Six Duets, Op. 46

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Tchaikovsky's Six Duets (Шесть дуэтов), Op. 46 (TH 102 ; ČW 312-317), were written between June and August 1880 at Kamenka and Simaki.

Contents

Instrumentation

Scored for soprano and mezzo-soprano (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6), soprano and tenor (No. 5) or soprano and baritone (No. 2), with piano accompaniment.

Movements and Duration

  1. Evening (Вечер)
    Andante non troppo (A-flat major, 121 bars).
  2. Scottish Ballad: Edward (Шотландская баллада: Эдвард) [1]
    Allegro agitato, ma non troppo (A minor, 171 bars).
  3. Tears (Слёзы)
    Andante molto sostenuto (G minor, 57 bars).
  4. In the Garden, By the Ford (В огороде, возле броду)
    Allegro moderato (A major, 67 bars).
  5. Passion Spent (Минула страсть)
    Allegro agitato (F minor, 198 bars).
  6. Dawn (Рассвет)
    Allegro moderato (E major, 147 bars).

Texts

  1. Ivan Surikov (1841–1880), from his poems The Sun Has Set (Солнце утомилось) and In the Still Air (В воздухе смолкает) (1864–66).
  2. Aleksey Tolstoy (1817–1875), from his poem Edward: A Scottish Folk-Ballad (Эдвард. Народная шотландская баллада) (1871) — a translation from the English of Edward from Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) [2].
  3. Fyodor Tyutchev (1803–1873), after an untitled poem (1850).
  4. Ivan Surikov (1841–1880), from his poem Song—from T. Shevchenko (Песнь—из Т. Шевченко) (ca.1869) — a translation from the Ukrainian poem In the Garden, By the Ford (Но вгородi коло броду) (1848) by Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861).
  5. Aleksey Tolstoy, after an untitled poem (1858).
  6. Ivan Surikov, from an untitled poem (1864–65).

In the Scottish Ballad (No. 2), five stanzas of Aleksey Tolstoy's poem were omitted, as was the refrain "Mother, my mother" before each repeated word in Edward's retort.

Composition

While correcting proofs of the opera The Maid of Orleans in May and June 1880, Tchaikovsky considered writing a vocal work [3]. On 5/17 June he told Nadezhda von Meck: "Yesterday I started to compose some small vocal pieces, and began with a duet to words to A. K. Tolstoy's Passion Spent" [4]. In this same letter he wrote of his intention to use verses by the poet Ivan Surikov ("He was quite a talented man, and his pieces are shot through with genuine sentiment") for his future work. References to work on the duets is also found in a letter to Karl Albrecht of 21 June/3 July [5]. Notes and sketches for Nos. 1, 2 and 5 can be found in collections the duets can be found in collections of poetry by Ivan Surikov and Aleksey Tolstoy in the composer's personal library at Klin [6].

On 10/22 July, Tchaikovsky wrote from Simaki to Nadezhda von Meck that he was making fair copies of the "the romances for two voices written at Kamenka" [7]. Returning to Kamenka, the composer completed the fair copies of the duets, and also the fair copies of the Seven Romances, Op. 47, written at Brailov and Simaki. Duets Nos. 1 and 2 were written on separate sheets, but the remaining duets are together one after another. On 24 August/5 September he told Pyotr Jurgenson and Sergey Taneyev that he had completed the duets and romances and would be sending them to Jurgenson via Anatoly Tchaikovsky [8] (who left Kamenka on 30 August/11 September).

Finally, in late August/early September, Tchaikovsky informed Nadezhda von Meck that he had completed the fair copies of the vocal pieces and sent them to Pyotr Jurgenson [9].

Out of all the duets, Tchaikovsky greatly favoured Tears (No. 3). In a letter of 3/15–4/16 July 1881, he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "The Scottish Ballad is also among my favourite offspring, but I am quite certain, alas, that it will never be performed as I imagined. It must not be sung, but declaimed quickly and with great passion" [10].

One further reference to the duets survives, in a letter of 4/16 June 1881 to Sergey Flerov. The latter approved of the duets, but criticised the "impossible words" of the Scottish Ballad (No. 2), and made remarks concerning the duet Dawn (No. 6): "in the second edition you need to change just one word in No. 6, namely: ‘Well, pray quickly'. This "well, pray" is terribly odd. It would be better to put "O, pray" [11]. Although he took exception to the first remark, the composer agreed with the second: "With regard to ‘well, pray', your comment is absolutely right, and I shall certainly attend to this matter, if and when the second edition is printed" [12]. However, in the next edition this passage remained unchanged.

