Sixteen Songs for Children, Op. 54
Tchaikovsky's Sixteen Songs for Children (Шестнадцать песен для детей), Op. 54 (TH 104 ; ČW 259-274), were written at Kamenka in October and November 1883, except for No. 16 which dates from around December 1880.
All the songs are written for high voice with piano accompaniment. In his preface to the published score, Tchaikovsky noted that "some of the pieces, e.g. No. 5 or No. 8, may be performed by a children's chorus in unison".
Movements and Duration
- Granny and Grandson (Бабушка и внучек)
Moderato (A minor, 63 bars).
- Little Bird (Птичка)
Andante con moto (G major, 45 bars).
- Spring: The Grass Grows Green (Весна: Травка зеленеет)
Allegro con spirito (G major, 71 bars).
- My Little Garden (Мой садик)
Allegro comodo (G major, 59 bars).
- Legend (Легенда)
Moderato (E minor, 80 bars).
- On the Bank (На берегу)
Allegro non troppo (C major, 51 bars).
- Winter Evening (Зимний вечер)
Moderato (C minor, 124 bars).
- The Cuckoo (Кукушка)
Moderato (G major, 133 bars).
- Spring: The Snow is Already Melting (Весна: Уж тает снег)
Allegro animato (F major, 57 bars).
- Lullaby in a Storm (Колыбельная песнь в бурю)
Moderato (F minor, 57 bars).
- The Little Flower (Цветок)
Moderato con moto (F major, 78 bars).
- Winter (Зима)
Moderato (D major, 57 bars).
- Spring Song (Весенная песня)
Allegro moderato (A major, 117 bars).
- Autumn (Осень)
Moderato assai (F sharp minor, 44 bars).
- The Swallow (Ласточка)
Allegro moderato (G major, 109 bars).
- Child's Song: My Lizochek (Детская песенка: Мой Лизочек)
Allegro moderato (A minor, 100 bars).
1. Aleksey Pleshcheyev (1825–1893), from his poem of the same name (1878):
Под окном чулок старушка
2. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem In imitation of the Polish (Подражание польскому) (1856) — a translation from the Polish of the poem Oracz de skowronka (1851) by Władysław Syrokomla (1823–1862):
Птичка божия проснулася с зарёю,
3. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from an untitled poem in the cycle Country Songs (Сельские песни) (1858) — a translation from an unidentified Polish source:
4. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem of the same name (1858):
Как мой садик свеж и зелен!
Был у Христа младенца сад,
6. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem of the same name (1874):
Домик над рекою,
7. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem of the same name (1872):
Хорошо вам, детки,
«Ты прилетел из города, — какие,
9. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem of the same name (1872):
Уж тает снег, бегут ручьи,
10. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, after his poem In a Storm (В бурю) (1872):
Ах, уймись ты, буря!
11. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem The Little Flower: On a motif of Louis Ratisbonne (Цветок. На мотив из Луи Ратисбонна) (1872) — a translation from the French of La Petite fleur by Louis Ratisbonne (1827–1900):
Весело цветики в поле пестреют;
12. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem From Life (Из жизни) (1873):
Дед, поднявшись спозаранку,
13. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from his poem Spring (Весна) (1853):
В старый сад выхожу я, Росинки
14. Aleksey Pleshcheyev, from an untitled poem (1860):
16. Konstantin Aksakov (1817–1860), after his poem An Mariechen (1836):
Мой Лизочек так уж мал, так уж мал,
Aleksey Pleshcheyev's collection of poems entitled Snowdrop was given to Tchaikovsky by the author himself , with the following inscription: "To Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, as a token of respect and gratitude for his wonderful music set to my poor words. A. Pleshcheyev. 1881 February 15th [O.S.] in Saint Petersburg". This volume contains the composer's original notes, including some short musical sketches, against more than thirty poems, most of which were not used .
The composer prefaced the published score with a foreword: "In the first place, the form of the music means I have had to take the liberty of shortening or rearranging some of A. N. Pleshcheyev's poems. I beg the respected poet to forgive this, but very few of his excellent pieces have been distorted".
