The history of Tchaikovsky’s

Variations on a Rococo theme

and the collaboration with Fitzenhagen

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Table of Contents

Sergei Istomin

Sergei Istomin is in demand as soloist and chamber musician, with an extensive recording career. His repertoire includes baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary music on both period and modern instruments. Istomin currently teaches viola da gamba and violoncello at the Ghent Conservatory (KASK) in Belgium.

by Sergei Istomin

Music & Practice, Volume 4



Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo theme, op. 33, were dedicated to the cellist Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who premiered this masterpiece in Moscow in 1877.[1] Fitzenhagen’s role in the compositional process has frequently been discussed by musicologists and performance practice specialists. In this article, we aim to re-assess Fitzenhagen’s involvement with the Variations with regard to ‘Texttreue’ – in other words, the performer’s fidelity to the text of a work – and re-evaluate Fitzenhagen’s own arrangement of the Variations with regard to the most recent musicological publications.[2] In the field of today’s performance practice, our task is to shine a much-needed light on Fitzenhagen’s contribution to the Variations’ editorial and publishing processes.

In the first part of this article, the chronological history of the editorial and critical correspondence in the history of the Variations will be treated in detail. The two distinct versions of the Variations, which co-exist already in the original manuscripts, are of central significance to the subject matter. The conceptual clarification of historical, textological and editorial evidence includes several documents such as excerpts from the manuscript of the Variations’ violoncelle-solo part (the initial eight-variations version), first editions, photographs, and Fitzenhagen’s letters that are presented here for the first time for the English reader.[3] Since nearly all contemporary publications are based on mid-twentieth-century Soviet sources, it is necessary to shed new light on the previous methods of analysis, review the existing musicological works, the musical texts and to revisit the period when Tchaikovsky’s Variations were composed, performed and published. It is important to note the positive side of the composer–performer collaboration. The composer was on professional as well as on friendly terms with the cellist, and on many occasions, he asked him to proofread and edit a number of his compositions for the cello.

In the second part, we shall take a closer look at the Variations in the context of their period and style, and investigate Fitzenhagen’s artistic lineage through the Dresden cellist Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Grützmacher. We can see similarities in their approach of musical text treatment, as Grützmacher and Fitzenhagen give performance indications that are still relevant today. Our main task consists of revising the existing materials and re-evaluating the current views based on the remarkable precision with which the manuscripts and scores were edited.

Finally, we would like to highlight our own perspective as performers in the recording with Claire Chevallier (Passacaille Label №1047) in which we focus on all the performance details that are suggested by Tchaikovsky and Fitzenhagen in the Variations’ manuscripts. In this article, we have assigned letters ‘A’ to the set of eight variations by Tchaikovsky and letter ‘B’ to the version amended by Fitzenhagen that consists of seven variations. The two versions are presented in our recording below. It is important to note that the Variations were first composed for violoncello and fortepiano. Therefore, the usual term ‘piano reduction’ (Klavierauszug in German) does not strictly fit the original French indication ‘pour violoncelle et piano’ (for violoncello and piano) that we find on the title page of the first edition. Our choice of instrument for the recording was J. Becker’s fortepiano dating to the year 1875.[4]

Audio 1 Tchaikovsky: Variations on a rococo theme, op. 33 in version ‘A’ (i.e. Tchaikovsky’s original set of eight variations). Sergei Istomin, cello, Claire Chevallier, fortepiano.

Audio 2: Tchaikovsky: Variations on a rococo theme, op. 33 version ‘B’ (i.e. Fitzenhagen’s amended version of seven variations). Sergei Istomin, cello, Claire Chevallier, fortepiano.

Figure 1 Facsimile of the title pages: Variations sur un thème rococo pour le Violoncelle avec accompagnement d’orchestre ou de Piano par P. Tchaikovsky, op. 33. Piano–cello score and Violoncelle–Solo part. Russian National Museum of Music, Fund 88 № 97 a and b.

Revisiting the Variations’ history:

a chronology of the editorial and critical correspondence

The first performance of the Variations in the orchestral version took place on 18 November 1877 in Moscow under the baton of Nikolay Rubinstein. [5] ‘Today is a Symphonic Assembly and most importantly, Fitzenhagen is playing your Variations on a Rococo theme’, wrote Nadezhda von Meck to Pyotr Tchaikovsky.[6] Two years later, during a Festival in Wiesbaden, Fitzenhagen gave the first performance of the Variations outside of Russia. In July 1879, Tchaikovsky described this event in a letter to von Meck, ‘These days I have received letters from abroad with some very pleasant news about my compositions. Von Bulow played my Concerto during a Festival in Wiesbaden and in London. Fitzenhagen had a great success with my Variations during Wiesbaden’s Festival’.[7]

Fitzenhagen entered music history mostly as the first publishing supervisor, editor and performer of the Variations. It is noteworthy that the cellist preferred to publicise Tchaikovsky’s works instead of his own compositions.[8] His positive contribution has often been questioned by a number of authors including Viktor Kubatsky, Israel Yampolsky, Alexander Stogorsky, Boris Dobrokhotov, David Brown and Thomas Kohlhase. Negative statements about Fitzenhagen’s association with the Variations by these twentieth century authors (see the table of Figure 2) are in conflict with a number of primary sources and other documents that we examine in this article. For this reason, relying upon musical textology, methodically narrowing down the factual historical context, we can undertake a more realistic approach to the problem of the Tchaikovsky–Fitzenhagen collaboration. The facts are gathered from the following sources: autographs, handwritten original copies of the fortepiano and violoncello parts, the first piano and cello version published by Pyotr Jurgenson, letters of Tchaikovsky, Jurgenson and others, contemporary publications and images together with materials extracted from instrumental method books describing techniques and style of playing as practiced in the leading European musical centres.

Figure 2 Four major voices uttering critique (1945–85) regarding Fitzenhagen’s involvement with the composition process of Variations on a Rococo theme.

From the first published edition to the present day, Fitzenhagen’s version of the Variations has been performed by cellists. However, a number of musicians view Fitzenhagen’s edition as a misrepresentation of the composer’s initial intention. This notion is maintained by a secondary source: the story told by Anatoly Brandukov[9] to his student Viktor Kubatsky[10] that portrays the composer’s ‘over-emotional’ reaction to Fitzenhagen’s editorial involvement:

During one of my visits of Pyotr Ilyich, I found him in a terribly irritated state. He had a look of a sick person. To my question ‘what is going on with you?’ – Pyotr Ilyich pointing his hand at the desk had pronounced, ‘Fitzenpupen (Fitzenhagen) was here, look what he has done with my composition, he altered everything.’ To my questioning, what he is going to do with the piece, Pyotr Ilyich answered: ‘Hell with it, let it be as it is!’. That evening I went home from Pyotr Ilyich with the autograph of the Variations on a Rococo theme that I accepted from him as a gift.[11]

Some of the authors that have discussed the topic of the Variations’ publication simply repeat the aforementioned story, the credibility of which is, however, questionable since it is based on hearsay. The authors of the most recent reference publications on Tchaikovsky ascribe Brandukov’s visit to the year 1889, presumably calculated in connection with the editorial preparation of the Variations’ orchestral score.[12] A number of authors refer to Dombayev’s publication whereas the year of Brandukov’s visit is in fact not indicated.[13] It is curious, but possible, considering Tchaikovsky’s occasional absent-mindedness, that he would only then have noticed and thus reacted so strongly to Fitzenhagen’s ‘drastic reordering’ or ‘drastic modification’ of the Variations.[14] Note, that details of the whereabouts of the original piano and cello part from 1876 to the year 1889 are not known.

Jurgenson’s  first edition of the Variations’ and piano-cello score (1878) Jurgenson’s  second edition of the Variations’ piano-cello score (1879) Jurgenson’s  third edition of the Variations’ piano-cello score (c. 1898)

Figure 3 Nineteenth-century P. Jurgenson’s Editions.

