Twelve Romances, Op. 60

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Tchaikovsky's Twelve Romances (Двенадцать романсов), Op. 60 (TH 106 ; ČW 281-292), were written in August and September 1886 at Maydanovo.



Scored for high voice (Nos. 1–4, 6–10), medium voice (Nos. 5, 12) or baritone (No. 11), with piano accompaniment [1].

Movements and Duration

  1. Last Night (Вчерашняя ночь)
    Allegro moderato (A-flat major, 60 bars).
  2. I'll Tell You Nothing (Я тебе ничего не скажу)
    Allegretto con moto (E major, 67 bars).
  3. O, If Only You Knew (О, если б знали вы)
    Allegro agitato (E-flat major, 67 bars).
  4. The Nightingale (Соловей)
    Allegro molto rubato e capriccioso (C minor, 106 bars).
  5. Simple Words (Простые слова)
    Tempo di Valse (Allegro) (F major, 163 bars).
  6. Sleepless Nights (Ночи безумные)
    Andante non troppo, un poco rubato (G minor, 46 bars).
  7. Song of a Gypsy Girl (Песнь цыганки)
    Allegro moderato (A minor, 81 bars).
  8. Forgive! (Прости!)
    Moderato (F major, 62 bars).
  9. Night: Monologue for Baritone (Ночь: Монолог для баритона)
    Moderato assai (G minor, 61 bars).
  10. Beyond the Window, in the Shadows (За окном в тени мелькает)
    Allegro vivo (F major, 64 bars).
  11. Exploit (Подвиг)
    Andante (G minor, 39 bars).
  12. The Gentle Stars Shone For Us (Нам звезды кроткие сияли)
    Andante tenore (F major, 47 bars).

A complete performance of the cycle lasts around 35 minutes.


  1. Aleksey Khomyakov (1804–1860), from his poem Nachtstück (1841).
  2. Afanasy Fet (1820–1892), from his poem Romance (Романс) (1885).
  3. Aleksey Pleshcheyev (1825–1893), after the French poem Prière by René-François-Armand Sully Prudhomme (1875) [2].
  4. Aleksandr Pushkin (1799–1837), from his poem of the same name (by 1834), after Three Greatest Sorrows (Tri naveće tuge) in the collection Serbian Folk Songs (Razlićne ženske pjesme) (1814) by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864) [3].
  5. "N.N." [= Tchaikovsky].
  6. Aleksey Apukhtin (1841–1893), from an untitled poem (1876).
  7. Yakov Polonsky (1819–1898), from his poem of the same name (1853).
  8. Nikolay Nekrasov (1821–1877), from an untitled poem (1856).
  9. Yakov Polonsky, from his poem of the same name (1850).
  10. Yakov Polonsky, from his poem The Summons (Вызов) (1844).
  11. Aleksey Khomyakov, from an untitled poem (1859).
  12. Aleksey Pleshcheyev [4], from his poem Words for Music(Слова для музыки) (1884).

In the romance Night (No. 9), Tchaikovsky shortened Yakov Polonsky's poem, and he also made changes to the words in O, If Only You Knew (No. 3), Night (No. 9) and The Gentle Stars Shone for Us (No. 12).


Tchaikovsky recounted the origins of these romances in a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 3/15 September 1886: "Upon finishing the opera [The Enchantress] I immediately began writing the romances... in the spring His Highness Konstantin Konstantinovich told me that the Empress would like me to dedicate a single romance to her; His Highness having taken it upon himself to act as intermediary on her behalf, and urged me to do so" [5].

The process of composition is described in detail in the composer's diary for 1886 [6]. This contains entries for almost every day that Tchaikovsky worked on the romances, demonstrating how much difficulty they caused the composer:

  • 19/31 August: "Composed romances for the Empress. Began not particularly well..."
  • 20 August/1 September: "Composed a romance".
  • 21 August/2 September: "After tea and a stroll, wrote a romance".
  • 22 August/3 September: "I was busy before dinner composing a romance, but not without some effort..."
  • 23 August/4 September: "Before Modya and Hubert left for the station, I wrote a romance..."
  • 24 August/5 September: "While waiting for Taneyev, tortured myself by writing another romance".
  • 25 August/6 September: "Wrote a romance and a letter"
  • 26 August/7 September: "After tea and a stroll around the garden wrote nearly 2 romances"
  • 29 August/10 September: "With considerable distaste I manufactured a romance. No enthusiasm, but since it's for the Empress, there must be at least 10 romances".
  • 30 August/11 September: "Weather extraordinarily beautiful. But after tea and a short walk, I still wrote a romance".

