Suite No. 1

Tchaikovsky Research

Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 1 in D minor, Op. 43 (TH 31 ; ČW 28), was written and orchestrated between August 1878 and April 1879, except for the second movement (Divertimento), which was added in August 1879.


The Suite is scored for an orchestra comprising 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A, B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F), 2 trumpets (in D, F) + 2 timpani, triangle, glockenspiel + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

Movements and Duration

There are six movements [1]:

  1. Introduzione e Fuga. Andante sostenuto—Moderato e con anima (D minor, 200 bars)
  2. Divertimento. Allegro moderato (B-flat major, 238 bars)
  3. Intermezzo. Andantino semplice (D minor, 240 bars)
  4. Marche miniature. Moderato con moto (A major, 124 bars)
  5. Scherzo. Allegro con moto (B-flat major, 242 bars)
  6. Gavotte. Allegro (D major, 165 bars)

The complete suite lasts between 35 and 40 minutes in performance.


In the early stages of composition, Tchaikovsky did not envisage that his new work would take the form of a suite. On 15/27 August 1878 he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Brailov: "This morning I had such an urge to write down an orchestral scherzo that I could not resist the urge, and spent two hours working on it" [2]. The idea to compile an orchestral suite occurred to him later. In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 August/7 September the same year, from Verbovka, Tchaikovsky wrote: "In Brailov I managed to note down on paper sketches for an orchestral scherzo. It was only afterwards that the idea came into my head for a whole cycle of pieces for orchestra, which should form a Suite in the style of Lachner. On arriving in Verbovka, I felt I simply could not resist my inner compulsion, and consequently hastened to set down on paper sketches for this suite. I worked with such enjoyment, with such enthusiasm, that I literally did not notice the hours fly by. Currently three movements of these future orchestral pieces are ready, a fourth is roughly outlined, while a fifth is taking shape in my head ... The suite will consist of five movements: 1) Introduction and Fugue, 2) Scherzo, 3) Andante, 4) Intermezzo (Echos de bals), 5) Rondo" [3].

During the course of composition, the names of the movements were continually changing. For instance, in letters to Modest Tchaikovsky of 13/25 November and to Pyotr Jurgenson of 15/27 November 1878, the composer called the third movement Andante melancolico, and the last two movements: March of the Lilliputians and Dance of the Giants [4].

After Tchaikovsky had worked on the sketches of the Suite in Verbovka, work was interrupted for some time. On 29 August/10 September 1878, Tchaikovsky left Kamenka for Saint Petersburg, before arriving in Moscow on 10/22 September. After deciding once and for all to resign from the Conservatory, Tchaikovsky again went to Saint Petersburg on 7/19 October, returning to Kamenka in early/mid-November [5]. Here for the first time in months he had the opportunity to resume work on the Suite. "You asked how my suite is coming along?", he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Kamenka on 6/18 November, "... It has not progressed one jot. I was unable to work either in Moscow or in Saint Petersburg" [6].

While staying at Kamenka, Tchaikovsky discovered that the book containing sketches for the first three movements had been left behind in Saint Petersburg; on 4/16 November 1878 he wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "Please, my dear fellow, find out where Akim, or my landlady, or her maid have put my pencil sketches and notebook, which is of the utmost importance to me, as it contains three movements from my new symphonic work... turn the place upside down and send it to me, as soon as I can tell you my address in Florence" [7].

In the absence of the manuscript of the first three movements, the composer set to work on the successive movements of the Suite [8]. By 11/23 November the last two movements were ready in sketch form [9]. Almost every day, his letters to his friends and his brothers expressed his concern as to the fate of the sketches for the first three movements. On 14/26 November, Tchaikovsky again wrote to his brother Anatoly: "The manuscript (if it's been found) should be sent at once to the aforementioned address, but if you experience any difficulties then take it to O. I. Jurgenson and instruct him to send it to me" [10].

A few days later Tchaikovsky left Kamenka for Florence, which he reached on 20 November/2 December. The following day he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "My brother Tolya has written to me that the manuscript had been found, and I should receive it any day now. I am eager to set about the instrumentation of the suite, before turning to a new opera subject which greatly attracts me—namely The Maid of Orleans by F. Schiller" [11].

