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Polonsky's Texts

I'm finding it difficult in locating english translations for Polonsky's Text for Tchaikovsky's songs as well as other poems by Polonsky via the net. Just wondering if you could redirect me to a site where such information may be as I don't speak Russian...

David Capper

As you are probably aware, Tchaikovsky set three of his songs to words by Yakov Polonsky (1819–98):

  1. Song of the Gypsy Girl, Op. 60, No. 7 (1886)—based on Polonsky's poem of the same name ("Pesnia tsyganki"), published in 1853.

  2. Night, Op. 60, No. 9 (1886)—adapted from Polonsky's poem of the same name ("Noch"), dating from 1851.

  3. Behind the Window, in the Shadows, Op. 60, No. 10 (1886)—after "The Invitation" ("Vyzov"), written in 1844.

While there do not seem to be any translations of these three texts on the internet, they do appear in Richard D Sylvester's book Tchaikovsky's Complete Songs, published in 2002 by Indiana University Press (ISBN 1–800–842–6796). As its title suggests, the book contains the original (Cyrillic) texts, Roman transliterations and English translations for all Tchaikovsky's songs and duets. Depending on your location you may be able to obtain a copy via inter-library loan, order it directly from the publisher (http: //

In addition to the above texts, Tchaikovsky also set the unaccompanied chorus A Greeting to A. G. Rubinstein (1889) to words specially written by Polonsky to mark the 50th anniversary of Anton Rubinstein's musical career, as well as the earlier Cantata for the Opening of the Polytechnic Exposition (1872). Polonsky's original text for the cantata has not been traced, and we know it only from Tchaikovsky's modified setting. Unfortunately no translations seem to be available on the internet as yet, but we will look into the possibility of adding them to these pages at some point in the near future.

Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (1874) was the only other work written to a libretto by Polonsky, based on Gogol's Christmas Eve, and this is better known in its revised version Cherevichki (1885). A complete English translation can be found in Philip Taylor's book Gogolian Interludes: Gogol's story "Christmas Eve" as the subject of the operas by Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (London: Collets, 1984). ISBN 0–569–08806–2.

Brett Langston

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This page was last updated on 05 November 2013