We were not able to trace any mentioning of a date of Brandukov’s visit in the 19th century writings or in printed sources related to our research. We must clarify, though, that on 25 November 1889, Brandukov performed Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso, op. 62.[15] His recollections of the visit appeared for the first time in print in 1945 in Yampolsky’s article (see Figure 2). In our opinion, this source cannot serve as a basis for evaluation of Fitzenhagen’s contribution. It is not without interest to mention that we have not managed to find any proof that Brandukov ever performed the Variations. The only contemporary printed source that associates Brandukov with this work are Yulian Poplavsky’s reminiscences.[16] In October 1893, not long before Tchaikovsky’s death, Brandukov and Poplavsky were visiting the composer at his home in Klin. Poplavsky wrote:

At the dinner, Pyotr Ilyich was telling us about his last Symphony. We, noticing him in exceptionally good spirits, had started our usual plea – to compose a cello concerto. ‘Why don’t you play my Variations?’ – was one and the same answer. I pitched into an old song about the inconvenience of some of the variations for the cello and that there is too little singing at all. ‘Cannot play and badgering’ – was Pyotr Ilyich’s joke.[17]

Here is another document, a letter from Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky dated 3 February 1878.[18] This particular letter has been repeatedly brought up by musicologists:

Loathsome Fitzenhagen! He is most insistent on making changes to your cello piece, and he says that you have given him full authority to do so. Heavens! Tchaikovsky ‘revu et corrigé par Fitzenhagen!!’.[19]

It is important to note that there are four existing contemporary manuscripts: the very primary source, that is Tchaikovsky’s piano and cello part, the full orchestral score, the clean copies of the piano part, and the violoncelle-solo part in two separate volumes. The latter manuscripts were very probably written out by Fitzenhagen (see Appendix I b).[20] On the one hand, the composer’s preliminary drafts and sketches of the Variations are not extant. On the other hand, the first of the four manuscripts we could consider as a rough copy. Today, the documents are kept at the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow.[21]

The clean, ready-to-be engraved handwritten copy of the piano part together with the violoncelle-solo part are very valuable performance practice documents. Their musical structure corresponds entirely to the autographs of the full orchestral score in which we find the handwriting of both Tchaikovsky and Fitzenhagen. The cello and piano parts consist of eight variations (denoted as Version ‘A’). Here we find ‘all sorts of indications and instructions of particular [i.e. to the violoncello and music performance in general] features’.[22] These are violoncello fingerings, slurs, bowings, dynamic and agogic accents that correspond to what Louis Spohr called ‘a refined style of musical expression’.[23] In the handwritten piano and violoncelle-solo parts Fitzenhagen made pencilled annotations that indicate some cuts and a rearrangement of the specific variations into the new seven variations sequence (Version ‘B’). This version was published for the first time in November 1878 in Moscow by Jurgenson (see Figure 3). Note that the two versions (‘A’ and ‘B’) are simultaneously present in the handwritten piano and violoncelle-solo parts, as well as in the autograph of the full orchestral score by way of the written-out in ink version ‘A’ and the pencilled-in version ‘B’. In fact, we can logically presume that, for publishing, Jurgenson had a choice between two versions of the Variations.

Structurally, Fitzenhagen moved the recitative episode together with the most developed Cadenza a piacere’, which can be perceived as the ‘final’ one, to the end of the Variations. In this way, he linked them with another cadential episode at the end of Variation VI (Variation V in the ‘B’ version).[24] The final Variation VII in the ‘B’ version consists of 32 measures – comprising the actual ‘Coda’ of Variation VIII (version ‘A’) – to which the cellist added 44 measures from the Variation IV (see Figure 4). If we compare the total amount of measures in both versions:

Version ‘A’ comprises of 428 measures (counting the anacrusis to the whole composition) and excluding the ‘Cadenza a piacere’ identical to both versions.

Version ‘B’ comprises of 391 measures.

Figure 4 Two Versions of the Variations on a Rococo theme, op. 33. Version ‘A’ – Tchaikovsky and Fitzenhagen collaboration (Stogorsky’s 1954 edition). Version ‘B’ with Fitzenhagen’s amendments (Jurgenson’s 1878 edition). Arrows indicate rearrangement of the Variation’s particular movements and fragments.

From the chart (Figure 4) we see that Fitzenhagen’s version ‘B’ omits only 37 measures in all (the 2 final measures in Variation IV and the first 35 measures in Variation VIII that is actually the whole Variation VIII if we consider that the Coda starts on the 36th measure). Here it is appropriate to note that the 35 measures of Variation VIII (scale passages that sound nearly identical to the Variation II) were omitted by Fitzenhagen, presumably, because of redundancy and a lack of bravura at the very end of the variation cycle (see Figures 5 and 6). It is important to mention that in all probability the Cadenza was composed with Fitzenhagen’s help.

Figure 5 Variation II, Violoncello–Solo part. Russian National Museum of Music, Moscow, fund 88 № 97 b.

Figure 6 Variation VIII et Coda, Violoncello–Solo part. Russian National Museum of Music, Moscow, fund 88 № 97 b.

Fitzenhagen participated directly in the Variations publication process during the years 1877–1878. The cellist convinced Tchaikovsky that if published abroad, his instrumental compositions were likely to benefit from better distribution. Following Fitzenhagen’s advice, the composer agreed on publication of the Variations on a Rococo theme, op. 33, and the Valse-Scherzo, op. 34, with a publisher in Germany, in our opinion most likely with Friedrich Luckhardt in Berlin.[25] The probable choice of Luckhardt’s publishing house can be explained by Fitzenhagen’s personal contact with the latter.[26]

It is curious to see that another similar sounding name of a German publisher, viz. the name of Franz Ernst Christophe Leuckart in Leipzig, was mentioned in musicological sources.[27] It seems that Tchaikovsky himself had started the confusion about the name: in his letters, as well as in all musicological and biographical works about the composer, we find different varieties of the German publisher’s name such as Leukhardt, Lukhardt, Leuckardt,[28] Leückardt. For instance, in a monograph by Ronald John Wiley, Tchaikovsky, the name of the publisher in question appears simultaneously as Leuckhardt, Leuckardt and Leuckart.[29] Tchaikovsky himself possibly did not know precisely with whom Fitzenhagen had been dealing: either it was Leuckart from Leipzig or Fitzenhagen’s Luckhardt from Berlin.

Note that the Hofmeister Monatsberichte for the year 1876 mentions Tchaikovsky’s early fortepiano opuses published by Leuckart in Leipzig.[30]  It is appropriate here to take note of the following lines from Franz Liszt’s letter, 15 November 1876 to Constantin Sander, music publisher in Leipzig, the grandson and successor of F.E.C. Leuckart publishing house:

Very honoured Sir,

Best thanks for kindly sending me the ‘collected writings of Hector Berlioz’ and some novelties of your firm. The compositions of Tschaikowsky (sic) interest me. A few of my pupils here play his Concerto and several of his pieces really capitally. I have also recommended Riedel to include Tschaikowsky’s Symphony in the programme of the next Tonkünstler-Versammlung.[31]

In March 1878 Tchaikovsky wrote to von Meck:

Do you know that all my fortepiano works are published in counterfeit in Leipzig, that all my romances are also translated and published in Germany and moreover in an excellent way.[32]

Tchaikovsky probably knew Leuckart’s name by that time. However, it looks as if he had heard about Fitzenhagen’s Luckhardt only ‘by hearsay’. On 14 February [26 Feb, O.S] 1878 Tchaikovsky contacted Fitzenhagen with the help of Constantin (Karl) Albrecht who for clarity reasons translated Tchaikovsky’s letter to Fitzenhagen into German:

Dear Friend!

You were so kind that you undertook to arrange with Luckhardt (Люкгардт) printing of my violoncello piece and valse for the violin. At the same time, you told me that these pieces by being printed abroad would be better marketed rather than if I gave them to Jurgenson. I gave way then to your arguments and asked you to send my pieces to Mr. Luckhardt, from whom I did not even hope to receive an honorarium if only the pieces were printed soon and well. After a period of time, you told me that Mr. Luckhardt not only takes my pieces but also offers me 300 marks of honorarium. Since then a year has passed.[33]

Earlier, in January 1878, Iosif Kotek who at that time lived in Berlin paid a visit to Mr. Luckhardt at the request of Tchaikovsky. Two months later, on 24 March [5 April, O.S.] 1878 Tchaikovsky wrote to von Meck about this visit:

It happened that my autograph is resting peacefully on Leückardt’s (sic) shelf,- answering Kotek’s question, ‘When will these pieces be published?’ – Leückardt said, ‘Do not know, someday!’[34]

The publisher’s attitude deeply offended Tchaikovsky; as a result, he refused to publish his works with the German. Tchaikovsky wrote with some irritation to Jurgenson:

Take the trouble to say to Fitzenhagen, that I want his sausage maker to immediately return my manuscripts. In no way do I want him to publish them under any conditions, even for a hundred thousand roubles.[35]

As aforementioned, in November 1878 in Moscow, after some twists and turns, Jurgenson finally published the so-called ‘piano reduction’ of the Variations.[36] Fitzenhagen’s pencilled and inked remarks that indicate his version ‘B’ were implemented in the first edition of the violoncello and fortepiano parts. Moreover, in the first edition we can find a number of misprints such as omission of dynamic, articulation, bowing and tempo marks (for instance at the beginning of Variation II the sign ‘Tempo della Thema’ is absent in the Piano-cello score). It is most likely that on 10 December [22 Dec., O.S.] 1878 Tchaikovsky wrote to Jurgenson precisely about these ‘editorial’ misprints:

I got the scores and I am awfully pleased… It is remarkable, that I have not found misprints either in the Concerto and Romances, or in the Children’s Album, – but in the composition dedicated to M. Guillaume who actually corrected it himself, – I have found! Hooray! We won over the Germans! … But, seriously, these are wonderful editions![37]

Jurgenson’s plates № 3331 (Pianocello score and VioloncelleSolo part) were continually used in many subsequent Russian re-editions, for that reason the above-mentioned misprints were not corrected (see the Jurgenson editions of Variations on a Rococo theme of 1878 and 1879).

