the Polytechnic Exhibition (1872) and the chorus A Greeting to Anton Rubinstein (1889) were both specially written by Polonsky.

Tchaikovsky set three of Polonsky's poems in his Twelve Romances, Op. 60 (1886):

  • No. 7, Song of a Gypsy Girl (Песнь цыганки), from the poem of the same name (1853).
  • No. 9, Night: Monologue for Baritone (Ночь: Монолог для баритона), from the poem of the same name (1850).
  • No. 10, Beyond the Window, in the Shadows (За окном в тени мелькает), from Polonsky's poem The Summons (Вызов) (1844).

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

4 letters from the composer to Yakov Polonsky have survived, dating from 1872 to 1889, all of which have been translated into English on this website:

One letter from Polonsky to the composer, dating from 30 September/12 October 1889, is preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, No. 3649).

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