Eighteen Pieces, Op. 72

Tchaikovsky's 18 Pieces (18 Morceaux), Op. 72 (TH 151 ; ČW 187 to 204) [1] were his last works for solo piano, completed in April 1893 at Klin.

Movements and Duration

  1. Impromptu
    Allegro moderato e giocoso (F minor, 119 bars).
  2. Berceuse
    Andante mosso (A-flat major, 80 bars).
  3. Tendres reproches
    Allegro non tanto ed agitato (C-sharp minor, 129 bars).
  4. Danse caractéristique
    Allegro giusto (D major, 218 bars).
  5. Méditation
    Andante mosso (D major, 85 bars).
  6. Mazurque pour danser
    Tempo di Mazurka (B-flat major, 192 bars).
  7. Polacca de concert
    Tempo di Polacca (E-flat major, 166 bars).
  8. Dialogue
    Allegro moderato (B major, 73 bars).
  9. Un poco di Schumann
    Moderato mosso (D-flat major, 95 bars).
  10. Scherzo-fantaisie
    Vivace assai (E-flat minor, 313 bars).
  11. Valse-bluette
    Tempo di Valse (E-flat major, 162 bars).
  12. L'espiègle
    Allegro moderato (E major, 46 bars).
  13. Echo rustique
    Allegro non troppo (E-flat major, 105 bars) [2].
  14. Chant élégiaque
    Adagio (D-flat major, 93 bars).
  15. Un poco di Chopin
    Tempo di Mazurka (C-sharp minor, 163 bars).
  16. Valse à cinq temps
    Vivace (D major, 100 bars).
  17. Passé lontain
    Moderato assai quasi Andante (E-flat major, 78 bars) [3].
  18. Scene dansante: Invitation au trépak (Танцевальная сцена: Приглашение к трепаку)
    Allegro non tanto (C major, 237 bars).

A complete performance of all eighteen pieces lasts between 60 and 70 minutes.


Returning to Klin on 3/15 February 1893 after a long period of absence, Tchaikovsky straight away set to work on composing his Symphony No. 6. At around this time he also assembled materials which were to form the basis for a series of piano pieces. On 5/17 February the composer told Modest Tchaikovsky: "In the meantime, in order to earn some money, I will compose a few piano pieces and romances" [4].

Tchaikovsky only began to compose these pieces in April, after completing the sketches of his Symphony No. 6 and fulfilling a number of concert engagements, from which he returned on 5/17 April 1893.

However, it is possible sketches for some of the piano pieces were made somewhat earlier. Inside the cover of one volume from the composer's complete edition of Mozart scores (preserved in his own library at Klin), themes for ten of the Op. 72 set can be found [5]. It is impossible to ascertain exactly when these sketches were made, but since they are found with sketches for the Symphony in E-flat major, they could date from October 1892, or earlier [6].

On 5/17 April 1893, Tchaikovsky wrote to Ilya Slatin from Klin: "I have been on holiday in Saint Petersburg with my family, which was very nice. I came back today and began collecting my thoughts to compose a whole series of miniature pieces" [7]. On 11/23 April in a letter to Vladimir Davydov he reported on his progress: "I've been performing my duties very punctiliously, and each day a musical offspring is born. However, these offspring are very much immature and insubstantial; I have no inclination whatsoever to create them, and do so only for the money. I'm only trying to ensure that they don't turn out too badly." [8].

By 15/27 April, ten pieces had already been written. "In the 10 days since returning from Petersburg, I have decided, for the want of money, to write a few little piano pieces, and have conditioned myself to write at least one a day during this month", Tchaikovsky wrote to Ilya Slatin on 15/27 April [9]. "I'm continuing to bake my musical pancakes", he wrote on the same day to Vladimir Davydov: "Today the tenth is being prepared. It's remarkable that the further I get, the easier and more enjoyable the job becomes. At the beginning it went slowly, and the first two or three items were merely the result of an effort of will, but now I cannot stop my ideas, which appear to me one after another, at all hours of the day" [10].

On 21 April/3 May, having written the eighteenth piece, Tchaikovsky completed the series, despite his initial intention of writing thirty: "It seems that I won't be able to write 30 pieces", he told Modest Tchaikovsky on 22 April/4 May: "In 15 days I've written 18 of them, and today I've brought them to Moscow" [11]. The pieces were immediately given to Pyotr Jurgenson for publication.

