Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–93) remains, arguably, the most famous Russian composer from the Romantic Era. His Variations on a Rococo Theme reflect his lifelong passion for Mozart’s music. The Variations bear a striking resemblance to Franz Danzi’s variations on Mozart’s “La ci darem la mano” from the opera Don Giovanni. Danzi included his variations as the finale to his Cello Concerto No. 1, in A major, the same key as Tchaikovsky’s Variations.
This work started its life in a piano score in Tchaikovsky’s hand in late 1876 or early 1877. Composed for the cellist Wilhelm (Guillaume) Fitzenhagen, Tchaikovsky naturally relied on Fitzenhagen to help him make the work more idiomatic for the instrument. Fitzenhagen made the necessary corrections to the piano score, which Tchaikovsky then orchestrated. The manuscript of the orchestration in Tchaikovsky’s hand reflects all Fitzenhagen’s suggestions. The cello part in the orchestra score is almost entirely in Fitzenhagen’s hand; however, this is not out of the ordinary, as the orchestra score to Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso contains the cello part in the hand of Anatoly Brandukov, Pezzo’s dedicatee.
Tchaikovsky’s tempo-marking spelling errors were corrected without comment. Editorial marks are noted with brackets and dashed lines. We believe that our edition is the first to reflect Tchaikovsky’s desires without the need to rely on Victor Kubatsky’s mid-1900s reconstruction, which he sought through dubious means with the help of a criminologist.
The sources were graciously provided by the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow.