The piece is scored for solo violin and an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F) + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.
There is one movement: Andante (B-flat minor, 207 bars), which lasts approximately 10 minutes in performance.
On 13/25 February 1875, Tchaikovsky informed his brother Modest that "I've already written the violin piece, which I promised to Auer" . It is unclear whether the piece had been orchestrated by this time, and there are no other references to the work in the composer’s correspondence.
Tchaikovsky also arranged the Sérénade for violin and piano, probably in February 1875.
On 16/28 January 1876, Adolph Brodsky gave the premiere of the Sérénade mélancolique at the seventh symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, and he also gave the works' first performance in Saint Petersburg on 6/18 November 1876 at the first RMS symphony concert, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. Other notable performances in Tchaikovsky's lifetime were:
- Paris, 3rd Russian symphony concert, 8/20 September 1878, Stanisław Barcewicz (violin), conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein
- London, Crystal Palace, 28 April/10 May 1879, Pablo de Sarasate (violin), conducted by August Manns
- Tiflis, 2nd Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 2/14 April 1886, Konstantin Gorsky (violin), conducted by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
- Vienna, Philharmonic Society concert, 11/23 November 1887, František Ondříček (violin), Ludwig Rottenberg (piano) — in Tchaikovsky's arrangement for violin and piano
- Kiev, 3rd Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 4/16 February 1889, Pavel Pustarnakov (violin)
- Paris, 23rd Colonne symphony concert, 24 March/5 April 1891, Johannes Wolf (violin), conducted by Tchaikovsky
- Warsaw, 2/14 January 1892, Stanisław Barcewicz (violin), conducted by Tchaikovsky
- Arrangement for violin and piano, 9 pages. Plate 2742 — April 1876
- Orchestral parts. Plate 2749 — February 1876
- Full score, 29 pages. Plate 2750 — November 1879 .
In Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works the full score of the Sérénade was published in volume 30A, edited by Valentina Rachkovskaya (1949), and the violin-piano arrangement in volume 55A, edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin (1946).
The whereabouts of Tchaikovsky's autograph full score and piano arrangement are unknown.
The Sérénade was originally written for the violinist Leopold Auer, with whom Tchaikovsky had become acquainted in January 1875 . However, in 1881, Tchaikovsky was offended by Leopold Auer's refusal to perform his Violin Concerto, and wanted to withdraw both the dedication of the concerto and of the Sérénade mélancolique. On 19/31 December 1881, Pyotr Jurgenson wrote to Tchaikovsky about the concerto: "We are deleting Auer's name from the title pages, but is it too late? You see, this is only on the new editions. The Serenade, I think, can be done quickly" . However, the dedication to Auer was retained on Jurgenson's later editions of the Sérénade mélancolique.
Notes and References
- Entitled 'Melancholy Serenade' in ČW.
- See Letter 391 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 13/25 February 1875.
- See letters 865, 870, 872, 883, 885 and 891 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 1/13 July, 12/24 July, 18/30 July, 29 July/10 August, 2/14 August, 3/15 August and 8/20 August 1878.
- See also Auer's recollections in: (1913).
- Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 19/31 December 1881 — Klin House-Museum Archive.