Suite No. 1
(Сюита № 1)
Op. 43 (1878–79).
In the early stages of composition, Tchaikovsky did not envisage that his new work would take the form of a suite. On 15/27 August 1878 he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Brailov: "This morning I had such an urge to write down an orchestral scherzo that I could not resist the urge, and spent two hours working on it" . The idea to compile an orchestral suite occurred to him later. In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 August/7 September the same year, from Verbovka, Tchaikovsky wrote: "In Brailov I managed to note down on paper sketches for an orchestral scherzo. It was only afterwards that the idea came into my head for a whole cycle of pieces for orchestra, which should form a Suite in the style of Lachner. On arriving in Verbovka, I felt I simply could not resist my inner compulsion, and consequently hastened to set down on paper sketches for this suite. I worked with such enjoyment, with such enthusiasm, that I literally did not notice the hours fly by. Currently three movements of these future orchestral pieces are ready, a fourth is roughly outlined, while a fifth is taking shape in my head ... The suite will consist of five movements: 1) Introduction and Fugue, 2) Scherzo, 3) Andante, 4) Intermezzo (Echos de bals), 5) Rondo" .
During the course of composition, the names of the movements were continually changing. For instance, in letters to Modest Tchaikovsky of 13/25 November and to Pyotr Jurgenson of 15/27 November 1878, the composer called the third movement Andante melancolico, and two of the later movements as March of the Lilliputians and Dance of the Giants . In the definitive version, these numbers received the appellations Intermezzo, Miniature March, and Gavotte.
After Tchaikovsky had worked on the sketches of the suite in Verbovka, work was interrupted for some time. On 29 August/10 September 1878, Tchaikovsky left Kamenka for Saint Petersburg, before arriving in Moscow on 10/22 September. After deciding once and for all to resign from the Conservatory, Tchaikovsky again went to Saint Petersburg on 7/19 October, returning to Kamenka in early/mid November . Here for the first time in months he had the opportunity to resume work on the suite. "You asked how my suite is coming along?", he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Kamenka on 6/18 November, "... It has not progressed one jot. I was unable to work either in Moscow or in Saint Petersburg" .
While staying at Kamenka, Tchaikovsky discovered that the book containing sketches for the first three movements had been left behind in Saint Petersburg; on 4/16 November 1878 he wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "Please, my dear fellow, find out where Akim, or my landlady, or her maid have put my pencil sketches and notebook, which is of the utmost importance to me, as it contains three movements from my new symphonic work... turn the place upside down and send it to me, as soon as I can tell you my address in Florence" .
In the absence of the manuscript of the first three movements, the composer set to work on the successive movements of the suite . By 11/23 November the last two movements were ready in sketch form . Almost every day his letters to his friends and his brothers expressed his concern as to the fate of the sketches for the first three movements. On 14/26 November, Tchaikovsky again wrote to his brother Anatoly: "The manuscript (if it's been found) should be sent at once to the aforementioned address, but if you experience any difficulties then take it to O. I. Jurgenson and instruct him to send it to me" .
A few days later Tchaikovsky left Kamenka for Florence, which he reached on 20 November/2 December. The following day he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "My brother Tolya has written to me that the manuscript had been found, and I should receive it any day now. I am eager to set about the instrumentation of the suite, before turning to a new opera subject which greatly attracts me—namely The Maid of Orleans by F. Schiller .
On 22 November/4 December, Tchaikovsky took up the orchestration of the last two movements from his suite . On 24 November/6 December the fourth movement of the suite was finished, as indicated by the date at the end of this movement in the manuscript score—Marche miniature: "Firenze 24 XI (6 Xll) 1878". In a letter to Nadezhda von Meck of 25 November/7 December he reported: "I have already finished the fourth movement of the suite and set about the fifth" . He informed Modest Tchaikovsky on 27 November/9 December 1878 that this work had been completed .
While awaiting the manuscript of the first three numbers, on 28 November/10 December 1878 Tchaikovsky began arranging the last two movements for piano duet. By 29 November/11 December the arrangement of the finale had been prepared, and the next day he set about arranging the fourth . In letters to his brothers he continued to make almost daily enquiries about the suite. Eventually the piano score was complete, but the manuscript had still not arrived. "God knows what’s going on! I find myself in a ridiculous situation", Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother Modest on 4/16 December. "...reminiscent of a fellow who is running full steam ahead, when suddenly a brick wall springs up from out of nowhere. I still have not received my unfortunate manuscript! In my first week and a half here I have most enthusiastically orchestrated and even made a piano duet arrangement of the last two movements of my Suite in the absence of the first three... And so I am forced to endure absolute idleness, because you know very well that I never start a new work before getting the old one off my hands" .
So, without waiting for the manuscript, Tchaikovsky set to work on the opera based on his chosen subject of The Maid of Orleans. On 18/30 December he arrived in Paris. "I consider the manuscript to have been lost, and have already reconciled myself to this fact", he wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky on 26 December 1878/7 January 1879 . On 4/16 January 1879 he reported from Clarens: "Imagine my unrestrained joy... Now finally I have received the manuscript that has been travelling around for so long" . Some days later he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson: "How glad I was to see those jumbled pages of notes. They are priceless to me because I could never accurately reproduce the contents of the missing three movements" .
