Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky

Anton Arensky

Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky

Op. 35a

About this work

Although composer Anton Arensky studied under Rimsky-Korsakov, his heartfelt and deeply lyrical music owes more to Tchaikovsky. In the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 2, Op. 35, from 1894, Arensky wrote a tribute to the recently deceased Tchaikovsky in a set of variations based on a theme taken from Tchaikovsky's children's song A Legend, Op. 54/5. But the slow movement proved so popular at the string quartet's premiere that Arensky transcribed it later that same year for string orchestra as his Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a, and it has been his most popular piece ever since. The work is, like all of Arensky's music, essentially lyrical. After a statement of the theme, Moderato, the piece moves through seven variations and a coda that alternate between fast and slow music: Variation I, Un poco più mosso; Variation I, Allegro non troppo; Variation III, Andantino tranquillo; Variation IV, Vivace; Variation V, Andante; Variation VI, Allegro con spirito; Variation VII, Andante con moto; and a Moderato coda. While not the deepest work of the Russian Silver Age, Arensky's Tchaikovsky Variations offer well-composed and affecting music.