In conclusion of these outlined facts, we should underline that with the composer’s consent, Fitzenhagen took part in the initial process of the Variations creation. Within this context, it is important to point out one of Fitzenhagen’s letters to Tchaikovsky. The cellist had just returned home after the final concert at Wiesbaden where he performed Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo theme with the Festival orchestra during the final concert of the Wiesbaden’s festival. On 13 June 1879, from his birthplace Seesen am Harz, Fitzenhagen wrote:

My dear friend,

You must soon compose a cello concerto for me! I will again stand by your side with advice and help and would be very happy if you would satisfy my wish at last.[38]

In all the handwritten documents related to the composition, we find Fitzenhagen’s remarks, corrections and inserted written out musical texts. Fitzenhagen prepared two fully edited arrangements of the Variations: version ‘A’ (Tchaikovsky–Fitzenhagen’s initial eight variations set) and version ‘B’ (Fitzenhagen’s personal arrangement with seven variations). The ‘A’ version was available in three clean master manuscripts, but Jurgenson, disregarding his own ‘complaints’, nevertheless published the ‘B’ version. Note that during Tchaikovsky’s life the Variations were published and quite obviously performed in Fitzenhagen’s ‘B’ version.[39]

Later, in the twentieth century there was an ‘archaeological excavation’ of sorts into Tchaikovsky–Fitzenhagen’s working manuscript of the piano-cello score; a defragmentation of the physical text materials by Kubatsky, who also involved forensic expert A. Purtov from the Ministry of Internal Affairs Research Institute of Criminology. Their work consisted of erasing the latter layers of the musical text and ungluing Fitzenhagen’s manuscript paper inserts (glued over the primary text).[40] Although there was no real necessity for Kubatsky’s painstaking editorial work, it has been a rather valuable asset from a textological point of view.[41] Paradoxically, Kubatsky’s piano-cello score restoration highlights the musical text development together with creative cooperation between composer and performer.[42]

The Variations in the context of their title and style

Considering performance practice matters, we should look at the Variations in the context of their title.[43] Therefore, it is interesting to take note of Raaben’s remark that the title of Tchaikovsky’s composition is actually ‘Variations on a Rococo  theme’ and not ‘Variations in the Rococo style’.[44] Lev Ginsburg stipulates that the Rococo style was not typical for the Russian culture.[45] However, in contradiction with his statement, it is useful to clarify here that the architectural and decorative Rococo style was popular in Russia as well as in Europe. The Brockhaus and Efron dictionary tells us:

The Rococo style originated in France during the times of the regency (1715–23), reached full development under Louis XV and was transferred to other European countries where it dominated until the 1780’s. The style was the continuation, or rather a modification of the Baroque style. Rococo architecture avoids strong symmetry. Regardless of its architectonic irrationalities, the Rococo style left many monuments such as Versailles Palace in France, Zwinger in Dresden, Germany, the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg together with many other Rococo buildings of the talented Count Rastrelli in Russia.[46]

It is obvious that Mozart, whom Tchaikovsky greatly admired, and whose creative aura played an inspirational role in art, influenced Tchaikovsky’s choice of this particular ‘variation’ genre. Today, it is known that interpretation of works that belong to the previous epochs demands very specific knowledge. In our case, it is necessary to take into consideration history and traditions of the leading European instrumental schools as well as contemporary tastes and styles relevant to them. This kind of ‘holistic historical approach’ encourages the most precise delivery of the composer’s textual indications and affects. As a result, the audiences can experience in full the exact musical sense of the composer’s inspirations and ideas.

Further, it is necessary to mention that logic as well as rhetoric were taught in Russian educational institutions from the beginning to mid-nineteenth century. Subsequently, rhetoric as an educational discipline was regarded within a wider context, specifically as the theory of prose. The rhetorical rules applicable to construction of musical language, together with the foundations and rules of versification, including the theory of affects, were obviously known to both Tchaikovsky, who graduated from the Imperial School of Jurisprudence and later from the Saint Petersburg conservatory, and Fitzenhagen, who received his ‘humanistische Bildung’ [humanistic education] in Germany.

Precise musical grammar, rhetoric and versification, alongside general culture, aesthetics and performing concepts were intrinsic properties of previous generations of musicians. It is well known that musical phrases and sentences imply words and follow the same rules of word formation, phrasing and sentence construction that we find in versification and oratory. As an example, we can give Tchaikovsky’s use of the following diacritical signs, specifically, macron ‘  ¯  ’ and breve ‘  ˘  ’.[47] These diacritical signs we find in a letter to Anton Stepanovich Arensky:

Dear Anton Stepanovich,

Pardon me if I force my advice upon you. I have heard that 5/4 time appears twice in your new Suite. It seems to me that the mania for 5/4 time threatens to become a habit with you. I like it well enough if it is indispensable to the musical idea, that is to say if the time signature and rhythmic accent respectively form no hindrance. For example, Glinka, in the chorus of the fourth act of A Life for the Tsar, clearly could not have written in anything else but 5/4 time: here we find an actual 5/4 rhythm that is a continual and uniform change from 2/4 to 3/4:[48]

Figure 7 Tchaikovsky’s letter to Arensky, Maidanovo, 25 September [7 Oct. O.S.] 1885.

Tchaikovsky analysed Baron Rosen’s text from the women’s chorus Rázgulyálasia, razliválasia (Lustig ergiessen frei von dem Eise), as alteration of trochee, a foot consisting of one long or stressed syllable followed by one short or unstressed syllable ‘  ¯  ͝    ’ with dactyl  ‘ ¯   ͝͝͝    ͝    ’ , a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables (see Figures 7, 8 and 9):

Figure 8 Rosen’s text with diacritical signs. We underlined the stressed syllables.

Figure 9 German translation of Rosen’s text (with our accents and diacritical signs).

It is curious to note that in the German translation published by Jurgenson the foot is shifted to a different syllabic alteration, therefore the foot structure does not fit perfectly in the 5/4 time signature as described by Tchaikovsky. An accent that falls on a ‘weak’ syllable creates a reverse alteration of dactyl ‘ ¯   ͝͝͝    ͝    ’   and trochee  ‘  ¯   ͝    ’ . The alteration accentuates a ‘wrong’ syllable compared to the original Russian text (see Figure 8). For yet a clearer understanding of the metric structure, natural accents, diatonic and enharmonic inclinations, we can use as a reference Alexander Villoing’s Ecole pratique du Piano.[49] Besides other valuable information, in his fortepiano method we can find explanations of diacritical signs: ‘Measures consist of strong beats: temps frappés:  ‘  ¯  ’ and weak beats: temps levés: ‘   ͝     ’ (see Figure 10).

Figure 10 Villoing: Ecole pratique du Piano (Paris, 1870), p. 19.

For a more illustrative example we can put diacritical marks in the text of the Variations’ Theme (see Figure 11). Therefore, we can easily see an obvious rhetorical link between dynamic and performance indications written out by Fitzenhagen in the aforementioned manuscripts. It is also of interest to note that the melody and its rhythm are structurally close to a poetical as well as a dance form of the French dance Bourrée that was returning occasionally into nineteenth century compositions, when they feature neoclassic tendencies.[50]

Figure 11 Manuscript copy of the violoncello part, fund 88 № 97 b, with added diacritical marks.

We invite performers to invent their own subtext that can facilitate a natural feeling for the metric movement and phrase constructions according to the rules of measure compositions and vocal accentuation.[51]

Contrary to the generally accepted tendency to criticise Fitzenhagen for ‘grossly bowdlerizing[52] a primary state of the piano-cello score,[53] we propose to look differently at the motives, and therefore results of the cellist’s work with Tchaikovsky’s text. We should take into account that in the baroque, classic and even romantic traditions the ‘holy immunity’ of a composer’s score was not taken for granted as a mandatory requirement. The musical creation was a living matter that should be recreated as if anew in every performance. Performers did not regard the composer’s score as a dead artefact. Musicians used scores as a basis, a canvas or a plan, that could be realised in their own artistic performances. This approach to performance was not self-centred. It was based rather on a full understanding of the traditions as well as the style of execution of a certain era. In any case, a good musician within each epoch would cultivate and display such virtues as emotion, spirituality, intellectual agility and technique.

Both Fitzenhagen’s versions of the Variations on a Rococo theme are an example of cultural synthesis. They combine Tchaikovsky’s universe of Russian ‘lyrical melodiousness’ and Fitzenhagen’s German ‘academic’ sense of form and meticulousness in relation to detail. It is useful to quote here two sentences from Mussorgsky’s letter to Rimsky-Korsakov:

A German, when thinking, starts by analysing, and then proceeds to demonstrate. Our Russian brother begins by demonstrating, and afterwards may amuse himself with analysing.[54]

Note that musicologists, as a rule, quote a fragment of Jurgenson’s letter to Tchaikovsky from 3 February [15 Feb. O.S.] 1878:

He [Fitzenhagen] certainly wants to remake your violon[cello] piece, make it more violoncellistic.[55]

This quote can be interpreted as a kind of paralogism. Is it a serious problem that a cellist would make the piece dedicated to him more suitable for his instrument? The French phrase from the same letter, specifically ‘revu et corrigé par Fitzenhagen!!’ is traditionally perceived in a negative sense.[56] However, we should note that the phrase ‘revu et corrigé’ is often found in nineteenth-century music editions, among which we find also Tchaikovsky’s compositions that were published in Russia. More likely, the French phrase refers to the formal type of statement that serves as a warrant for legal action, such as ‘lu et approuvé’.[57] It is important to note that we were not able to find in the manuscripts any written out comment as ‘revu et corrigé par Fitzenhagen!!’.

In parallel to the event of making the Variations more violoncellistic, it is appropriate to quote from Tchaikovsky’s letter to Jurgenson that may lead us to a better understanding of the composer’s attitude toward such actions:

Forgive me for making changes in some places. It’s not me who is to blame, but Taneyev, who was very careless about my request to make the piano reduction, that I arranged abroad and without an instrument, more suitable for the piano (‘офортепьянить’).[58]

Throughout the mid-twentieth century, Soviet performing arts historians, such as Yampolsky, Dobrokhotov, Stogorsky, argued that the nineteenth century German Violoncello School ‘excelled’ in cliché, conveyed the inertness of academic traditions, as well as heaviness and sentimentalism. It is not a surprise that Fitzenhagen’s contribution was perceived in a negative way by the aforementioned paragons of the ‘mainstream’ musical practice. Ginsburg wrote about Fitzenhagen and the Variations:

but of course, we should not consider as mandatory Fitzenhagen’s performance indications (some of his dynamic markings as well as his antiquated fingering techniques).[59]

In connection with this inference, one of the definitions of logic, or rather, a logical fallacy such as ‘argumentum ad novitatem’ comes to mind. Speaking of antiquated techniques, we can refer to the writings of Arnold Dolmetsch:

This last remark is amusing, in view of the fact that at all times people have been convinced of the superiority of their own taste over that of their predecessors.[60]

Nowadays we should not forget that an interest in exploration of techniques, including ‘all sorts of indications and instructions of particular [i.e. to the violoncello and music performance in general] features[61] as well as in the revival of the nineteenth century historically informed performing practice, is based on concerns that are more pragmatic rather than sensual. Therefore, the ‘outdated fingering technique’ allusion, which we can identify in the writings of the mainstream musicians, is not logically valid. Taking into account numerous historical materials, as well as modern works of the leading performance practice specialists,[62] we cannot agree with the description of the German Violoncello School quoted above. These materials point to a rather opposite conclusion. Bernhardt Romberg’s Violoncello School, to which we can add the cello methods of Jean-Louis Duport, Friedrich Dotzauer, Friedrich August Kummer and Sebastian Lee, define characteristics of lightness, grace, freedom and variety of instrumental techniques.

Among many of Romberg’s instructions, in the chapter De la Manière de phraser or Of Execution in one of the English translations of Romberg’s Method we find the following text:

Music may be considered in the light of declamatory language. The spirit and signification of a speech depends on the importance of the information it conveys, on the variety of tone used in the pronunciation of the words it contains, on the rising and falling inflexions, and on the strength or weakness of the voice. If a speech be pronounced monotonously, it must utterly fail in its desired effect, and can produce no other feelings in the hearers but those of languor and ennui. It is precisely the same case with Music, whenever it is played without a due admixture of light and shade, and a proper regard to feeling and expression. There is also a close analogy between the Rhythm of Music and the Rhythm of Verse; for in the former, the long and short syllables are regulated in the same manner as in the latter; for instance, the words ‘I love thee’ would be executed in Music thus:

‘I love thee’, here the ‘D’ is a suspension to ‘C’.[63]

In the chapter ‘Nuances in Music’ we read:

The music has its nuances and contrasts as the painting has its shades and light. To be able to give the necessary instructions and directions to them who play an instrument, to be able to give to their play these nuances and the ensemble and detail perfection that constitutes the beauty, we use certain expressions and locutions borrowed from Italian language that is the most proper to the music. However, it is necessary to notice that this paragraph is missing in the English translation on Light and Shade, &c.[64]

We can also refer to Duport’s Instruction on the Fingering and Bowing of the Violoncello to obtain more complete understanding of the aesthetics and pedagogical foundations of the nineteenth century European cello methods. Duport instructs cellists on equality of tone, nuances, expressions, variety of bow strokes and all the gradations of execution and expression:

Variety in the manner of playing, gradations of sound, and consequently expression, depend on the bow, and are matters of taste and feeling. I shall not attempt to give examples of such taste and feeling, as that would be extremely ridiculous; but I will say that in order to be able to produce all those shades of sound which feeling inspires and taste regulates, we must begin by acquiring a perfect command of the bow.[65]

Note that the August Lindner translation omits the following:

To produce equality in the tone, practice diligently the up and downstrokes in their full length, quite straight and with equal force throughout, on all the 4 strings. Therefore, play the scales very slowly, and take care that the up and downstrokes be as equal as possible. Even on the best instrument, the tones on the four strings are not equal in power and quality; it is therefore the player’s task to equalise them. To acquire the different gradations of tone, you must apply the bow as gently as possible at its extremities, both in the up and downstroke, then swell the tone gradually but not in jerks, as far as the middle of the bow – where it reaches its greatest strength, – upon which you must diminish it in the same manner. This practice offers at the same time an opportunity of perfecting the intonation. If you have attained this object, and if you have succeeded in drawing out all the tones with equal force, and in swelling each single tone from the softest piano to the strongest forte, then you will have the bow in your power, and be able to produce with it all the gradations of execution and expression.[66]

We can discern that toward the end of the nineteenth century, in some editions of the Duport’s Instruction, articles on nuances and expression appeared in abridged versions. By the beginning of the twentieth century, such essential performing techniques as ‘messa di voce[67] (see Figure 12), somehow disappear from the methodology of renowned violoncello teachers. For example, in Grützmacher’s Daily Exercises, op. 67, published in 1891 and 1910 under the editorship of his prominent student Hugo Becker, as well as in the publication of William Willeke, the expressive effect ‘messa di voce’ is absent. (See Figure 13 and 14).

Figure 12 Romberg, Méthode de violoncelle, expressive bow stroke ‘messa di voce’ ( S.I. ), Romberg, Paris (c.1840), p. 96.

Slowly, with horizontal bowing, using the whole bow (i.e. G.B.).

Figure 13 Grützmacher, Daily Exercises for the Violoncello, op. 67. New and revised Edition by Becker, p. 3.

Figure 14 Grützmacher, Daily Exercises for the Violoncello, op. 67, with explanatory notes. Revised and edited by Willeke, p. 2.

At the same time, it is interesting to note that strangely enough, in the early Soviet – Russian facsimile reprint of Grützmacher’s Daily exercises published in 1924, the original indications of ‘messa di voce’ are present:[68]

Figure 15 Grützmacher, Tägliche Übungen, op. 67. Moscow: Muzsektor Gosizdat,1924, p. 2.

Figure 16 Spohr, Grand Violin School, p. 111.

The ‘messa di voce’ effect, that is singing or playing of a long note so that it begins quietly, swells to full volume, and then diminishes to the original quiet tone (piano – cresc. – forte – dim. – piano) can be successfully used as an expressive effect, for instance, on the long notes in the Andante variations (Variations on a Rococo theme: Variations III, V and VII, version ‘A’). Moreover, this particular effect might be applied while the bow is changing direction (see Figures 15 and 16), for instance, in the third and fourth measures, Variation VII, Andante sostenuto, Cantabile (version ‘A’): mf – cresc. – forte – dim. – mf.

Figure 17 Variation VII (version ‘A’). Manuscript copy of the violoncello part, fund 88 № 97 b.

The ‘messa di voce’ effect (see Figures 16 and 17) bringing undoubted benefits of a better sound production and the formation of its timbre. The vibrato effect can be added to enliven the sound in a more singing, otherwise melodic way. However, we must remember that not all the long notes should be executed in such a manner. This effect should be left to the performer’s discretion and taste. It is known that at the Moscow Conservatory Fitzenhagen and Jan Hřímalý, one of his colleagues and chamber music partners, demanded from their students ‘the most serious attitude, especially to the execution of details’.[69]

As mentioned above, we propose to take into consideration traditions of the leading European instrumental schools. Numerous Fitzenhagen’s indications correspond to Louis Spohr’s ‘refined style’ in which the performance precision, feeling and elegance are put together.[70] Spohr instructs the performer on how to complement the composer’s ideas by adding his own spirit. The listener is therefore given the opportunity to comprehend all of the composer’s intentions and, accordingly, acquire a better understanding of the composition.[71]

We should remember that Fitzenhagen, like all his contemporary string players, used nothing but gut strings; on his violoncello we can clearly see that there were no fine tuners (see Photo 1, 2 and 3). It is obvious that the cellist had two metal overwound low gut strings and the two top open gut strings. It should also be mentioned that in the nineteenth to early twentieth century, as in previous times, the use of an endpin was not standardised. During his training years, the young Fitzenhagen had been using a small wooden stick that was the norm for young students who practised on large instruments (see Photo 1). In 1900, Louis Abbiate writes in his Method:

Nowadays, the manner of holding the cello has not changed, except for the function of an endpin that is made for the instrument support, therefore has a double advantage of facilitating the instrument retention and giving bigger sonority. Nevertheless, we recommend to the student, when he or she will have a good hold of the instrument with endpin, to get used to do so without it, which will give him the classic hold rectification.[72] (See Photo 4).

Having established his concert and pedagogical activity, at the beginning of his professorship at the Moscow Conservatory in 1870, Fitzenhagen played on a cello without an endpin, as we can see from a photo taken shortly after his arrival in Moscow (see Photo 2). Later he started using an endpin for convenience, but possibly in connection with the established performing traditions, as evidenced by another photograph, dated 1888 (see Photo 3).