As well as texts by Pleshcheyev, Tchaikovsky also considered poems by other authors. Reading through the July issue of Old Russia (Русская старина) in 1883, Tchaikovsky made an entry in his notebook: "If going to write children's songs, use two texts by Tumansky from Old Russia) . These poems by Vasily Tumansky — The Poor Child (Больное дитя) and The Complaint (Жалоба), both dating from 1883 — were not subsequently used in the collection.
In the published collection the text was abridged in five of the songs: Granny and Grandson (No. 1), Little Bird (No. 2), Lullaby in a Storm (No. 10), Winter (No. 12) and Spring Song (No. 13). The most significant cuts were in Nos. 1 and 12. Besides these Tchaikovsky introduced significant alterations to the texts in the song Granny and Grandson (No. 1), and lesser changes Little Bird (No. 2), On the Bank (No. 6), The Cuckoo (No. 8), Winter (No. 12), Spring Song (No. 13) and The Swallow (No. 15).
In the romance Night (No. 9), Tchaikovsky shortened Yakov Polonsky's poem, and he also made changes to the words in O, If Only You Knew (No. 3), Night (No. 9) and The Gentle Stars Shone for Us (No. 12).
Tchaikovsky first had the idea of composing a collection of children's songs in 1881. On 7/19 March that year he asked Pyotr Jurgenson to send him Karl Albrecht's Child's Songs and "any other sort of children's songs" . Then on 4/16 June he reported his intention to write a collection of children's songs .
After completing the Suite No. 2 on 13/25 October, Tchaikovsky spent five days in Kiev before returning to Kamenka on 19/31 October. From here he wrote to Nikolay Konradi: "Now I shall rest for a while, i.e. writing nothing, or next to nothing" . On the fair copy of the song Spring (No. 3). Tchaikovsky wrote the date " Kamenka, 23 Oct[ober] 1883" . On 24 October/5 November, the composer told Modest Tchaikovsky: "It is obvious that I cannot live without work here even for a few days, and scarcely had I finished my suite than I set about composing children's songs. carefully writing one each day. But this work is agreeable and easy because I've taken the texts from Pleshcheyev's Snowdrop, which is full of delightful things" .
The composer worked on the songs with great enthusiasm: "I am now writing a collection of children's songs, which I have been planning for some time"—he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 25 October/6 November 1883. "I am quite carried away with this work, and I think the songs will turn out well" .
On 30 October/11 November. Tchaikovsky told Praskovya Tchaikovskayathat composition of the songs had come to a halt: "I would have written more of them because I find this work very agreeable, but I have run out of suitable poems" . He also wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky on 31 October/12 November: "I have been writing some children's songs, but have had to stop due to a shortage of texts" .
It seems that at this point the rough draft was more or less complete, and work had begun on copying out the songs, as Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 1/13 November: "I am occupied with writing children's songs. This should have been completed during my holiday, had I not been carried away and made so many sketches, which I now yearn to be over and done with" .
The song Legend (No. 5) was orchestrated by Tchaikovsky on 2/14 April 1884 (according to the date on the manuscript), at the request of the baritone Dmitry Usatov, an artist at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow: "For the last three days I have been studying your songs for children, and the other day I saw a bill for a concert at the Bolshoi that I am to perform your Legend... Please excuse this impertinent request I make to you (and also to Altani): could you find the time to orchestrate this Legend a semitone higher, in F minor?" . Tchaikovsky duly complied with the artist's request, and the orchestral version was scored for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons, 2 horns (in F), and strings .
Legend (No. 5) was also arranged by the author for mixed chorus a cappella. This arrangement was made in January 1889, evidently at the request of Fyodor Becker, who asked Tchaikovsky to write two secular choruses for a concert of the Imperial Theatre Chorus. For this event the composer wrote the chorus The Nightingale and made an arrangement for mixed chorus of the children's song Legend, which was performed for the first time on 19/31 March 1889 at a secular choral concert by the Saint Petersburg Imperial Opera, conducted by Fyodor Becker.
On 3/15 November 1883. Tchaikovsky wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson from Kamenka: "Today I sent you 15 children's songs. They should preferably be published with illustrations, thus making a splendid present for children—but do whatever you think best. If you wish, you can add Lizochek to them" .
