Overture in C minor

Tchaikovsky Research
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Tchaikovsky's student Overture in C minor (TH 38 ; ČW 36) was composed during the summer of 1865 at Kamenka, and orchestrated in January 1866 in Moscow.


The Overture is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in B-flat), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F, E), 2 trumpets (C, D), 3 trombones, tuba + timpani + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses, with optional cymbals and bass drum.


There is one movement: Andante—Allegro vivo (C minor, 662 bars), which lasts around 15 minutes in performance.


No information survives concerning the process of composing the Overture. In a letter to his brothers Anatoly and Modest of 10/22 January 1866, Tchaikovsky reports on his work on the instrumentation: "I've orchestrated the greater part of my summer overture, and to my horror it's turning out to be terribly long, which I didn't expect at all" [1].

As Nikolay Kashkin recalled, soon after Tchaikovsky's move to Moscow, Nikolay Rubinstein asked if any of his compositions could be performed in the 1866 concert season, and Tchaikovsky suggested his Overture in C minor [2]. Rubinstein considered that it could not possibly be performed [3].

On 19/31 January 1866 Tchaikovsky sent the manuscript to Herman Laroche in Saint Petersburg so that the latter might submit it to Anton Rubinstein for performance [4]. But Anton Rubinstein's judgement on the Overture was also unfavourable [5]. Subsequently the composer himself made the following note on the front of the full score: "Overture, written in Moscow in January 1866 and played nowhere (loathsome rubbish!)".

References to the Overture in C minor are also encountered in Sergey Taneyev's letters to Modest Tchaikovsky from 1896 and 1897. For instance, on 23 July/4 August 1897, Taneyev reported that: "I have now found the manuscript of the overture that you wrote about, in C minor (with the episode from the overture to The Storm)... and I can show it to you on your arrival" [6].


The Overture was only performed for the first time on 12 October 1931 in Voronezh, conducted by Konstantin Saradzhev, professor of the Moscow State Conservatory [7]. Saradzhev also directed a performance in Kiev the following year, as well as the Moscow premiere at the Radiotheatre Centre on 30 July 1934.


The Overture was not published during Tchaikovsky's lifetime. It was printed for the first time in 1952 in volume 21 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Pavel Lamm.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score is now preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive (a1, No. 50).


See: Discography

Related Works

The Overture's introduction (bars 1–90) is an extended version of the corresponding section from his earlier overture to The Storm (1864); this passage was later re-used in the Entr'acte to Act II of the opera The Voyevoda.

The central theme of the Overture (bars 176–247) was re-used in Act I (No. 7) of The Voyevoda [8]

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Letter 78 to Anatoly and Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22 January 1866.
  2. Nikolay Kashkin, Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1896), pp. 17–18.
  3. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 225.
  4. See letter from Herman Laroche to Tchaikovsky, 27 January/8 February 1866 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  5. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), pp. 225–226.
  6. Letter from Sergey Taneyev to Modest Tchaikovsky, 23 July/4 August 1897 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  7. See letter from Konstantin Saradzhev to Nikolay Zhegin, 29 December 1938 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  8. The manuscript score of the Overture contains the composer's pencil sketches for the added vocal parts in this passage.