Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34

Tchaikovsky Research

The Valse-Scherzo in C major, Opus 34 (TH 58 ; ČW 60) [1], was Tchaikovsky's second composition for violin and orchestra, written around January to February 1877. It appears to have at least been partly orchestrated by Tchaikovsky's former pupil, Iosif Kotek.


The pieces is scored for solo violin and an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + 2 horns (in F) + violins I, violins II, cellos, and double basses.


There is one movement: Allegro. Tempo di Valse (C major, 569 bars), which lasts approximately 9 to 10 minutes in performance.


Writing to his brother Modest on 18/30 January 1877, Tchaikovsky mentioned that the violinist Iosif Kotek had "ordered" a piece from him for a forthcoming concert [2]. Four days later Kotek wrote to Tchaikovsky: “Thank you in advance for the waltz; it will surely be wonderful, as is everything that you compose... this shall be a piece to impress everybody" [3]. In another letter from mid/late February, we read: "Incidentally, about the waltz. Why force yourself if you are tired? Of course, I would be delighted and infinitely glad if you were to write the waltz, especially since it is for me. I am still very glad that you have even started to think about this" [4].

In the period from March to August, we find no further references to work on the Valse. But, given that in March and April, Tchaikovsky wrote his Fourth Symphony, and that in May he was completely absorbed in composing the opera Yevgeny Onegin, it is likely that by this time the Valse had already been completed.

It seems that the waltz was partly or wholly orchestrated by Kotek, after Tchaikovsky completed the version for violin with piano. This is suggested by two letters from Kotek to Tchaikovsky: in October 1878, the violinist reported to Tchaikovsky on an unsuccessful performance of the piece: “Could my instrumentation be the reason that the waltz did not please?”, and early in 1879 he wrote: “I think that I badly orchestrated the Waltz ... what extraordinarily empty sounds!” [5]. None of Tchaikovsky's letters refer to the orchestration of the piece.


The piece was arranged for violin and piano by Tchaikovsky, probably in February 1877.


Wishing to perform the Valse one evening at Karl Davydov's home, Kotek wrote to Tchaikovsky in September 1877: "I asked you to send me the manuscript of the Valse—if it had not been sent for engraving. Now, my dear fellow! I am sorry to pester you with yet another request. This is something that Alyosha will enjoy: just imagine, since we met at Hřímalý's or at Brodsky's, I don't know who has the manuscript. Malozyomova is learning the accompaniment and we play on Friday of next week" [6].

The private performance took place, but evidently not as scheduled on 23 September/5 October, but sometime later, since Iosif Kotek reported only on 20 October/1 November that "Leopold Semyonovich is delighted with the waltz" [7].

The Valse-scherzo was performed on 8/20 September 1878 at the third Russian concert in Paris (in the Trocadero Hall), with the violinist Stanisław Barcewicz [8], and this was probably the first public performance; the next took place at the fifth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society in Moscow on 1/13 December 1879, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein, soloist Stanisław Barcewicz.


See also: Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34: Scores

In a letter of 25 August/6 September 1877, Iosif Kotek enquired of Tchaikovsky: "Do you know whether or not your waltz has been printed?" [9]. At the instigation of Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, the publication of the Valse-Scherzo (and also the Variations on a Rococo Theme) had been entrusted by Tchaikovsky to the Berlin publishers Luckhardt [10], but the edition was considerably delayed.

Early in 1878, Tchaikovsky asked Iosif Kotek to intervene with Luckhardt over the publication of the Valse-Scherzo and Variations on a Rococo Theme. He discovered that the publishers had still not begun the printing, and the composer cancelled his agreement with them, turning instead to his principal publisher, Pyotr Jurgenson [11].

The Valse-Scherzo was published by Pyotr Jurgenson in Moscow:

  • Orchestral parts (plate 3332) — June 1878
  • Arrangement for violin and piano (plate 3333) — September 1878
  • Full score (plate 17799) — April 1895.

In Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works the full score of the Valse-Scherzo 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 [12]. A manuscript copy of the full score — possibly written out by Iosif Kotek, and with tempo, dynamic and expressive markings added by Tchaikovsky — was sold at auction in Marburg, Germany, in 1979, and is now in a private collection.


See: Discography


The printed edition of the Valse-Scherzo carries the inscription: "à Monsieur Joseph Kotek".

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Translated as 'Waltz-Scherzo' in ČW.
  2. Letter 538 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 18/30 January 1877.
  3. Letter from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky, 22 January/3 February 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  4. Undated letter from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky, mid/late February 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  5. Quoted in Kseniya Davydova, Проблемы эпистолярий (1986).
  6. Letter from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky, 14/26 September 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  7. Letter from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky, 23 September/5 October 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  8. See letter from Nadezhda von Meck to Tchaikovsky, 20 September/2 October 1878 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  9. Letter from Iosif Kotek to Tchaikovsky, 25 August/6 September 1877 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  10. In his article The history of Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme" and the collaboration with Fitzenhagen (2019), Sergei Istomin ascertained that the publisher in question was actually Friedrich Luckhardt of Berlin, rather than the similarly-named Franz Ernst Christophe Leuckart in Leipzig, as had previously been believed: "It seems that Tchaikovsky himself had started the confusion about the name: in his letters, as well as in all musicological and biographical works about the composer, we find different varieties of the German publisher's name such as Leukhardt, Lukhardt, Leuckardt".
  11. See letters 677, 739, 772 and 800 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 5/17 December 1877, 24 January/5 February, 27 February/11 March, and 27 March/8 April 1878.
  12. If Kotek had been solely responsible for the orchestration, then it follows that an autograph full score in Tchaikovsky's hand may never have existed.