Boris Godunov

Tchaikovsky's music to the Fountain Scene in Pushkin's tragedy Boris Godunov (Борис Годунов) (TH 15 ; ČW 423) [1] was written at an unspecified date September 1863 and December 1865 as part of this composition studies at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. The music was never published, and the autograph score has been lost.


The piece was scored for large orchestra, including harp (see below).


Aleksandr Pushkin's play Boris Godunov was written in 1825. Tchaikovsky's music was written to accompany scene XV ("Night. The Garden. The Fountain").


The music was composed as an assignment for Anton Rubinstein, as part of Tchaikovsky's studies at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Adelaida Spasskaya, a fellow student of Tchaikovsky at the conservatory, wrote: "I recall how A. G. [Rubinstein], after going over a fairly large number of instruments with us, including the harp, had us write and orchestrate, employing the harp, the fountain scene from Boris Godunov. No one, of course, wrote anything worthwhile. Only P. I. Tchaikovsky fulfilled this task brilliantly" [2].

Aleksandr Rubets also recalled his memoirs that Anton Rubinstein: "... had Tchaikovsky write music for the Fountain Scene from Pushkin's Boris Godunov. This turned out to be quite a substantial composition and was fully orchestrated. Perhaps the score for this scene is preserved among the composer's papers; for the present it is not to be found in the catalogue of his works. It was, I remember, both soaring and inspired, despite its Italianisms" [3].

In his letters to Tchaikovsky of 11/23 January and 27 January/8 February 1866, Laroche considered Boris Godunov, the Characteristic Dances, the overture to The Storm and the piece The Romans at the Coliseum to be "student works, preparatory and experimental, judged particularly unfavourably because of their misuse of the brass instruments" [4].


No performances of the piece have been documented.


The full score was taken to Saint Petersburg by the composer's aunt Yelizaveta Shobert, and was later returned by Herman Laroche to Tchaikovsky in Moscow [5]. Unfortunately its later whereabouts remain unknown.

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'Music to the Scene 'Night. Garden. Fountain' from the tragedy "Boris Godunov"' in ČW.
  2. Adelaida Spasskaya, Товарищеские воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1899). Quoted in Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky through others' eyes (1999), p. 43.
  3. Aleksandr Rubets, Воспоминания проф. А. И. Рубца о первых годах Петербургской консерваторий (1912). Quoted in Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky through others' eyes (1999), p. 48.
  4. See letters from Herman Laroche to Tchaikovsky, 11/23 January 1866 and 27 January/8 February 1866 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  5. See letter from Herman Laroche to Tchaikovsky, 29 September/11 October 1866 — Klin House-Museum Archive.