Travelling to Berlin in February 1884, the composer forgot to take the proofs of the children's songs with him, and on 8/20 February he asked Pyotr Jurgenson to engage Karl Klindworth to read the proofs: "To ensure that the words fit with the music you should either wait for me, or turn to Taneyev, Laroche, Kashkin, etc." .
All the songs were published for the first time by Pyotr Jurgenson in March 1884 . The Child’s Song (No. 16) had been published by Jurgenson in January 1881, and reprinted later that year in issue 1 of the Saint Petersburg monthly journal Children's Holiday (Детский отдых).
The score and parts of Tchaikovsky's choral arrangement of Legend (No. 5) were published by Pyotr Jurgenson in December 1889 or January 1890 . Early in 1891 the choral parts of Legend were published in Hamburg by Daniel Rahter, and Tchaikovsky himself supplied the German text for this edition and corrected the proofs .
The full score and parts the composer's orchestral arrangement of Legend (No. 5) were issued by Jurgenson in February 1892.
The Sixteen Songs for Children were published in volume 45 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1940), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin. The composer's orchestral and choral arrangements of Legend (No. 5) were included in volume 27 (edited by Irina Iordan, 1960), and volume 63 (edited by Lyudmila Korabelnikova and Marina Rakhmanova, 1990) of the same series respectively.
Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores of Nos. 1 to 15 are now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 140) [view]. The whereabouts of the autograph of No. 16 are unknown.
The autograph of Tchaikovsky's orchestral arrangements of Legend (No. 5) is also held at the Glinka Museum (ф. 88, No. 141a) [view], along with the composer's preliminary sketches for the same song (ф. 88, No. 141) [view], and Tchaikovsky's notes on the manuscripts of Sergey Taneyev's arrangements for voice and orchestra of Legend (No. 5) (ф. 85, No. 80) [view] and Autumn (No. 14) (ф. 85, No. 40) [view].
The manuscript of Tchaikovsky's choral arrangement of Legend has been lost.
Notes and References
- See Richard D. Sylvester, (2002), p. 164–165.
- See Richard D. Sylvester, (2002), p. 185–186.
- A. N. Pleshcheev, Подснежник. Стихотворения для детей и юношества [Snowdrop. Verses for children and young people] (Saint Petersburg, 1878) in Tchaikovsky's personal library at Klin (д1, No. 253).
- For more information on Pleshcheyev's texts considered but not ultimately used by Tchaikovsky, see TH 221 and ČW 483-499.
- Notebook No. 14 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- From Pushkin's poem of the same name in the cycle Song of the Western Slavs (Песни западных славян) (1834) — a translation from the French of La Guzla (1827) by Prosper Mérimée (1803–1870).
- Letter 1743 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 7/19 May 1881.
- Letter 1776 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 June 1881. See also Letter 1763 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 21 May/2 June 1881.
- Passed by the censor on 7 January 1881.
- Letter 2304 to Nikolay Konradi, 22 June/4 August 1883.
- It appears that at first Tchaikovsky departed from his normal routine and copied out each piece after it had been composed in rough. See also Letter 2376 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 23 October/4 November 1883.
- Letter 2374 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 20 October/1 November–24 October/5 November 1883.
- Letter 2377 to Nadezhda von Meck, 25 October/6 November 1883.
- Letter 2378 to Praskovya Tchaikovskaya, 30 October/11 November 1883.
- Letter 2379 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 31 October/12 November 1883.
- Letter 2380 to Nadezhda von Meck, 1/13 November 1883.
- Undated letter from Dmitry Usatov to Tchaikovsky — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- See Letter 4334 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 19 February/3 March 1891.
- Letter 2382 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 3/15 November 1883.
- Letter 2432 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 8/20 February 1884.
- Passed by the censor on 8/20 March 1884.
- Approved by the censor on 15/27 December 1890. See also Letter 3983 to Pyotr Jurgenson concerning the proofs of the chorus, 11/23 December 1889.
- See Letter 4322, 6/18 February 1891, and Letter 4361, 30 March/11 April 1891, both to Pyotr Jurgenson.