String Quartet in B-flat major

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Tchaikovsky wrote his unnumbered String Quartet in B-flat major (TH 110 ; ČW 89) in 1865 while he was a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Only one movement survives — an Allegro, with an introduction and coda.

Contents

Instrumentation

Scored for 2 violins, viola and cello.

Movements and Duration

Only one movement is known: Adagio misterioso—Allegro con moto (B-flat major, 403 bars), lasting around 12 minutes in performance.

Modest Tchaikovsky suggested there may have been other movements that were later destroyed by the composer [1], while Herman Laroche recalled that only one movement was was ever composed [2].

Composition

Nothing is known about the quartet's composition of the quartet, which was probably begun after the start of the conservatory term on 15/27 August 1865, and completed before the first performance on 30 October 1865/11 November 1865.

It is possible that this work was subsequently revised by the composer: Nikolay Kashkin recalled that the copy-book containing the score of the Scherzo à la russe for piano, written in 1867, also included a revised movement of a string quartet dating from Tchaikovsky’s student years [3]. Unfortunately the copy-book has been lost, but because the piano piece and the quartet in B-flat major share the same main theme, it is possible that the composer referred to another version of this quartet movement while composing the Scherzo à la russe.

Performances

The premiers of the quartet took place on 30 October/11 November 1865, at the sixteenth musical evening for students at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. The performers were: Konstantin Pushilov and Dmitry Panov (violins), Vasily Bessel (viola), and Aleksandr Kuznetsov (cello).

The first performance in Moscow seems to have only taken place on 14 February 1931, at a concert by the Beethoven Quartet: Dmitry Tsyganov and Vasily Shirinsky (violins), V. Borisovsky (viola), and S. Shirinsky (cello).

Publication

The quartet was published for the first time in 1940 by Muzgiz in Moscow, as "Unfinished Quartet" (Неоконченный квартет). In 1955 it was included in volume 31 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Anatoly Aleksandrov.

Autographs

Tchaikovsky's manuscript score is preserved in the Tchaikovsky House-Museum Archive at Klin (a1, No. 121).

Related Works

The main theme of the quartet (from bar 50) was a Ukrainian song heard by Tchaikovsky from garden workers at Kamenka during the summer of 1865. Two years later he re-used it in the the piano piece Scherzo à la russe.

Recordings

See: String Quartet in B-flat major: Recordings

Notes and References

  1. See Modest Tchaikovsky, Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 197, 201, 273 [back]
  2. See Herman Laroche, На память о П. И. Чайковском (1894), p. 17 [back]
  3. See Nikolay Kashkin, Воспоминания о П. И. Чайковском (1896), p. 49-50 [back]