Photo 1 Wilhelm Fitzenhagen with his mother, c. 1855–1858, courtesy of family member A. Polyak.

Photo 2

K.F.W. Fitzenhagen, c. 1870

Photo from the family archive

(courtesy of A. Polyak)

Photo 3

K.F.W. Fitzenhagen, 1888

Photo from the Russian National Museum of Music, Moscow, Russia

Photo 4

Abbiate, Louis (1866-1933).

Tenue générale du violoncelliste


The title page of the piano-cello score manuscript stipulates that the Variations can be accompanied by an orchestra or by a fortepiano (see Figure 1, Facsimile of the title pages).[73] This implies the Haydn-Mozart type of orchestration (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings). Concerning the fortepiano, we should point out that ‘Tchaikovsky and his teacher and mentor, Anton Rubinstein, both praised the singing tone and powerful sound of Jacob Becker’s [fortepianos].[74]


The main purpose of this study is to highlight the positive aspects of the collaboration between Tchaikovsky and Fitzenhagen, especially against the background of the mid-twentieth-century mainstream Soviet musicological criticism on which, to our knowledge, all previous research is based.

We concluded that, with the composer’s consent, Fitzenhagen took part in the initial process of the Variations creation as well as its editing and publication. Fitzenhagen proposed to help Tchaikovsky with the publication of the Variations abroad with Friedrich Luckhardt in Berlin, and not with Franz Ernest Christophe Leuckart in Leipzig as it erroneously mentioned in all modern musicological sources.

There are four existing contemporary manuscripts of the Variations: the very primary source that is Tchaikovsky’s piano–cello score with Fitzenhagen’s remarks inked and pencilled directly into the score, the full orchestral score and the manuscript copy of the aforementioned piano–cello score to which a separately written out violoncello-solo part was added.

It is of importance to state that Fitzenhagen participated in the preparation of two fully edited versions of the Variations: Version ‘A’ (Tchaikovsky-Fitzenhagen initial eight variations set) and Version ‘B’ (Fitzenhagen’s personal arrangement). Additionally, we should keep in mind that the ‘A’ version was always present in ink as basis of the text in three clean master manuscripts. Nevertheless Jurgenson, disregarding his own ‘complaints’, published the ‘B’ version that was pencilled in by Fitzenhagen.

Fitzenhagen was one of the founders of the Russian violoncello school in Moscow. His lineage of cello playing came through the Dresden cellist Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Grützmacher. We can see similarities in their approach of musical text treatment. Grützmacher and Fitzenhagen give various performance indications that are still relevant today and therefore useful for students, professional musicians and amateurs. The precision with which the manuscripts and the scores were edited is remarkable.

Recent approaches to performance practice brought back the interest in exercising techniques employed by cellists throughout the nineteenth century. This revival of cello playing methods and instructions that emphasise refined style and freedom of expression is nowadays shared by many leading performance practice specialists. We embrace this approach, and further agree with musicologists such as Polina Vaidman, Tatyana Gaidamovich and Lev Ginsburg with regard to inviting performers to decide for themselves on their preferences of one version of the Variations or another by acknowledging, as we concluded in this study, that both versions are legitimate.

In our turn we would like to insist that in addition to the autographs and the publications from Tchaikovsky’s lifetime, we recommend using the manuscript copies of the piano-cello score and cello-solo part (Fund 88 № 97 a and b) as essential and significant reference documents that are published here for the first time. Ideally, the facsimile versions of all of Tchaikovsky’s and Fitzenhagen’s manuscripts, especially the hand-written copies of the aforementioned documents, should be included in a much-needed new critical edition of the Variations on a Rococo theme, op. 33.


Appendix I a

Jurgenson’s editions of the orchestral parts, plates № 3330 (ca. 1889–1891)

and the full orchestral score, plates № 13791 (ca. 1905–1911)

Fund 88 № 342 Fund 88 № 96 Fund 88 № 97 a Fund 88 № 97 b
Tchaikovsky’s and Fitzenhagen’s handwriting

‘rough copy’ of cello and piano part

or ‘working’ manuscript

Tchaikovsky’s and Fitzenhagen’s handwriting


Orchestral score manuscript

Clean manuscript copy

Piano part (Piano-cello score)

created from the autographs

funds 88 № 342 and № 96

Clean manuscript copy

Violoncelle-Solo’ part

created from the autographs

funds 88 № 342 and № 96

Title page

A Mr. Guillaume Fitzenhagen

Variations sur un thème rococo pour le Violoncelle avec accompagnement d’orchestre

par P. Tchaikovsky (Op. 33)

Title page

the same type of

manuscript paper as № 342

A M. Guillaume Fitzenhagen

Variations sur un thème rococo pour le Violoncelle avec

accompagnement d’orchestre

ou de piano

par P. Tchaikovsky (Op. 33)

Title page

note that handwriting differs from fund 88 № 97 b

A Mr. Guillaume Fitzenhagen

Professeur au Conservatoire de musique à Moscou

Variations sur un thème rococo pour le Violoncelle

avec accompagnement d’orchestre

ou de Piano

par P. Tchaikovsky Op. 33


Title page

note that handwriting differs from fund 88 № 97 a

A Mr. Guillaume Fitzenhagen

Professeur au Conservatoire de musique à Moscou

Variations sur un thème rococo pour le Violoncelle

avec accompagnement d’orchestre

ou de Piano

par P. Tchaikovsky Op. 33

Violoncelle – Solo

Version ‘A’

Version ‘B’ indications N/A

Tchaikovsky’s inked-in nuances

Fitzenhagen’s pencilled-in nuances, cuts; inked-in corrections,

wax sealed inserts written out on manuscript paper

Version ‘A’

inked and pencilled in


Fitzenhagen’s pencilled-in

indications for Version ‘B’

Version ‘A’

with pencilled in indications for

Version ‘B’

Version ‘A’

Version B indications N/A

(see the Piano-cello score)[75]

Variation VIII – 32 measures from the beginning are crossed out


Available electronic resource Currently available autograph source Electronic resource:

currently N/A

Electronic resource:

currently N/A

(first publication of the facsimile)

Tchaikovsky’s and Fitzenhagen’s handwriting Tchaikovsky’s and Fitzenhagen’s handwriting[76] Copied mostly from autographs fund 88 № 342, except for Variation IV and V.

Variations IV and V copied from the fund 88 № 96

(violoncello-solo stave)

Copied mostly from autograph fund 88 № 96 (violoncello-solo stave)

Page 1

Solo with piano accompaniment manuscript paper (9 staves)

Page 1

Orchestral voices

manuscript paper (14 staves)

Page 1

Solo with piano accompaniment manuscript paper (12 staves)

Page 1

Solo manuscript paper (12 staves)

Last page stamp fund 88 № 342


Last page stamp № 24

entry № 560 of the Museum

named after N. Rubinstein


Last page stamp № 24

entry № 561 of the Museum

named after N. Rubinstein

electronic resource currently N/A

First page stamp № 561

electronic resource currently N/A[77]

Appendix I b

Four available manuscripts of the Variations on a Rococo theme Op. 33


The full text of Fitzenhagen’s letter to Tchaikovsky appear here in print for the first time. The letter is preserved in the Tchaikovsky’s Memorial House – Museum in Klin, Russia.[78]

Facsimile of Fitzenhagen’s letter manuscript (excerpt)

Preserved in the Tchaikovsky’s Memorial House – Museum in Klin, Russia.

Seesen am Harz, 13 of June 1879

My dear Friend!

Just back from the Wiesbaden Musikfest, I have the great joy of informing you that I made a great impression with your Cello Variations. I pleased the public so much that I was called back three times and even received stormy applause during the piece, after the andante in D minor. Liszt said to me ‘I admire you, you played superbly’, and of your composition he said, ‘at last some real music again’, surely the greatest compliment Liszt could make to you. I can foresee that I will have the greatest possible success with this piece everywhere and will therefore keep it always in my repertoire as a bravura piece. I have surpassed all cellists with it. Everyone says that nobody else can play it like me. Fr. Grützmacher, B. Cossmann and J. de Swert all attended my performance. I’m delighted, dear friend, to be able to tell you this and my only regret was that you were not in Wiesbaden. H. v. Bülow played your piano concerto in the first concert. Here the second and third movements were appreciated more than in Moscow. Bülow played very well, yet not as beautifully as our friend Nicolai Rubinstein. Bülow got lost twice in the first movement and at the end was only recalled for one bow. As you can imagine you were spoken about frequently during the festival and it goes without saying that I recommended all your works to all virtuosi, violinists as well as pianists. You are generally held in high esteem in Germany. I gave Liszt the piano reduction of Eugene Onegin and he will arrange some paraphrases or fantasies for solo piano from the opera.[79]

My dear friend, you must soon compose a cello concerto for me! I will again stand by your side with advice and help and would be very happy if you would satisfy my wish at last. Raff has also finished a second cello concerto but I have not yet seen it. Think of me from time to time, and when you find time and the Muse inspires you, write a few more pages.

Your sincerely devoted friend,

W. Fitzenhagen

My address is: Seesen am Harz.

