Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Dumka in C minor

Op. 59

About this work

Though only a fraction as long as the composer's ambitious Sonata in G major, Tchaikovsky's Dumka in C minor, Op. 59 (1886) is one of the composer's most successful piano works. The dumka, a narrative Slavic folk song that veers abruptly from melancholy to exhilaration, was a source of inspiration for a number of composers; its best-known incarnation is probably that in Dvorak's popular "Dumky" Trio, Op. 65 (1890-1891). Despite its subtitle, "Russian rustic scene," Tchaikovsky's version of the dumka lacks a detailed program. It begins with an Andantino cantabile ballad that may derive from a Russian folk song. The theme undergoes some rudimentary development before giving way to an eccentric, exciting con anima section, followed by a more relaxed passage, a bravura cadenza, and a hammering Moderato con fuoco. Relief arrives with two broader passages, Andante meno mosso and Adagio, diminuendo. The opening ballad sneaks back in, very quietly at first but marking its departure with three loud, abrupt chords. The work's virtuosic demands have attracted flamboyant pianists through the years, but the work has never quite achieved repertory status; still, the Dumka remains Tchaikovsky's most outstanding solo work for concert rather than salon use.