By 30 August/11 September, ten romances had been written (Nos. 2–10 and 12). "I've been doing an awful lot of work recently. The opera is finished, but I can't begin the instrumentation because the notepaper I ordered isn't ready, so instead I've written ten romances" [7].

The fair copies of the romances were made almost as soon as they had been sketched. The composer wrote of this in his diary:

  • 31 August/12 September: "I copied out the first romance"
  • 4/16 September: "Copied out a romance... Another romance ("Simple words")... Finished the copying" [8].
  • 5/17 September: "After a stroll... 2 romances before dinner... Yet more romances. Short walk... Returned to more drudgery".
  • 6/18 September: "Walking, hard work... Finished copying out one romance. Struggled vainly with more texts".
  • 7/19 September: "Copied out the last romance, but decided to compose two more... Composed... Busy... Copying out... An 11th romance to words by Khomyakov is ready".
  • 8/20 September: "Composed 12th romance to the wonderful text of The Corals, not without effort or strain... Finished the romance and copying out. By supper all the work was done".

On 9/21 September, the composer informed Modest Tchaikovsky: "I've now written two more songs, to round it up to an even dozen! They have all now been copied out and are on their way to Jurgenson. For the last songs I used texts by Khomyakov. What a poet he is and how charming are the two poems I selected! They're so lovely and original that I'm sure my music is much better than in all the others" [9].


The romances I'll Tell You Nothing (No. 2) and Sleepless Nights (No. 6) were performed, apparently for the first time, by Aleksandra Panayeva-Kartsova at a Philharmonic Society concert in Saint Petersburg on 5/17 March 1887, in the presence of the composer.


In November, Tchaikovsky corrected the proofs of the romances [10], and they were published for the first time by Pyotr Jurgenson in two parts: Nos. 1–6 in December 1886 [11], and the rest in February 1887.

The Twelve Romances, Op. 60, were included in volume 45 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works (1940), edited by Ivan Shishov and Nikolay Shemanin.


Song of a Gypsy Girl (No. 7) was orchestrated by Sergey Taneyev in 1891, and published by Pyotr Jurgenson the following year.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores of Nos. 1 to 5 and 9 to 12 are now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 144). The score of No. 6 was recently discovered in the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, Cologny, Switzerland.

The whereabouts of the autographs of Nos. 7 and 8 are unknown.


See: Twelve Romances, Op. 60: Recordings


All the romances are dedicated to Empress Mariya Fyodorovna of Russia (1847–1928), wife of Tsar Alexander III. On 10/22 November 1886 Tchaikovsky wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "Send me... an example of a dedication to the Empress, because I don't know how it must be written. On the title page of the romances I suppose there should be the usual wording, i.e. 12 romances and songs composed by P. T., opus whatever" [12].

Notes and References

  1. On the manuscript score of O, If Only You Knew (No. 3), Tchaikovsky noted that ‘When transposed up a semitone or whole tone, this romance may be performed by a baritone'  [back]
  2. Richard D. Sylvester, Tchaikovsky's complete songs. A companion with texts and translations (2002), p. 213 [back]
  3. Richard D. Sylvester, Tchaikovsky's complete songs. A companion with texts and translations (2002), p. 214–217 [back]
  4. On the autograph and in many editions incorrectly given as Yakov Polonsky [back]
  5. Letter 3037 to Nadezhda von Meck, 3/15 September 1886 [back]
  6. See Дневники П. И. Чайковского (1923), pp. 88–93 [back]
  7. Letter 3036 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 30 August/11 September 1886 [back]
  8. See also Letter 3041 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 3/15 September 1886 [back]
  9. Letter 3044 to Modest Tchaikovsky, 9/21 September 1886. See also Letter 3045 to Pyotr Jurgenson and letter 3043 to Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of the same date [back]
  10. See Letter 3078, 21 October/2 November 1886, Letter 3081, 26 October/7 November 1886, Letter 3094, 10/22 November 1886, and Letter 3104, 14/26 November 1886, all to Pyotr Jurgenson [back]
  11. Passed by the censor on 3/15 December 1886 [back]
  12. Letter 3094 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 10/22 November 1886 [back]