(translated from the German by Charles Zebley)


[1] Fitzenhagen, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1848–1890) was a prominent German violoncello player. He was one of the founders of the Russian violoncello school in Moscow together with Davydov, Karl in Saint Petersburg. He was engaged by the Imperial Russian Musical Society as a soloist, chamber music player and professor at the Moscow conservatory (1870–1890). Fitzenhagen was also known as a composer, music director and editor, and he was the musical director of the Moscow Music Circle from February 1885.

[2] For a definition of Texttreue, see Alfred Brendel, Music, Sense and Nonsense: Collected Essays and Lectures’ (London: Robson Press, 2015), translator’s footnote № 10.

[3] Note that, instead of terms ‘piano reduction or arrangement’ (Klavierauszug in German), we use here more precise definitions such as ‘fortepiano-violoncello score,’ ‘Piano-cello score,’   ‘violoncello-solo’ part as well as indications such as ‘Piano’ and ‘VioloncelleSolo,’ the latter are present on the title pages of the manuscript Fund 88 № 97 a and b (for further explanation see the Conclusion chapter below).

[4] Becker, J., Saint Petersburg, 1875, serial № 8333, length 212cm, 2 pedals: una corda and sustaining pedal, 7 octaves A-A, Claire Chevallier’s piano collection:

[5] 30 November in the Julian calendar that was in use in Russia until 14 February 1918, the Julian calendar dates are indicated further as ‘Old Style’ [O.S.],

[6] According to the Report of the Moscow Branch of the Imperial Russian Musical Society (IRMS), years 1877–78, p. 14, the performance took place at the Third Symphonic Assembly of the IRMS. Nadezhda Filaretovna Fralovskaya (1831–1894), known after her marriage as von Meck, was Tchaikovsky’s greatest benefactresses and best friend; see Tchaikovsky, P. I.  – N. F. von Meck, Correspondence: in 4 volumes, Vol. I: 1876 – 1877 (Chelyabinsk: Edition MPI,  2007-10), p. 96. [П. И. Чайковский — Н. Ф. фон Мекк, Переписка: в 4 т., Т.1: 1876 – 1877 (Челябинск: MPI, 2007), с. 96.]

[7] The final concert took place on 8 June 1879, see: Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Band 75, Januar bis December 1879, p. 244; Tchaikovsky – von Meck, Vol. III: 1879 – 1881, p. 155.

[8] Fitzenhagen’s own list of compositions comprises 64 opuses and 40 transcriptions, including four violoncello concertos, solos, pieces, studies, etc. For further documents regarding Fitzenhagen as composer, please see

[9] Anatoly Brandukov (1859–1930). Russian and Soviet cellist, teacher and composer, Tchaikovsky’s close friend. Studied at the Moscow Conservatory in the cello class of Fitzenhagen and in Tchaikovsky’s harmony and instrumentation classes.

[10] Viktor Kubatsky (1891–1970). Soviet cellist and pedagogue. He graduated in 1914 from the Moscow Philharmonic Society Music and Drama College (Prof. A. Brandukov’s class). He edited volumes 30 Б и 55 Б in: Tchaikovsky, Complete Collected Works.

[11] The autograph may be accessed here (Fund 88 № 342: This apocryphal story is quoted in a number of sources such as Israel Yampolsky, Unpublished manuscripts of Tchaikovskys Variations on a Rococo theme, ‘Soviet music’ journal № 3 (Moscow–Leningrad, 1945), pp. 32-33. [Ямпольский, И., Неопубликованные рукописи Вариаций на тему рококо Чайковского, журнал ‘Советская музыка’ № 3, Москва – Ленинград, 1945, cc. 32-33.]; Grigory Dombayev, Creative work of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in materials and documents (Moscow: Muzgiz, 1958), p. 472. [Домбаев Г., Творчество П. Чайковского в материалах и документах, Москва: Музгиз, 1958, с. 472.]; Polina Vaidman, Tchaikovskys working archive: A study of the composers manuscripts and working methods (Moscow: Muzyka, 1988), p. 20 [Вайдман, П., Творческий архив Чайковского, Москва: Музыка, 1988], p. 20]; David Brown, Tchaikovsky: A Biographical and Critical Study, Vol. II: The Crisis Years (1874-1878) (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1982), p. 122; David Brown, Tchaikovsky: The Man and his music (London: Faber & Faber, 2007), p. 128; Alexander Stogorsky, Variation on a Rococo theme: the fate of timeless masterpiece (Moscow: Musical life magazine № 21, 1983), p. 16. [Стогорский, А., Вариации на тему рококо: судьба бессмертного шедевра, Москва: Музыкальная жизнь № 21, 1983), c. 16.]; Alexander Poznansky and Brett Langston, The Tchaikovsky Handbook: A Guide to the Man and His Music, in 2 volumes, Vol. I (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 203. Note that some authors repeat Brandukov’s story and, additionally, ridiculed Fitzenhagen’s name by calling him ‘Fitzenpupen’ (Yampolsky, Unpublished manuscripts, p. 32; Dombayev, Creative work, p. 472; Vaidman,  Tchaikovskys working archive, p. 20). In Brown’s interpretation of Brandukov’s story, Fitzenhagen was mentioned surprisingly as ‘that idiot’ (Brown, Tchaikovsky, 1982, p. 122). Note that these disparaging remarks are continued to be used by authors who base their research on writings of the aforementioned music historians.

[12] Poznansky and Langston, The Tchaikovsky Handbook, p. 203; Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo theme Op. 33, Original version, Urtext Edition for Violoncello and Piano, edited by Wallfisch, R., editorial consultant Brown, D., piano reduction revised by York, J. (London – Frankfurt/M – Leipzig – New York: Edition Peters, 2009), p. V; Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo theme Op. 33,  for Cello and Orchestra, Original Version, edited by Thomas Kohlhase, Preface (Mainz: Ernst Eulenburg Ltd., 2007), p. V; Tschaikowsky, Variations on a Rococo theme Op. 33, edited by Thomas Kohlhase, Preface (Mainz: Schott Music, 2010), p. 2; See also:

Note that in Poznansky and Langston, The Tchaikovsky Handbook, on p. X – Abbreviations and p. 203, there are discrepancies between two of Tchaikovsky’s works compendiums published in the year 1958. For instance, the undated visit was mentioned in Dombayev, Creative work, p. 472, and not in the ‘MNC’, viz. Tchaikovsky’s Musical Heritage: From the history of his compositions (Moscow: the Academy of Science USSR, 1958), pp. 320-322. [Музыкальное наследие Чайковского: Из истории его произведений (Москва: АН СССР, 1958), cc. 320-322.]; Note also that if we compare the so-called Urtext edition (Brown, Wallfisch and York (eds.), Variations on a Rococo theme) with the analysed above manuscripts it becomes clear that the edition does not fully correspond to the definition ‘Urtext’.

[13] Dombayev, Creative work, p. 472.

[14] Brown, Wallfisch and York, Variations on a Rococo theme, p. V;

See also:, accessed March 2019.

[15] 7 December [O.S.]. This was the first performance of this work in Moscow.

[16] Poplavsky, Yulian (1871–1958) studied the cello at the Moscow Conservatory with Fitzenhagen and Alfred von Glenn. After 1917, he lived in France. Poplavsky’s reminiscences, Tchaikovsky’s last days at Klin appeared for the first time in print in Moscow (October 1894) in the Artist magazine; see also: Yulian Poplavsky, Tchaikovsky’s Last Day at Klin, reminiscences about Tchaikovsky, 3rd edition (Moscow: Muzyka, 1979), p. 380.  [Поплавский, Ю., Последний день Чайковского в Клину, воспоминания о Чайковском, 3-е изд., Москва: Музыка, 1979, с. 380.]

[17] In connection with requests for a cello concerto, it is interesting to read Fitzenhagen’s letter to Tchaikovsky (see Appendix II, Fitzenhagen’s letter to Tchaikovsky from Seesen am Harz, 13 June 1879); Dombayev, Creative work, p. 472; Poplavsky, Last Day at Klin, p. 380.

[18] 15 February [O.S.]; Tchaikovsky’s correspondence with Pyotr Jurgenson in 2 volumes, Vol. I: 1866–1885 (Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 2011), p. 45. [Чайковский П. И. – Юргенсон П. И., Переписка: в 2 т., Т. 1: 1866–1885 (Москва: П. Юргенсон, 2011), p. 45.]

[19] In Brown’s preface (Brown, Wallfisch and York, Variations on a Rococo theme, p. V.), the Russian word is ‘противный’, translated as ‘wretched’); note that the word ‘противный’ can be interpreted differently, as ‘contradicting, disagree[able], resisting, opposite’,


[20] Handwritings of the ‘Piano’ and the ‘Violoncelle-Solo’ parts will be analysed in our future publications.

[21] The foundation date of the Russian National Museum of Music (formerly the Glinka Central State Museum of Musical Culture is 11 March 1912 [O.S.]. On that day, the Museum named after Nikolay Rubinstein, who was an eminent musician and one of the founders of the Moscow Conservatory, opened its doors next to the Conservatory library.

