Six Pieces, Op. 51

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Tchaikovsky wrote his Six Pieces (Six morceaux) for solo piano, Op. 51 (TH 143 ; ČW 175 to 180) [1], in August and September 1882.

Contents

Movements and Duration

  1. Valse de salon
    Allegro (A-flat major, 342 bars).
  2. Polka peu dansante
    Allegro moderato (B minor, 183 bars).
  3. Menuetto scherzoso
    Moderato assai (E-flat major, 203 bars).
  4. Natha-Valse
    Moderato (A major, 173 bars) [2].
  5. Romance
    Andante cantabile (F major, 124 bars).
  6. Valse sentimentale
    Tempo di Valse (F minor, 201 bars).

A complete performance of all six pieces lasts around 30 minutes.

Composition

The idea for these pieces came from Nikolay Bernard, editor of the Saint Petersburg journal Nuvellist (Нувеллист). In January 1882, Bernard sent a letter to Tchaikovsky asking him to write for Nuvellist, "at the subscribers' request", six pieces for piano; if the composer was agreeable, four of them should have the titles Nocturne, Dreams, Salon Waltz and Russian Dance [3]. However, Tchaikovsky was bound by an agreement with his publisher, which gave Pyotr Jurgenson the right of first refusal to publish the composer's works. If Tchaikovsky were to write the pieces for Nuvellist this would have been in breach of the terms of the agreement.

At this point Pyotr Jurgenson expressed a willingness to publish the piano pieces for piano, and asked the composer to write them for his firm instead. Tchaikovsky viewed Jurgenson's proposal as an attempt to deny him income from other publishing houses, and so he declined the commission [4]. On 1/13 February 1882, Tchaikovsky wrote: "I carried out your interdict and wrote Bernard a polite refusal, because I considered that your point of view you were completely within your rights, and your argument was well-founded. All the same, I think it’s rather a shame" [5]. Jurgenson wrote in reply: "You recently declared how you had profited by selling me now fewer than 6, 12, 24 piano pieces... Naturally I would not wish that your muse should be awakened just for financial reasons" [6]. But on 23 February/7 March, Jurgenson repeated his request for piano pieces [7].

However, Tchaikovsky was now occupied with other work, and did not start composing the pieces; on 19/31 July, Pyotr Jurgenson reminded him again: "You've not forgotten my order for piano pieces? The Jurgenson brothers expect them without fail" [8].

Tchaikovsky did not fulfil his commission until late August/early September. On 10/22 September he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky, listing all the work he had done that summer, including "6 pieces for piano, which were commissioned from me my both the Jurgenson brothers" [9]. On 15/27 September he informed Pyotr Jurgenson, "The other day you anticipated my surprise, in the shape of 6 pieces for piano, which I only just delivered into the world. I wouldn't have written then, if Osip Ivanovich hadn't encouraged me to do so" [10].

Of the titles suggested by Nikolay Bernard, Tchaikovsky retained only one, Valse de Salon, which was published as the first number.

Publication

All the pieces were published by Pyotr Jurgenson in November 1882. The proofs (two sets) were corrected by the composer himself [11].

In 1949 the complete set of Six Pieces was published in volume 53 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Anatoly Drozdov.

Autographs

Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores for all six pieces are now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 117).

Recordings

See: Six Pieces, Op. 51: Recordings

Dedications

Each of the pieces from Op. 51 is dedicated to a different person: Valse de salon (No. 1) – to Mariya Kondratyeva; Polka peu dansante (No. 2) – to Anna Davydova; Menuetto scherzoso (No. 3) — to Anna Merkling; Natha-Valse (No 4) — to Natalya Plesskaya; Romance (No. 5) — to Vera Rimskaya-Korsakova; Valse sentimentale (No. 6) — to Emma Genton.

Related Works

No. 4 was a revised version of the Nathalie-Valse written in 1878. In 1882 the composer rewrote and extended this waltz, and changed the title to Natha-Valse, giving it a virtuosic style more suited to concert performance.

Notes and References

  1. As '6 Morceaux' in ČW, where the following English translations are given for individual pieces: 1. Salon Waltz; 2. Polka of Little Use for Dancing; 4. Natha' Waltz; 6. Sentimental Waltz  [back]
  2. In the autograph score No. 4 was originally styled Valse pour danser, with the tempo marking 'Tempo di Valse. Allegro'  [back]
  3. See letter from Nikolay Bernard to Tchaikovsky, 3/15 January 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
  4. See Letter 1934, 14/26 January 1882, and Letter 1939, 18/30 January 1882, to Pyotr Jurgenson, and letters from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 22 January/9 February–28 January/15 February and 6/18 February 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
  5. Letter 1954 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 1/13 February 1882  [back]
  6. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 14/26 February 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
  7. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 23 February/7 March 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive  [back]
  8. Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 19/31 July 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]
  9. Letter 2103 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 10/22–13/25 September 1882  [back]
  10. Letter 2108 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 15/27 September 1882  [back]
  11. See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 27 October/8 November 1882 — Klin House-Museum Archive [back]