G major, Op. 37 (1878).
Composed in March–April 1878 at Clarens and Kamenka. We find the first reference to work on the sonata in a letter to Anatoly Tchaikovsky of 3/15–4/16 March 1878: "I’m working on a sonata for piano...", and its composition "does not come easily". Further on, Tchaikovsky noted: "I worked unsuccessfully, with little progress... I’m again having to force myself to work, without much enthusiasm. I can't understand why it should be the case that, in spite of so many favourable circumstances, I’m not in the mood for work... I’m having to squeeze out of myself weak and feeble ideas, and ruminate over each bar. But I keep at it, and hope that inspiration will suddenly strike" .
However, an idea for a Violin Concerto was forming in the composer's mind, and he set to work on this on 5/17 March. At this point, Tchaikovsky discontinued work on the sonata. "The sonata and concerto are keeping me very busy. For the first time in my life I have started something new without finishing its predecessor... And so it is that... for the time being I have set aside my sonata", he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck, on 7/19 March . In other letters dating from around this time only the concerto is mentioned.
On 11/23 April Tchaikovsky arrived at Kamenka, where he was able to devote himself to composition. On 23 April/5 May he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck that he was finishing off the sonata , and on 27 April/9 May he reported to Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "My work is going very well. Since you left I’ve written three movements of the sonata, a Waltz and other odd pieces" .
Anatoly Tchaikovsky had left Kamenka on 23 April/5 May. In view of this, it might be presumed that one movement of the sonata had been written by that date, and the remaining three between 23 April/5 May and 27 April/9 May; in all probability, all movements had been sketched out in rough at Clarens . On 30 April/12 May Tchaikovsky confirmed that "The sonata is completely ready" .
On 27 May/8 June, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "I have written, besides the violin pieces, 6 romances, almost a dozen piano pieces, an album of 24 short pieces for children, a Grand Sonata, and the whole Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. It will take a long time, to put in order and copy out the last one-and-a-half months of hard labour" . Work on putting in order and copying out the sonata was begun on 15/27 June . On the manuscript score the completion date is given as "26 July [O.S.]. Verbovka". However, on 4/16 July, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck that "the sonata has been ready for a while" , and on 13/25 July he reported: "Already three new opuses (or four, counting my Brailov violin pieces) are ready. Now I shall make a start on my collection of children's pieces, then my neglected correspondence, before resting" .
The Sonata was performed for the first time on 21 October/2 November 1879 in a quartet concert of the Russian Musical Society, played by Nikolay Rubinstein, in the presence of the author. According to Nikolay Kashkin, "The Sonata was performed... with such unattainable perfection, that I could not have stayed to listen to anything more, so I left the hall completely enraptured" .
Tchaikovsky heard Nikolay Rubinstein perform the sonata in a domestic setting. Tchaikovsky wrote of his impressions to Nadezhda von Meck on 29 October/10 November 1879: "I was at N. G. Rubinstein's, where he asked me to listen to him play my sonata. He played it excellently... I was simply astounded by his artistry and amazed by his energy, in playing this somewhat dry and complicated piece" .
The Sonata is dedicated to Karl Klindworth, although this name does not appear on the manuscript score, and was added later while the first edition was being prepared.
Published by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1879.
From: Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 405–408
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013