(see )

[22] (The italics are ours); Tchaikovsky’s correspondence with Pyotr Jurgenson in 2 volumes, Vol. II: 1886–1893 (Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 2013), p. 85. [Чайковский П. И., Юргенсон П. И., Переписка: в 2 т., Т. 2: 1886–1893 (Москва: П. Юргенсон, 2013), c. 85.]; see also endnote 91 that accompanied this remark.

[23] Louis Spohr, Violinschule mit erläuternden Kupfertafeln, Original Ausgabe, Wien: Haslinger, (c. 1832–1833), p. 195; Spohr, Grand Violin School, dedicated to Professors of the Violin, from the Original German by the Translator C. Rudolphus, (London Wessel & Co., c. 1833), p. 179; Note that we find a copy of the Original Edition of Spohr’s Violin School at the Russian State Library; it is worth mentioning that Tchaikovsky had a copy of a Method book by a Belgian violin player Charles de Beriot in his private library (see Ainbinder, Tchaikovsky’s personal library and Istomin, PhD thesis, ‘Variations on a Rococo theme’ Op.33).

[24]  It is interesting to note that Fitzenhagen’s Concerto № 2 (Fantastique), op. 4, in A minor begins with a Cadenza. Accordingly, we can see that the practice of featuring a Cadenza at the beginning of a piece was familiar to him.

[25] The Valse-Scherzo, op. 34, in C major, version for violin and piano; Note that ‘The whereabouts of Tchaikovsky’s full orchestral score and piano arrangement autographs are unknown. A manuscript copy of the full orchestral score possibly written out by Iosif Kotek, and with tempo, dynamic and expressive markings added by Tchaikovsky, was sold at auction in Marburg, Germany, in 1979, and is now in a private collection. If Kotek had been solely responsible for the orchestration, then it follows that the full score of Tchaikovsky’s autograph may never have existed.’, see:,_Op._34#cite_note-note11-11. It is important to note that Friedrich Luckhardt’s Edition House has never been mentioned in the current musicological works in connection with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo theme, op. 33 and Valse-Scherzo, op. 34.

[26] A number of Fitzenhagen’s opuses were published by Luckhardt in Kassel and in Berlin, see: Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht, Verlag von Friedrich Hofmeister, Leipzig, 1876;

[27] For instance, see:; Yampolsky, Unpublished manuscripts (1945); Kubatsky, Prefaces, Variations on a Rococo theme (1956); Lev Raaben, Tchaikovsky’s works for the violin and violoncello (Moscow: Muzgiz, 1958), p. 56. [Раабен, Л., Скрипичные и виолончельные произведения П. Чайковского (Москва: Музгиз, 1958), с. 56.]; Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue of Tchaikovsky’s Works, edited by Vaidman, P., Korabelnikova, L. and Rubtsova, V. (Moscow: P. Jurgenson, Mainz: Schott, 2006).

[28] The spelling ‘Leuckardt’ is found in Tchaikovsky–Jurgenson, Vol. I, pp. 38, 45, 48; the spelling ‘Leückardt’ appears in Tchaikovsky–von Meck, Vol. II, pp. 138, 434.

[29] Roland J. Wiley, Tchaikovsky (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 97, 183, 539.

[30] Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht, Verlag von Friedrich Hofmeister, Leipzig (, September 1876, p. 218; January 1877, p.10; November 1877, p. 326.

[31] Letters of Franz Liszt in 2 volumes, Vol. II, collected and edited by La Mara, translated by C. Blanche (London: H. Grevel & Co.,1894), p. 305.

[32] Tchaikovsky–von Meck, Vol. II, p. 131.

[33] Opuses 33 and 23 (see above); Note that in this letter the German publisher’s name is written in Russian, for the first time, in its closest phonetic equivalent for ‘Luckhardt’;

find the letter, which is translated and published with some common in our case discrepancies, here:

[34] Note another confusing example of Tchaikovsky’s spellings here; Tchaikovsky–von Meck, Vol. II, p. 138.

[35] ‘Leukhardt either Luckhardt or something?’ was Tchaikovsky’s remark; TchaikovskyJurgenson, Vol. I, pp. 37–38.

[36] Jurgenson’s plates № 3331, ‘Pour Violoncelle et Piano’ score and ‘Violoncello principale’ part (Note the way of naming these particular parts as they appear on Jurgenson’s printed title pages from the years 1889–1891 together with indications such as ‘Partition d’orchestre’ and ‘Parties d’orchestre’); the Variations’ publication date is indicated in Jurgenson’s letter to Tchaikovsky, see: Tchaikovsky–Jurgenson, Vol. I, p. 70.

[37] Underlined by Tchaikovsky; Wilhelm (fr. Guillaume) Fitzenhagen; TchaikovskyJurgenson, Vol. I, p. 80; Raaben, Tchaikovsky’s works, p. 58; see also: The first edition copies of the ‘Piano’ score and ‘Violoncelle-Solo’ part are kept at the Tchaikovsky’s Memorial House – Museum in Klin, Russia, library № 538.

[38] Translated by Charles Zebley. The letter № 580 is kept at the Tchaikovsky’s Memorial House – Museum in Klin, Russia.

[39] Version ‘B’, see Fund 88 №№ 96, 97 a and b. However, it is very probable that Fitzenhagen premiered the eight variations version ‘A’ in Moscow. Note, that the handwritten orchestral parts are considered lost.

[40] Fund 88 № 342;

[41] Tchaikovsky, Complete Collected Works, Volume 30 Б and 55 Б, edited by Kubatsky (1956);

See also:;

[42] It is interesting to mention here that ‘the cellist Boris Dobrokhotov recounted that Kubatsky, the first performer of the sonata [by Shostakovich], after receiving the manuscript from Shostakovich introduced considerable changes into the cello part, including octave passages. Not everything went smoothly at the first rehearsals with the composer, and the cello part was further edited (evidently some of Kubatsky’s suggestions were eliminated)’, see Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, new edition (London: Faber & Faber, 2006), p. 121.

[43] The title of the four existing manuscripts is written in French. Note that in Poznansky and Langston’s The Tchaikovsky Handbook, p. 202, the title in French ‘Variations sur un thème rococo pour le violoncelle avec accompagnement d’orchestre ou de Piano par P. Tchaikovsky Op. 33’ is absent.

[44] Raaben, Tchaikovsky’s works, p. 50 (see the footnote).

[45] Lev Ginsburg, History of the violoncello art in four volumes, Vol. III, the Russian classic violoncello school 1860–1917 (Moscow: Muzyka, 1965), p. 572.  [Гинзбург, Л., История виолончельного искусства, книга третья: Русская классическая виолончельная школа 1860–1917 (Москва: Музыка, 1965), с. 572].

[46] Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopaedic Dictionary, under supervision of Andreyevsky, I., Vol. XXVII (Saint Petersburg, 1899). [Энциклопедический словарь Брокгауза и Ефрона в 41 тт. под ред. проф. И. Е. Андреевского, Т. XXVII. СПб., 1899].

see also:

[47] From Greek makrón (μακρόν) – ‘long or heavy’. A written or printed mark ‘ ¯  ’ used to indicate a long vowel in some languages, a stressed vowel in verse, or a strong beat in music; From Latin breve — ‘brief or short’. A written or printed mark ‘ ˘ ’ used to indicate short or unstressed vowels or syllables as well as a weak beat in music. Note that Tchaikovsky in his library had M. Brodovsky Guide to versification, 1887 [Бродовский, М., Руководство к стихосложению, Санкт-Петербург: Книгоиздательство Герман Гоппе, 1887], see also: Ada Ainbinder, Tchaikovsky’s personal library as the source of study of his creative biography, Doctoral thesis, Gnessin Russian Music Academy, Music history department (Moscow, 2010) [Айнбиндер, А., Личная библиотека П.И. Чайковского как источник изучения его творческой биографии, Диссертация, Российская  Академия Музыки им. Гнесиных, Кафедра истории музыки, Москва, 2010].

[48] The letter is quoted from Modest Tchaikovsky, The Life & Letters of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, edited from the Russian with an Introduction by Rosa Newmarch (London: John Lane the Bodley Head Ltd., New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1924), p. 496. Tchaikovsky inaccurately writes the Fourth Act, although the women’s chorus Razgulyàlasia, razlivàlasia (Lustig ergiessen frei von dem Eise) was published as № 13 in the Third Act of the Opera, see: Glinka, A Life for the Tsar (Moscow: P. Jurgenson, 1880), p. 226.

[49] Villoing, Alexander Ivanovitch, (1804 – 1878). Known as the fortepiano teacher of Anton and Nicolay Rubinstein. His Ecole pratique du Piano (Paris : Heugel, c. 1870) embodies his system of instruction.

[50] The bourrée was rather lively in manner and in duple meter, calling for lightness in performance (Rousseau, Türk). While the term bourrée does not appear in classic music as a title for a movement, the style was frequently used. The bourrée has a short upbeat and an articulation after the third beat of the measure, Ratner (1980), p. 13; Bourrée – old French dance from Auvergne, of merry but not very quick character. Its time signatures and rhythms are: 2/4, 4/4, 2/2. This dance underwent artistic treatment especially among composers of the 18th century (Brockhaus and Efron); See also The Bourrée chapter, Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 35. We should note, however, that examples of ‘fast’ bourrées also exist (Dr. G. Kennaway’s remark).