On 22 November/4 December, Tchaikovsky took up the orchestration of the last two movements from his Suite [12]. On 24 November/6 December the fourth movement of the Suite was finished, as indicated by the date at the end of this movement in the manuscript score—Marche miniature: " Firenze 24 XI (6 Xll) 1878". In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 November/7 December he reported: "I have already finished the fourth movement of the suite and set about the fifth" [13]. He informed Modest Tchaikovsky on 27 November/9 December 1878 that this work had been completed [14].

While awaiting the manuscript of the first three numbers, on 28 November/10 December 1878 Tchaikovsky began arranging the last two movements for piano duet. By 29 November/11 December the arrangement of the finale had been prepared, and the next day he set about arranging the fourth [15]. In letters to his brothers he continued to make almost daily enquiries about the Suite. Eventually the piano score was complete, but the manuscript had still not arrived. "God knows what's going on! I find myself in a ridiculous situation", Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest on 4/16 December. "...reminiscent of a fellow who is running full steam ahead, when suddenly a brick wall springs up from out of nowhere. I still have not received my unfortunate manuscript! In my first week and a half here I have most enthusiastically orchestrated and even made a piano duet arrangement of the last two movements of my Suite in the absence of the first three... And so I am forced to endure absolute idleness, because you know very well that I never start a new work before getting the old one off my hands" [16].

So, without waiting for the manuscript, Tchaikovsky set to work on the opera based on his chosen subject of The Maid of Orleans. On 18/30 December he arrived in Paris. "I consider the manuscript to have been lost, and have already reconciled myself to this fact", he wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky on 26 December 1878/7 January 1879 [17]. On 4/16 January 1879 he reported from Clarens: "Imagine my unrestrained joy... Now finally I have received the manuscript that has been travelling around for so long" [18]. Some days later he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "How glad I was to see those jumbled pages of notes. They are priceless to me because I could never accurately reproduce the contents of the missing three movements" [19].

However, absorbed in working on the opera, Tchaikovsky could not immediately take up the instrumentation of the recently received sketches of the Suite. He only returned to the Suite after completing the sketches of the opera, and it seems that around this time he took the decision to transfer the original final movement of the suite, Dance of the Lilliputians, to The Maid of Orleans, where it became the Dance of the Clowns and Tumblers (Act II, No. 11c) [20]. This would be replaced by a new final movement, entitled Gavotte.

On 22 February/6 March he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "Today I have been busy putting in order the disparate scraps [of the opera], as well as the suite. Tomorrow I shall put the finishing touches to the fugue of this suite, but from the day after tomorrow until I find myself up in Saint Petersburg, there is no more opportunity to work" [21]. At the end of February/beginning of March, Tchaikovsky left for Saint Petersburg.

On 19/31 March he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Saint Petersburg: "During these two weeks here I would like to try to make myself as settled as possible, and to work in earnest on the instrumentation of the suite" [22].

In a letter of 22 March/3 April he wrote to her that he was doing a little work on the Suite [23]. It is impossible to establish how much work Tchaikovsky did in Saint Petersburg, and whether any of the movements were completed. On 4/16 April Tchaikovsky travelled to Moscow, and on 9/21 April in Kamenka. "I have been occupied since my second day's stay here, and my infamous and much-neglected suite should quickly progress to its conclusion. Since I want to make the piano duet arrangement myself, I suppose that I shall be sitting over the suite until the end of April", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 12/24 April [24].

By 14/26 April, the full score of the Suite had been completed, and work then began on the arrangement for piano duet [25] (see below).

"I'm working very assiduously...", he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson on 19 April/1 May. "I want to divest myself of this unfortunate and utterly troublesome suite as quickly as possible. Within three days it should all be finished, and I cherish the sweet hope that next season it will be performed from the printed notes. Either I'm very much mistaken, or this will be a successful thing that will take hold very rapidly. It has very modest and uncomplicated instrumentation." [26].

On 23 April/5 May 1879, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "I have finished the suite. Tomorrow I shall send it to Moscow, and during the summer it will be printed" [27]. At the end of the manuscript full score is the date: "Kamenka. 24 Apr 1879" [O.S.].

