Cover image for Tchaikovsky's complete songs : a companion with texts and translations
Tchaikovsky's complete songs : a companion with texts and translations
Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich, 1840-1893.
Uniform Title:
Songs. Texts. English & Russian
Publication Information:
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvi, 349 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm + 1 audio disc (digital ; 4 3/4 in.).
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML54.6.T24 S9 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Besides his symphonies and concertos, operas and ballets, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote 103 ""romances, "" or songs, which are among his most popular works in Russia. The lyrics to these songs, by poets famous and obscure, have never been studied. Richard D. Sylvester collects here for the first time all 103 song texts, reproducing them in Russian, with transliterations and translations. The texts are illuminated by commentaries on the songs' historical context and performance histories, an extensive discography of singers and recordings, and a 73-minute CD presenting 22 songs performed by noted artists. For vocalists and music students, for the general audience interested in art songs and recordings of great singers, as well as for Tchaikovsky specialists and students of Russian language and literature, this book offers a unique window into Russian musical culture.

Author Notes

One of Russia's greatest composers, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, Russia. He received a good early education; his instructors included a French governess and a music teacher. When he was 10 years old, the family moved to St. Petersburg, and Tchaikovsky continued his studies, although his musical talent did not seem particularly great. Nevertheless, he continued to study music and graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1865. From there he went on to teach theory and composition at the Moscow Observatory from 1866 to 1877. A generous allowance from a wealthy patroness allowed Tchaikovsky to devote time to his own composition without financial worries. His first successful composition was Romeo and Juliet (1869), a fantasy overture in which Tchaikovsky used the sonata form, adapting it to the demands of the Shakespearean play and its characters. Soon after Tchaikovsky's short marriage in 1877 ended, he quit the observatory to devote all of his time to composition. In the years that followed, he wrote his most popular and well-known works. In all, Tchaikovsky wrote nine operas, six symphonies, many songs and short piano pieces, three ballets, three string quartets, and other works, including suites and symphonic poems. The operas Eugene Onegin (1879) and Queen of Spades (1890) were both adapted from stories by Aleksandr Pushkin (see Vol. 2). Among Tchaikovsky's best-known works are his last three symphonies---No. 4 in F minor (1877); No. 5 in E minor (1888); No. 6 in B minor, also known as the Pathetique (1893); and his three ballets---Swan Lake (1877), Sleeping Beauty (1889), and The Nutcracker (1892). Tchaikovsky's music is richly orchestrated, of great emotional intensity, and reflects the composer's melancholy nature and fatalism. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Of Tchaikovsky's entire musical output, his collection of 103 romances (songs based on poems) is perhaps the least familiar to Western audiences. With this volume, Sylvester (Russian, emeritus, Colgate Univ.) performs a great service not only for singers interested in delving into this rich repertory but also for lovers of Russian poetry. The songs are discussed in chronological order, beginning with "My Genius, My Angel, My Friend," composed in 1857, when Tchaikovsky was 17, and culminating in the "Six Romances of 1893," the year of his death. The texts are presented in three ways: Cyrillic, a transliteration, and an exact (nonsingable) English translation. For each song or group of songs, Sylvester presents informative commentary. The sources are meticulously scrutinized, and a detailed history of Tchaikovsky's relationship, if any, with the poets (e.g., Pushkin, Ivan Surikov, Apollon Maikov) is provided. There is no analysis or even much discussion of the music itself, though the author makes clear his hopes that the present volume will pave the way for such a study. An accompanying audio CD, not heard by the reviewer, contains performances of 22 songs. Recommended for upper-level undergraduate and graduate collections. Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

For the first time ever, texts of the 103 songs (romances) set by Tchaikovsky are assembled in a single collection, presented in their Cyrillic original, together with transliterations and nonrhyming English translations. Taken in chronological order, the songs provide a fascinating journey through the composer's complete song oeuvre. Sylvester (Colgate Univ.) selected the 22 songs on the accompanying CD not only on performance merit but because they present excellent examples of cultivated, lyric Russian diction. He offers occasional commentary regarding performance practices but deals chiefly with the literary sources of the songs. A discography and a selected bibliography are appended. No other publication covers the same scholarly territory, so this book will be a valuable source of information for all performers and scholars interested in the Russian song repertoire. Upper-division undergraduate voice students through faculty and professionals. R. Miller Oberlin College

Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents
Transcriptions from Cyrillic Songs Duets Singers & Recordings Bibliography
Index of Song Titles in Russian
Index of Song Titles in English
Index of Names