Twelve Pieces, Op. 40

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Tchaikovsky's Twelve Pieces (Двенадцать пьес) for solo piano, Op. 40 ((TH 138 ; ČW 136 to 147) [1], subtitled "of moderate difficulty" («срелней трудности»), were written between February and April 1878.

Movements and Duration

  1. Etude
    Allegro giusto (G major, 114 bars).
  2. Chanson triste
    Allegro non troppo (G minor, 68 bars).
  3. Marche funèbre
    Tempo di Marcia funebre (C minor, 115 bars).
  4. Mazurka
    Tempo di Mazurka (C major, 153 bars).
  5. Mazurka
    Tempo di Mazurka (D major, 171 bars).
  6. Chant sans paroles
    Allegro moderato (A minor, 110 bars).
  7. Au village
    Andante sostenuto (A minor–C major).
  8. Valse
    Tempo di Valse (A-flat major, 191 bars).
  9. Valse
    Tempo di Valse (F-sharp minor, 231 bars).
  10. Danse russe
    Andantino (A minor, 120 bars).
  11. Scherzo
    Allegro vivacissimo (D minor, 236 bars).
  12. Rêverie interrompue
    Andante un poco rubato e con molto espressione (A-flat major, 125 bars).

A performance of the complete set lasts around 45 to 50 minutes.

Composition

"I have decided that each morning I shall write something new. Yesterday I wrote a romance, and today a piano piece", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Florence on 12/24 February 1878 [2]. The result of this decision was the composition of twelve piano pieces of moderate difficulty.

Tchaikovsky referred to the piece Rêverie interrompue (No. 12) in another letter of 13/25 February 1878 [3]. For its middle section the composer used a song which he heard through his window in Venice sung by a single street-singer [4].

While travelling from Florence to Clarens (Switzerland), the composer continued work on the piano pieces. The next reference to the piano pieces was on 28 February/12 March 1878 in a letter to Anatoly Tchaikovsky [5]. By mid/late March he had already completed seven pieces [6]. At the same time Tchaikovsky was working on the Violin Concerto and the Grand Sonata in G major. The sketches for the pieces were completed at Kamenka in April. "The 12 pieces of moderate difficulty for solo piano are ready—but of course, only in draft" [7]. The copying out of the pieces was accomplished by 13/25 July [8].

An variant of the Valse in F-sharp minor (No. 9) was written on 4/16 June 1878 in Sergey Taneyev's notebook (according to the author's date) [9].

Publication

On 29 July/10 August the composer sent the pieces to his publisher in Moscow, together with a number of other completed works (the Grand Sonata in G major, the Children's Album, the Six Romances, Op. 38, and the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom). While preparing the pieces for publication, Tchaikovsky asked Pyotr Jurgenson to: "ask Taneyev to play through these pieces, and correct any mistakes he might find" [10]. The proofs were corrected by Nikolay Kashkin, although Tchaikovsky himself also reviewed them [11]. The set was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1879.

The Twelve Pieces were published in volume 52 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1948), with the variant of the Valse (No. 9) appearing in an appendix to volume 53 of the same series (1949), both edited by Anatoly Drozdov.

In 2008 the set was included in volume 69a of the New Edition of the Complete Works, edited by Polina Vaidman and Lyudmila Korabelnikova.

Autographs

Tchaikovsky's manuscript score containing all twelve pieces is now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 115).

Recordings

See: Twelve Pieces, Op. 40: Recordings

Dedication

The pieces are dedicated to Modest Tchaikovsky. The manuscript score carries no dedication, but his name appeared on the first edition at the author's request.

Related Works

Danse russe (No. 10) is an adaptation of an additional number for the ballet Swan Lake written in 1877.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. As 'Twelve Pieces of Moderate Difficulty' in ČW, where the following English translations are given for individual pieces: 1. Study; 2. Sad Song; 3. Funeral March; 6. Song Without Words; 7. At the Countryside; 8. Waltz; 9. Waltz; 10. Russian Dance; 11. Interrupted Reverie.
  2. Letter 758 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24 February 1878.
  3. See Letter 759 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 13/25–14/26 February 1878, and also Letter 696, 20 December 1877/1 January 1878 (with a note of the song), and Letter 758, 12/24 February 1878, both to Nadezhda von Meck.
  4. Modest Tchaikovsky, Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 205.
  5. Letter 773 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 27 February/11 March–1/13 March 1878.
  6. See Letter 789 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 March 1878.
  7. Letter 820 to Nadezhda von Meck, 30 April/12 May 1878.
  8. See Letter 871 to Nadezhda von Meck, 13/25 July 1878.
  9. Until recently this piece had been wrongly dated to 1876 instead of 1878, and was consequently classified as an earlier, independent work: the Valse in F-sharp minor (TH 136).
  10. Letter 964 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 11/23 November 1878.
  11. See letters from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 24 October/5 November, 27 October/8 November and 16/28 November 1878 – Klin House-Museum Archive – and Letter 946 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 20 October/1 November 1878.