About this Recording
8.573086 - Piano Recital: Yaroshinsky, Andrey - TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Impromptus / 3 Morceaux, Op. 9 / 6 Morceaux, Op. 21

Andrey Yaroshinsky: Piano Recital
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893): Impromptu-Caprice in G major • Impromptu in A flat major • Impromptu ‘Momento lirico’ • Two Pieces, Op 1 • Trois morceaux, Op 9 • Six morceaux composés sur un seul thème, Op 21


Born in Kamsko-Votkinsk in 1840, the second son of a mining engineer, Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky had his early education, in music as in everything else, at home, under the care of his mother and of a beloved governess. From the age of ten he was a pupil at the School of Jurisprudence in St Petersburg, completing his studies there in 1859, to take employment in the Ministry of Justice. During these years he developed his abilities as a musician and it must have seemed probable that, like his near contemporaries Mussorgsky, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, he would keep music as a secondary occupation, while following his official career.

For Tchaikovsky matters turned out differently. The foundation of the new Conservatory of Music in St Petersburg under Anton Rubinstein enabled him to study there as a full-time student from 1863. In 1865 he moved to Moscow as a member of the staff of the new Conservatory established there by Anton Rubinstein’s brother Nikolay. For over ten years he continued in Moscow, before financial assistance from a rich widow, Nadezhda von Meck, enabled him to leave the Conservatory and devote himself entirely to composition. The same period in his life brought an unfortunate marriage to a self-proclaimed admirer of his work, a woman who showed early signs of mental instability and could only add further to Tchaikovsky’s own problems of character and inclination. His homosexuality was a torment to him, while his morbid sensitivity and diffidence, coupled with physical revulsion for the woman he had married, led allegedly to a severe nervous breakdown.

Separation from his wife, which was immediate, still left practical and personal problems to be solved. Tchaikovsky’s relationship with Nadezhda von Meck, however, provided not only the money that at first was necessary for his career, but also the understanding and support of a woman who, so far from making physical demands of him, never even met him face to face. This curiously remote liaison and patronage only came to an end when, in 1890, perhaps under financial pressure from her children, she discontinued an allowance that was no longer of importance and a correspondence on which he had come to depend.

Tchaikovsky’s sudden death in St Petersburg in 1893 gave rise to contemporary speculation and has provoked further posthumous rumours. It has been suggested that he committed suicide as the result of an impending homosexual scandal. Officially, however, his death was attributed to cholera, contracted after drinking undistilled water. Whether the victim of cholera, of his own carelessness or reckless despair or of death deliberately courted, Tchaikovsky was widely mourned.

Throughout his life Tchaikovsky wrote music for the piano, serving an amateur market. His first piano piece, a waltz, was written in 1854, when he was fourteen, and dedicated to Anastasia Petrova, the family governess; his last piano pieces were composed in the year of his death. His Impromptu-Caprice was written in 1884 for a collection of pieces to be published in Paris in aid of a musicians’ benevolent fund. It was dedicated to Sonia Jurgenson, the wife of his publisher. A gentle introductory Andantino is followed by a livelier section, with a very Russian melody. This increases in speed to a Vivacissimo, before the return of the Andantino. The Impromptu in A flat major, written in 1889, was written for a collection to mark the golden jubilee of Anton Rubinstein. The melody in the outer sections of the piece is in the tenor, its progress interrupted by a contrasting middle section. The third of these Impromptus is the A flat major Impromptu ‘Momento lirico’ completed by Sergey Taneyev after Tchaikovsky’s death.

The Scherzo a la russe of 1867, published by Jorgenson as part of Tchaikovsky’s Op 1, was dedicated to Nikolay Rubinstein, a virtuoso pianist, like his brother, and designed with his abilities in mind. Rubinstein encouraged its publication by Jorgenson. The piece earns its title, dominated by a very Russian melody. There is a trio section in E flat major, before the B flat major key and the scherzo itself returns. The Impromptu in E flat minor, Op 1, No 2, was seemingly included in the publication through an oversight, written a few years earlier and in the same notebook as the Scherzo. The outer sections, marked Allegro furioso, frame a central Andante molto espressivo, with rippling ornamentation.

The three pieces that form Op 9 were written in 1870 and published the following year. The gently lilting D major Reverie was dedicated to Nadezhda Muromtseva. In B flat major, the Polka de salon was dedicated to another young woman, Alexandra Zograf, and the final D minor Mazurka de salon to the leading Moscow piano teacher Alexandre Dubuque.

Tchaikovsky’s Six Pieces on a Single Theme, Op 21, dates from 1873 and was dedicated to Anton Rubinstein. Rather than offer fodder for the amateur market or a challenge to the latter’s great virtuosity as a pianist, the six pieces demonstrate to his former teacher Tchaikovsky’s command of resources as a composer. The first piece presents the single theme that is to be the basis of what follows and the second, a four-voice fugue, shows Tchaikovsky ’s contrapuntal ability. The Impromptu presents cross-rhythms, triplets over the duple rhythm of the lower parts, and the Marche funebre avoids the expected march rhythms, moves from A flat minor to B major in a central interlude and finally finds room for an allusion to the Dies irae, heard in the bass, un poco marcato, as the piece draws to a close. The Mazurka, in A flat minor, the enharmonic equivalent of G sharp minor, has a central interlude in B major, the relative major of G sharp minor, and the whole set ends with an A flat major Scherzo in 6/8, its F minor trio section, marked Meno mosso.

Keith Anderson

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