However, absorbed in working on the opera, Tchaikovsky could not immediately take up the instrumentation of the recently-received sketches of the suite. He only returned to the suite after completing the sketches of the opera. On 22 February/6 March he wrote to Modest Tchaikovsky: "Today I have been busy putting in order the disparate scraps [of the opera], as well as the suite. Tomorrow I shall put the finishing touches to the fugue of this suite, but from the day after tomorrow until I find myself up in Saint Petersburg, there is no more opportunity to work" . At the end of February/beginning of March, Tchaikovsky left for Saint Petersburg.
On 19/31 March he wrote to Nadezhda von Meck from Saint Petersburg: "During these two weeks here I would like to try to make myself as settled as possible, and to work in earnest on the instrumentation of the suite" .
In a letter of 22 March/3 April he wrote to her that he was doing a little work on the suite . It is impossible to establish how much work Tchaikovsky did in Saint Petersburg, and whether any of the movements were completed. On 4/16 April Tchaikovsky travelled to Moscow, and on 9/21 April in Kamenka. "I have been occupied since my second day’s stay here, and my infamous and much-neglected suite should quickly progress to its conclusion. Since I want to make the piano duet arrangement myself, I suppose that I shall be sitting over the suite until the end of April", Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck on 12/24 April .
By 14/26 April the full score of the suite had been completed, and work then began on the arrangement for piano duet .
"I am working very assiduously...", he wrote to Pyotr Jurgenson on 19 April/1 May, "I want so much to get this unfortunate suite off my hands as quickly as possible, and nurture the impossible hope that next season it will be performed from the printed score. Unless I am very mistaken, it should have a success that will spread rapidly. It is scored very modestly and simply" .
According to the autograph date on the manuscript, the piano duet arrangement of the First Suite was completed on 22 April/4 May.
The following day, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "I have finished the suite. Tomorrow I shall send it to Moscow, and during the summer it will be printed" . At the end of the manuscript full score is the date: "Kamenka. 24 Apr 1879" [O.S.].
That same day the suite was despatched to Pyotr Jurgenson, who sent the full score for engraving in Leipzig, and asked Karl Klindworth to review the piano duet arrangement . The suite was about to be printed, when the composer noticed that all the movements were written in duple time. "This is impossible...", he wrote to Jurgenson on 12/24 August, "and since No. 4 is of doubtful merit, I have hastened to write something else in waltz time to replace it, which is incomparably better. As soon as I’ve finished the opera, which should be done within a week, I will orchestrate this new number and send it to you by September, together with everything else... Unless it’s already too late, then I would ask you to insert this new number, since it’s impossible to leave the whole suite in one rhythm" .
Tchaikovsky also wrote about the newly composed number, which received the title Divertimento  to his brother Anatoly: "I want to change one of the movements in my new suite. I composed it yesterday, and it should only take a day to orchestrate" .
On 22 August/3 September, while staying at Simaki, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck that he was about to commence the instrumentation and piano duet arrangement of the newly-composed number . Pyotr Jurgenson advised Tchaikovsky against dropping the Marche miniature (No. 4), and Tchaikovsky sought judgement on the matter from Sergey Taneyev, in whose opinion he had absolute faith . Taneyev’s verdict concurred with Jurgenson's, according to a letter from the composer to Nadezhda von Meck on 20 December 1879/1 January 1880 .
The first edition of the suite omitted the Marche miniature. The latter was subsequently engraved and issued as a supplement to the full score as "No. 4a", with independent pagination.
During the period September to November, Tchaikovsky was occupied with correcting the proofs of the suite. On 22 November/4 December Pyotr Jurgenson informed Tchaikovsky that the suite was ready . The full score, parts and the author’s piano duet arrangement of the First Suite appeared in print at the end of November/start of December 1879.
On 8/20 December 1879 the first performance of the suite took place in Moscow at the sixth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Nikolay Rubinstein. The author was not present at the concert. Pyotr Jurgenson wrote to Tchaikovsky about the concert's great success in a letter of 10/22 December . According to Jurgenson, the march "drew applause which would not stop until it was repeated". "And to think that we considered excluding the march", he added. "Better late than never, and so let the public have the march, i.e. in a supplement to the edition". But in this same letter, Jurgenson reported Nikolay Rubinstein's view that the suite was very difficult to play. In response, Tchaikovsky reacted by writing letters to both Jurgenson and Sergey Taneyev, expressing his annoyance at this unjust complaint . In Saint Petersburg the suite was performed for the first time on 25 March/6 April 1880, at a concert conducted by Eduard Nápravník .
The suite is dedicated (secretly) to Nadezhda von Meck.
Музыкальное наследие Чайковского (1958), pp. 257–262
This page was last updated on 16 February 2013