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Six morceaux composés sur un seul thème, Op 21

composer

 
Tchaikovsky dedicated these six pieces to his former composition professor Anton Rubinstein, who was also an internationally renowned pianist, hoping that Rubinstein would soon include them in his vast repertoire. Frustratingly, Rubinstein left them untouched for ten years, until he finally brought them before the public in 1883. Tchaikovsky, consoled, said that 'they could not be played better than this'. Several of the pieces became staple items in Rubinstein’s repertoire for his tours abroad.

It is clear that Tchaikovsky wished to impress his former teacher with his compositional sophistication, choosing as his vehicle a deft demonstration of his ability to use the same theme six times in pieces of such different character that only the most attentive listeners will discern the common thread. Tchaikovsky knew that one of Rubinstein’s concert favourites, Schumann’s Carnaval, took the same approach to its thematic material. In the Prelude and the Fugue, the theme hints at its roots in Russian folk song, but also shows that it can ably support the earnest contrapuntal treatment in the manner of Bach. The Impromptu is the most overtly Schumannesque, ever capricious and submerging the theme inside its fleet figuration.

The Funeral March does its best to conceal any semblance of a walking pulse so that it can convey a more personal grief. Its middle section is a passionate outburst that culminates in a quotation of the Dies irae chant from the Catholic requiem mass, which had become a much-used symbol of death in the hands of Romantic composers. The Mazurka takes off from where the Funeral March had stopped, inheriting some gloom, but eventually brightens up. The final Scherzo is built around Tchaikovsky’s favourite device of alternating between two and three beats (6/8 and 3/4), and hovers between pure playfulness and the desire for a lyrical utterance, which has a chance to break through in the more placid middle section.

from notes by Marina Frolova-Walker © 2019

Recordings

Tchaikovsky: Solo piano works
Studio Master: SIGCD594Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Hyperion sampler - December 2019
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201912Download-only sampler

Details

No 1 in B major: Prélude
Track 4 on SIGCD594 CD1 [2'03] Download only
No 2 in G sharp minor: Fugue à 4 voix
Track 5 on SIGCD594 CD1 [3'06] Download only
No 3 in C sharp minor: Impromptu
Track 6 on SIGCD594 CD1 [1'53] Download only
No 4 in A flat minor: Marche funèbre
Track 7 on SIGCD594 CD1 [5'42] Download only
Track 8 on HYP201912 [5'42] Download-only sampler
No 5 in A flat minor: Mazurque
Track 8 on SIGCD594 CD1 [4'11] Download only
No 6 in A flat major: Scherzo
Track 9 on SIGCD594 CD1 [4'50] Download only

Track-specific metadata

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