Performances

Dawn (No. 6) was performed in Paris at the Salle Érard on 25 April/7 May 1889, with soloists Marie de Benardaky (soprano) and Juliette Conneau (mezzo-soprano).

Arrangements

The duet Dawn (No. 6) was orchestrated by Tchaikovsky at the request of Nina Fride and Yevgeniya Mravina for a royal command performance which took place in Saint Petersburg on 17/29 December 1889, conducted by Eduard Nápravník. According to Nina Fride, the duet was orchestrated by Tchaikovsky in just one night [13].

The request to orchestrate the duet was made to Tchaikovsky in a letter from Nina Fride of 11/23 November 1889: "I ask a big favour from you, which I hope you will not refuse. For our concert tour, Yevgeniya Konstantinovna Mravina and I have chosen your duet Dawn. Would you be so kind and obliging as to orchestrate it, if at all possible, without delay, i.e. the concert is due to take place very soon, on 20 November" [14]. Later that month, Yevgeniya Mravina repeated Nina Fride's request, and told Tchaikovsky that the concert had been postponed until December" [15].

On the manuscript of the orchestration, the composer added the notes "Ye. K. Mravina" and "N. A. Fride" to the vocal lines [16].

In 1898 the duet In the Garden, By the Ford(No. 4) was orchestrated by Sergey Taneyev at the request of Modest Tchaikovsky for a concert in memory of the composer, which took place on 24 October/5 November 1898 [17]. The score was published by Muzgiz in 1957.

Publication

The duets were published by Pyotr Jurgenson in April 1881 [18], and were included in volume 43 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1941), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin.

The orchestral version of Dawn (No. 6) was published for the first time in 1960 in volume 27 of the Complete Collected Works, edited by Irina Iordan.

Autographs

Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores of all six duets are preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 129). The composer's autograph of the orchestral version of Dawn (No. 6) is held at the Central Music Library of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

Recordings

See: Six Duets, Op. 46: Recordings

Dedication

All the duets are dedicated to the composer's niece, Tatyana Davydova.

Related Works

In the Garden, By the Ford (No. 4) sets the title to the tune of a Ukrainian folk song.

Notes and References

  1. In the autograph score the original title To the Mountains (Горе-горюшко) is struck out [back]
  2. See Richard D. Sylvester, Tchaikovsky's complete songs. A companion with texts and translations (2002), p. 292 [back]
  3. See Letter 1508 to Nadezhda von Meck, 2/14 June 1880 [back]
  4. Letter 1509 to Nadezhda von Meck, 5/17 June 1880. See also Letter 1510 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky of the same date [back]
  5. See Letter 1518 to Karl Albrecht, 24 June/6 July 1880 [back]
  6. Ivan Surikov, Стихотворения. Moscow, 1875, and Aleksey Tolstoy, Полное собрание Стихотворении, 1855-1877 гг. Saint Petersburg, 1877. The latter volume includes a pencil note "Duet?" against the poem We've Not Been Pursued by Malice (Нас не преследовала злоба), which was not ultimately used (see ČW 511)  [back]
  7. Letter 1533 to Nadezhda von Meck, 12/24–15/27 July 1880 — Tchaikovsky was at Kamenka until 30 June/12 July. See also Letter 1540 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 18/30 July, and Letter 1544 to Sergey Taneyev, 21 July/2 August 1880 [back]
  8. See Letter 1565 to Sergey Taneyev, 15/27 August–24 August/5 September 1880, and Letter 1566 from mid/late August]] to Pyotr Jurgenson [back]
  9. See Letter 1572 to Nadezhda von Meck, 26–31 August/7–12 September 1880 [back]
  10. Letter 1804 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15–4/16 July 1881 [back]
  11. Letter from Sergey Flerov to Tchaikovsky, 28 May/9 June 1881 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
  12. Letter 1774 to Sergey Flerov, 4/16 June 1881 [back]
  13. See П. И. Чайковский на сцене Театра оперы и балета имени С. М. Кирова (б. Мариинский). Сборник статей (1940), p. 409 [back]
  14. Letter from Nina Fride to Tchaikovsky, 11/23 November 1889 — State Central Archive for Literature and the Arts [back]
  15. Bars 136–149 of the original duet were omitted from the arrangement, which is scored for soprano and mezzo-soprano soloists, and an orchestra comprising 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A), 2 bassoons, 4 horns (in F), violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses  [back]
  16. Undated letter from Yevgeniya Mravina to Tchaikovsky — State Central Archive for Literature and the Arts [back]
  17. See letter from Modest Tchaikovsky to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 October 1898 — State Central Archive for Literature and the Arts [back]
  18. Passed by the censor on 1 March 1881 [back]