Characteristic Dances

Tchaikovsky Research
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Tchaikovsky's Characteristic Dances (Характерные танцы) for orchestra (TH 37 ; ČW 428) [1] were composed and orchestrated by the spring of 1865. They were also the first of his works to receive a public performance, although the score has since been lost.


According to Modest Tchaikovsky, "it is difficult to establish their date of composition, but it can certainly be said that by the spring of 1865 they had already been completed, and were ready for public performance" [2].


On 30 August/11 September 1865, the first performance of the Characteristic Dances took place in the concert hall of Pavlovsk railway station, conducted by Johann Strauss the younger [3]. Tchaikovsky reported to Aleksandra Davydova in a letter of 1/13 September 1865: "I have still not heard any music whatsoever. By an odd coincidence, the day after I arrived [in Saint Petersburg] my dances were played for the first time in Pavlovsk, but I only saw the posters in the evening, when it was too late to go. Laroche went, and was very satisfied with the whole thing" [4].

This Characteristic Dances were the first of Tchaikovsky's works to be given a public performance, and it was the first appearance of his name on a concert programme.


The Dances were never published in their original form, and no manuscript score has come to light.

Related Works

In 1867, when composing the opera The Voyevoda, Tchaikovsky included the Characteristic Dances in a re-orchestrated and somewhat altered form at the start of Act II, as the Dances of the Chambermaids.

Notes and References