On the fair copy of the manuscript some of the pieces are dated, showing the day when they were completed. The first to be written was the Polacca de concert (No. 7) on 10/22 April; then Echo rustique (No. 13) - 11/23 April; Scherzo-fantaisie (No. 10) and Valse-bluette (No. 11) - both 12/24 April; Dialogue (No. 8) - 13/25 April; Invitation au trepak (No. 18) - 16/28 April; Chant élégiaque (No. 14) - 17/29 April; Passé lontain (No. 17)—20 April/2 May; Tendres reproches (No. 3) - 21 April/3 May. The dates of completion for the other nine pieces were not given.

In a letter to Aleksandr Ziloti of 3/15 May 1893, the composer recounted how he had originally intended that the eighteen pieces should be divided into three sets, one of which would have been dedicated to him [12]. But because Tchaikovsky had promised dedications to so many people. he dedicated only one piece – Scherzo-fantaisie (No. 10) – to Ziloti, but promised to dedicated to him a large-scale orchestral work.


The piano pieces were published by Pyotr Jurgenson in September 1893 as Op. 72. They are included in volume 53 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Anatoly Drozdov (1949).


The autograph scores of all eighteen pieces are preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 119 [view]).


See: Discography


Each piece is dedicated to a different individual: Impromptu (No. 1) is dedicated to Varvara Maslova; Berceuse (No. 2) – to Pyotr Moskalev; Tendres reproches (No. 3) – to Avgust Gerke; Danse caractèristique (No. 4) – to Anatoly Galli; Méditation (No. 5) – to Vasily Safonov; Mazurque pour danser (No. 6) – to Luiza Jurgenson; Polacca de concert (No. 7) – to Paul Pabst; Dialogue (No. 8) – to Yekaterina Laroche; Un poco di Schumann (No. 9) – to Anna Maslova; Scherzo-fantaisie (No. 10) – to Aleksandr Ziloti; Valse-bluette (No. 11) – to Nadezhda Kondratyeva; L'espiègle (No. 12) – to Aleksandra Svyatlovskaya; Echo rustique (No. 13) – to Alina Bryullova; Chant élégiaque (No. 14) – to the memory of Vladimir Sklifosovsky; Un poco di Chopin (No. 15) – to Sergey Remezov; Valse à cinq temps (No. 16) – to Nikolay Lents; Passé lontain (No. 17) – to Nikolay Zverev; Invitation au trepak (No. 18) – to Vasily Sapelnikov.

Related Works

Scherzo-fantaisie (No. 10) appears to have been based on sketches for the third movement of the abandoned Symphony in E-flat major. The main theme of its trio is the Ukrainian folk-song 'The Crane' (Журавель), which Tchaikovsky also used in the finale of his Symphony No. 2, and appears as No. 18 from Set 1 of Mariya Mamontova's collection of Children's Songs on Russian and Ukrainian Tunes.

External Links

Notes and References

  1. As '18 Morceaux' in ČW, where the following English translations are given for titles of the individual pieces: 1. Impromptu; 2. Cradle Song; 3. Tender Reproaches; 4. Character Dance; 5. Meditation; 6. Mazurka for Dancing; 7. Concert Polonaise; 8. Dialogue; 9. A Bit of Schumann; 10. Scherzo-Fantasy; 11. Waltz-Bagatelle; 12. Prankish Girl; 13. Rustic Echo; 14. Elegiac Song; 15. A Bit of Chopin; 16. Quintuple Waltz; 17. Distant Past; 18. Dance Scene (Invitation to Trepak).
  2. In the manuscript score No. 13 has the alternative title Refrain fantastique.
  3. Entitled Echo d'un passé lontain in Tchaikovsky's sketches.
  4. Letter 4858 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 5/17 February 1893.
  5. Nos. 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18. The same volume contains sketches for a Nocturne in B major (TH 239), which may originally have been intended as part of the same cycle. See also the Etude in E-flat major (TH 240).
  6. See Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue of P. I. Čajkovskij's Works (2006), p. 204.
  7. Letter 4910 to Ilya Slatin, 5/17 April 1893.
  8. Letter 4913 to Vladimir Davydov, 11/23 April 1893.
  9. Letter 4918 to Ilya Slatin, 15/27 April 1893.
  10. Letter 4916 to Vladimir Davydov, 15/27 April 1893.
  11. Letter 4921 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 22 April/4 May–23 April/5 May 1893.
  12. Letter 4925 to Aleksandr Ziloti, 3/15 May 1893.