[51] If we wish to refer to the original pastoral and graceful poetic genres, we can find a suitable example in Pyotr Karabanov’s Verses and specifically Tchaikovsky’s interlude The sincerity of the shepherdess, duet Daphnis and Chloe (Act II, № 14 c) from The Queen of Spades, op. 68, where the composer has adapted Karabanov’s original text.

[52] Brown, Tchaikovsky (2007), p. 127; Brown, Wallfisch and York (2009), Preface.

[53] See Tchaikovsky, Complete Collected Works (1956), Vol. 30 Б and 55 Б, Prefaces.

[54] Mussorgsky to Rimsky-Korsakov, Shilovo, 15 August 1868 [O.S.]; see: Mussorgsky, Orlova–Pekelis (1971) p. 107; Calvocoressi (1956), p. 104.

[55] Russian –  ‘обвиолончелить’ that phonetically sounds as ‘obviolonchelit’ (i.e. make it more suitable for the violoncello); TchaikovskyJurgenson, Vol. I (2011), p. 45.

[56] Note that the French expression ‘revu et corrigé’ or especially ‘revu et corrigé par Fitzenhagen’ which is presumably written by the cellist himself is not found in any available primary source.

[57] Note that signature in contracts is usually preceded by the handwritten words ‘Lu et approuvé’ (‘Read and approved’).

[58] Tchaikovsky asked Taneyev to make the score more ‘fortepianistic’ [‘офортепьянить]; see Tchaikovsky–Jurgenson, Vol. I (2011), p. 60; Sergey Taneyev (1856–1915) was a Russian pianist, theorist and composer, and pupil of Tchaikovsky.

[59] Ginsburg, History of the violoncello (1965), p. 289.

[60] Dolmetsch, (Eugène) Arnold (1858–1940). English instrument maker and pioneer in the revival of performances of early music on original instruments; Arnold Dolmetsch, The interpretation of the music of the XVII and XVIII centuries revealed by contemporary evidence (London: Novello, 1916), p. 22;

Dolmetsch talks about Francois Couperin’s remark:

Take great care not to alter the time of set pieces, and not to hold notes longer than their proper value. Finally, form your playing on the good taste of to-day, which is without comparison purer than formerly, L’art de toucher le Clavecin’ (1717), the italics are ours.

[61] TchaikovskyJurgenson, Vol. II, p. 85, Letter № 679, Tchaikovsky to Jurgenson:

Maidanovo, 30 August [11 September O.S.], 1887

I am sending to you today a violoncello piece (‘Pezzo capriccioso’ for cello and orchestra Op. 62, S.I.), dedicated to Brandukov. Be so kind, send it to Fitzenhagen (i.e. not the full score, but with the piano) and ask him for me to look through the violoncello part and put in all sorts of indications and instructions of particular features I have written the full score just in case, but I will not bother you whether you publish it or the parts; but with the piano, I will be very glad if you print it. This piece is the only fruit of my creative spirit from the whole summer. [bold text and italics are ours].


P. Tchaikovsky

[Я высылаю тебе сегодня виолончельную пиэсу, посвящённую Брандукову. Будь так добр, пошли её к Фитценхагену (т. е. не партитуру, а с фортепьяно) и попроси его от меня просмотреть виолончельную партию и выставить всяческие знаки и указания специального свойства. Партитуру я написал на всякий случай, но вовсе не буду приставать, что ты её или голоса издавал; а с фортепьяно очень буду рад, чтобы ты напечатал. Эта пиэса есть единственный плод моего творческого духа за все лето.


П. Чайковский]

For an alternative translation of the letter see:

[62] Clive Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750-1900 (Oxford University Press, 1999); George Kennaway, Playing the Cello, 1780–1930, (Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2014); Valerie Walden, Bernhard Romberg: A Survey of His Life, Work, and Contribution to the Art of Violoncello Performance, a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Music University of Auckland, 1989; Walden, One Hundred Years of Violoncello: A History of Technique and Performance Practice, 1740-1840 (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[63] Bernhard Romberg, Méthode de violoncelle (Paris : H. Lemoine, c. 1840)], p. 125. English translation in Romberg, A Complete Theoretical and Practical School for the Violoncello (Boston: Oliver Ditson, c. 1880), p. 118.

[64] Romberg, Méthode, p. 94; Romberg, School, p. 90.

[65] Jean-Louis Duport, Essay on Fingering the Violoncello and on the Conduct of the Bow, translated from the Original by Bishop (London: Messrs. R. Cocks & Co., c.1852), p. 162.

[66] Duport, Essai sur le doigté du violoncelle [Instruction of the Fingering and Bowing of the Violoncello], Nouvelle Edition revue et corrigée par Lindner, A., Texte Français, Allemand et Anglais (Offenbach sur le Mein: chez Jean André, 1864), p. 141. See also Kennaway, Playing the Cello, 1780–1930,’ p. 12, footnote 30.

[67]Messa di Voce’ (It.). Placing of the voice. Practice in bel canto of singing a crescendo then a diminuendo on a held note. Not to be confused with ‘mezza voce’. We should note that the ‘Mezza di voce’ effect remained a vocal ornament well into the 20th century, see: The Oxford Dictionary of Music, Kennedy, M., and Bourne Kennedy, J., Sixth Edition Edited by Rutherford-Johnson, T. (Oxford University Press, 2016), p. 550.

[68] Facsimile reprint of one of the earliest German editions, probably Kahnt, Leipzig 1845 or 1891.

[69] Ostrovskaya, From the Memories about the Moscow Conservatory (Moscow, 1966), p. 115.

[70] Louis Spohr (1784–1859), lived in Seesen (Fitzenhagen’s birthplace) from 1786 to 1796, studied violin with the leader of the Brunswick orchestra and in 1802 with Franz Eck, who took him on a tour of Russia. A copy of the first edition of Spohr’s Violinschule, Original Ausgabe, Haslinger, Wien (c.1832-1833) is preserved at the Russian State Library, Moscow; see also: Saponov, Die russischen Tagebücher und Erinnerungen Richard Wagners, Ludwig Spohrs und Robert Schumanns (Moscow, 2004).

[71] See also Spohr, Grand Violin School: On Delivery or Style in General, pp. 179–180.

[72] Louis Abbiate, Nouvelle méthode de violoncelle, théorique et pratique, en trois parties, contenant de nombreuses photographies explicatives, des extraits et des cadences des concertos les plus connus, et suivie d’une étude Symphonique  par l’auteur (Paris : Enoch & Cie; London: Enoch & Sons, 1900): ‘Actuellement, la tenue n’a pas changé, sauf l’adjonction d’une pique faite pour soutenir l’instrument, qui a le double avantage de faciliter le maintien et de donner une sonorité plus grande. Néanmoins, nous recommandons à l’élève, quand il possèdera bien la tenue de l’instrument avec pique, de s’habituer à s’en passer, ce qui lui donnera la correction de la tenue Classique’ (Voir la figure en tête de la Méthode), p. 12.

[73] The Haydn-Mozart type of orchestra (2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings). However, it is not a wind instrument combination that is very usual for the classic music. Note that a combination that is more usual includes the trumpets and timpani. In Poznansky – Langston, The Tchaikovsky Handbook, p. 202, the fortepiano indication ‘pour le violoncelle avec accompagnement d’orchestre ou de Piano’ is absent. The title stipulates Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello with small orchestra, Op. 33 (1876 –77). Tchaikovsky, however, does not mention the [forte]piano on the title page of the manuscript 88 № 342 (see Appendix I b) and there is no indication of a ‘small orchestra’ on any of the four manuscripts; in the Thematic and Bibliographical Catalogue (Jurgenson – Schott), p. 418, the piano accompaniment is also not mentioned. Indication of a ‘small orchestra’ mentioned in Brown’s book that was published in 2006, 2007, and reprinted in 2010, see: Brown, Tchaikovsky (2010), p. 128.

[74] Russian firm of piano makers: Jakob Becker (1811–1879) founded a workshop in Saint Petersburg in 1841, 20 years later the firm was taken over by his brother Franz Davidovich, see: Brockhaus and Efron (1899); Anne Swartz, Piano Makers in Russia in the Nineteenth Century (Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2014), p. 91. Tchaikovsky received at least two fortepianos from Jacob Becker’s firm. The second piano was given to him in 1885. We can admire this parlour grand piano in Tchaikovsky’s living room at his house in Klin. For our recording (Passacaille Records № 1047), we used Becker’s piano (1875) from Claire Chevallier’s collection.

[75] fund 88 № 97 a.

[76] see also Vaidman, Tchaikovskys working archive, p. 78.

[77] See Sergei Istomin, PhD thesis, ‘Variations on a Rococo theme’ Op.33 – Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Fitzenhagen – a creative collaboration, Moscow and Saint Petersburg violoncello schools in the light of European traditions (Ghent: Gent University and the School of Arts, 2019), Appendix V.

[78] For the rest of Fitzenhagen’s letters to Tchaikovsky see: Istomin, PhD thesis, 2019.

[79] Liszt, Franz, Polonaise aus der Oper: Jewgeny Onegin, v. Tschaïkowsky, Hamburg, Rahter, Marz 1880; see