That same day the Suite was dispatched to Pyotr Jurgenson, who sent the full score for engraving in Leipzig, and asked Karl Klindworth to review the piano duet arrangement [28]. The Suite was about to be printed, when the composer noticed that all the movements were written in duple time. "This is impossible...", he wrote to Jurgenson on 12/24 August, "And since No. 4 is of dubious merit, then I've hastened to write a substitute item in waltz time, which is incomparably better. As soon as I've finished the opera—and this should be accomplished within a week—I shall orchestrate this new number and bring it to you in September together with everything else outstanding. Is this a possibility, or am I too late? For God's sake reply to me right away at Kamenka. If it is too late, then all the same I would ask you to insert this new number, because it's impossible to leave the whole suite in a single meter. For God's sake forgive my disarray and carelessness." [29].

Tchaikovsky also wrote about the newly composed number, which received the title Divertimento [30] to his brother Anatoly: "I want to change one of the movements in my new suite. I composed it yesterday, and it should only take a day to orchestrate" [31].

On 22 August/3 September, while staying at Simaki, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck that he was about to commence the instrumentation and piano duet arrangement of the newly composed number [32]. Pyotr Jurgenson advised Tchaikovsky against dropping the Marche miniature (No. 4), and Tchaikovsky sought judgement on the matter from Sergey Taneyev, in whose opinion he had absolute faith [33]. Taneyev's verdict concurred with Jurgenson's, according to a letter from the composer to Nadezhda von Meck on 20 December 1879/1 January 1880 [34], and so the Marche was retained, although this decision came too late to include it in Jurgenson's published score (see below).


The Suite was arranged for piano duet (4 hands) by the composer. The arrangement of the Gavotte was completed on 29 November/11 December 1878 [35], and of the Marche miniature on 30 November/12 December [36]. The first, third and fifth movements were arranged in the period 12/24 April to 22 April/4 March 1879, at Kamenka [37]. The additional Divertimento was arranged by Tchaikovsky on 22 August/3 September 1879 [38].


On 8/20 December 1879, the first performance of the Suite took place in Moscow at the sixth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. The composer was not present at the concert. Pyotr Jurgenson wrote to Tchaikovsky about the concert's great success in a letter of 10/22 December [39]. According to Jurgenson, the march "drew applause which would not stop until it was repeated". "And to think that we considered excluding the march", he added. "Better late than never, and so let the public have the march, i.e. in a supplement to the edition". But in this same letter, Jurgenson reported Nikolay Rubinstein's view that the Suite was very difficult to play. In response, Tchaikovsky reacted by writing letters to both Jurgenson and Sergey Taneyev, expressing his annoyance at this unjust complaint [40].

In Saint Petersburg the Suite was performed for the first time on 12/24 January 1880, at the sixth Russian Musical Society concert, conducted by Eduard Nápravník.

Other notable early performances included:

  • New York, Steinway Hall, Symphony Society concert, 3/15 January 1880, conducted by Leopold Damrosch (omitting the 4th movement)
  • Riga, Matinée concert, 11/23 January 1881, conducted by Julius Ruthardt
  • Frankfurt, 9th Museumsconcert, 22 January/3 February 1882
  • Dresden, Royal Capella Symphony Concert, 5/17 December 1881
  • Paris, 17th Châtelet concert, 5/17 February 1884, conducted by Jules Pasdeloup
  • Leipzig, Gewandhaus, 12th subscription concert, 24 December 1887/5 January 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Berlin, Philharmonic Society concert, 27 January/8 February 1888, conducted by Tchaikovsky (1st movement only)
  • Geneva, New Theatre, 25 February/9 March 1889, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Brooklyn, Academy of Music, Philharmonic Orchestra concert, 3/15 March 1889, conducted by Theodore Thomas (first complete performance in the United States)
  • Kiev, 5th Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 27 March/8 April 1889, conducted by Yevgeny Ryb
  • London, St. James's Hall, 3rd Philharmonic Society concert, 30 March/11 April 1889, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Tiflis, special Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 20 October/1 November 1890, conducted by Tchaikovsky
  • Odessa, 4th Russian Musical Society symphony concert, 13/25 March 1893, conducted by Leopold Auer (1st, 2nd and 4th movements only)


During the period September to November 1879, Tchaikovsky was occupied with correcting the proofs of the Suite. On 22 November/4 December, Pyotr Jurgenson informed Tchaikovsky that the Suite was ready [41]. The full score, parts and the composer's piano duet arrangement of the First Suite appeared in print at the end of November/start of December 1879.

The first editions of the full score and arrangement of the Suite omitted the Marche miniature. In 1880, the latter was subsequently engraved and issued as a supplement to the full score as "No. 4a", with independent pagination. In subsequent editions it was included as the fourth of six movements.

The full score and Tchaikovsky's piano duet arrangement of the Suite were published in volumes 19А (1948) and 49 (1956) of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Boris Karpov.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript full score (ф. 88, No. 73) [view] and arrangement for piano duet (ф. 88, No. 74) [view] are now preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow.


See: Discography


The Suite was secretly dedicated to the composer's friend and benefactress Nadezhda von Meck (1831–1894) [42].

External Links

Notes and References

  1. In the earliest editions of the Suite, the Marche miniature was omitted to leave just five movements.
  2. Letter 897 to Nadezhda von Meck, 14/26–17/29 August 1878.
  3. Letter 901 to Nadezhda von Meck, 25 August/6 September 1878.
  4. Letter 966 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 13/25 November 1878, and Letter 968 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 November 1878.
  5. See Letter 958 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 4/16 November 1878.
  6. Letter 959 to Nadezhda von Meck, 6/18 November 1878.
  7. Letter 958 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 4/16 November 1878.
  8. See Letter 963 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 9/21 November 1878.
  9. See Letter 964 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 11/23 November 1878, and Letter 966 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 13/25 November 1878.
  10. Letter 967 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 14/26 November 1878.
  11. Letter 973 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 November/3 December 1878.
  12. See Letter 974 to Nadezhda von Meck, 22 November/4 December 1878.
  13. Letter 980 to Nadezhda von Meck, 25 November/7 December 1878.
  14. Letter 986 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 27 November/9 December 1878.
  15. See Letter 992, 29 November/11 December 1878 and Letter 994 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 November/12 December–1/13 December 1878.
  16. Letter 1004 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 4/16 December 1878.
  17. Letter 1039 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 26 December 1878/7 January 1879.
  18. Letter 1057 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 4/16 January 1879.
  19. Letter 1061 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 7/19 January 1879.
  20. Evidence for this substitution only came to light in 2009 when the autograph score of the original Dance of the Lilliputians, bearing the date "Florence, 27 November 9 December 1878", was auctioned in London — see and also Aleksandr Komarov's article on the Tchaikovsky Open World website (in Russian).
  21. Letter 1118 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 22 February/6 March 1879.
  22. Letter 1136 to Nadezhda von Meck, 13/25 March–22 March/3 April 1879.
  23. Letter 1136 to Nadezhda von Meck, 13/25 March–22 March/3 April 1879.
  24. Letter 1152 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24 April 1879.
  25. See Letter 1155 to Pyotr Jurgenson and Letter 1154 to Nadezhda von Meck, both 14/26 April 1879.
  26. Letter 1157 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 19 April/1 May 1879.
  27. Letter 1162 to Nadezhda von Meck, 23 April/5 May 1879.
  28. See Letter 1182 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 May 1879, and Letter 1197 to Nadezhda von Meck, 2/14–6/18 June 1879.
  29. Letter 1252 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 12/24 August 1879.
  30. This new number became the second movement of the Suite.
  31. Letter 1253 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 12/24 August 1879. See also letters 1258 and 1260 to Nadezhda von Meck, 16/28–19/31 August 1879 and 21–23 August/2–4 September 1879, and Letter 1259 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 21 August/2 September 1879.
  32. Letter 1260 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 August/2 September–23 August/4 September 1879.
  33. Letter 1266 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 25 August/6 September 1879.
  34. Letter 1385 to Nadezhda von Meck, 20 December 1879/1 January 1880–21 December 1879/2 January 1880.
  35. See Letter 992 to Nadezhda von Meck, 29 November/11 December 1878.
  36. See Letter 994 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 November/12 December–1/13 December 1878.
  37. See Letter 1152 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24 April 1879, and Tchaikovsky's date on the manuscript of the arrangement.
  38. See Letter 1260 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 August/2 September-23 August/4 September 1879.
  39. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 10/24 December 1879 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  40. See Letter 1384 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 19/31 December 1879, and Letter 1396 to Sergey Taneyev, 4/16 January 1880.
  41. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 22 November/4 December 1879 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  42. See Letter 901 to Nadezhda von Meck, 25 August/6 September 1878.