Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky

Children's Album: 24 Easy Pieces, for piano, Op. 39

    Description by James Reel

    Tchaikovsky intended these 24 easy pieces to be played "by" children, rather than "for" them. They're extremely short, all but two clocking in at well under a minute.

    No. 1 is a slow, tender "Morning Prayer" in 3/4 time. Things pick up with the second item, a moderately-paced but stimulating "Winter Morning." No. 3 is a brisk, highly staccato 3/8 picture of a "Little Horseman." No. 4 is "Mama," an expressive, lingering portrait. A balance for such feminine material comes with No. 5, a sprightly "March of the Wooden Soldiers." All may be quiet on the battle front, but there's trouble back home. The sixth piece, "The Sick Doll," is a languishing Lento in G minor. The unfortunate sequel is "Dolly's Funeral," a C minor march marked, appropriately, Grave. Something of a wake comes with No. 8, a lively waltz. Then, the nursery being a fickle place, "The New Doll" arrives in a charming Andantino movement.

    A series of folk-inspired pieces begins with No. 10, a D minor Mazurka. No. 11 is a simple, extremely short (ten bars) "Russian Folksong," one that Tchaikovsky had included in the 50 Russian folk songs he'd arranged for piano duet in 1869. No. 12 is a sentimental "Peasant's Song," in which Tchaikovsky evokes a concertina wheezing back and forth between two chords. No. 13 is called, generically, "Folk Song" (Russian Dance), and employs the same tune Glinka used in his orchestral Kamarinskaya. No. 14 is a rousing little polka. The next piece heads south; it's a lively "Italian Ditty" with the staccato oom-pah-pah accompaniment one hears in many early and middle Verdi arias. No. 16 swings northwest for a placid, antique-sounding, G minor "French Melody." No. 17 is a "German Song" with a hint of yodeling, and for No. 18 it's back to Italy for a "Neapolitan Dance Tune," a stripped-down version of part of the "Neapolitan Dance" in Swan Lake.

    No. 19 returns to the nursery at bedtime with an evocative C major "Old Nurse's Song." When the lights go out, the witch "Baba-Yaga" appears in E minor -- yet she seems to have arrived from Liadov's quirky little orchestral piece of the same name rather than from the terrifying penultimate movement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. No. 21 brings lovely, melodic "Sweet Dreams," the set's longest piece. Soon it's time to wake up to the "Song of the Lark," a relatively bravura piece full of right-hand arabesques. It's Sunday morning, as we'll soon discover, and upon leaving the house we encounter "The Organ-Grinder," Tchaikovsky picked up this Moderato 3/4 tune from a Venetian street singer and would soon incorporate it into the middle section of the "Rêverie interrompue" closing his Opus 40 set of piano pieces. Finally, No. 24 finds us "In Church" -- Russian Orthodox, of course, as we can tell from the E minor chanting and low pedal-point tolling of a bell toward the end.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Morning prayer
    2. Winter Moning
    3. Mama
    4. Playing Hobby-Horses
    5. March of the Wooden Soldiers
    6. The New Doll
    7. The Sick Doll
    8. The Doll's Funeral
    9. Waltz
    10. Polka
    11. Mazurka
    12. Russian Song
    13. The Accordion Player
    14. Kamarinskaya
    15. Italian Song
    16. Old French Song
    17. German Song
    18. Neapolitan Song
    19. Nanny's Story
    20. The Sorcerer
    21. Sweet Dreams
    22. Lark Song
    23. In Church
    24. The Organ-Grinder Sings

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Melodiya MELCD 1002488
    2015 ABC Classics ABC 48119639
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95101BR
    2015 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8508016
    2015 Stradivarius STR 37003
    2013 Nimbus Alliance NI 6211
    2013 MDG MDGSC 9031798
    2013 MDG
    2012 FC Records 9728
    2011 Brilliant Classics 9214
    2010 Bridge 9322
    2010 Dynamic / Dynamic Italy 665/1-7
    2009 Classical Records 111
    2008 APR (Appian) 5661
    2008 Erato 4696751
    2007 Mirare 022
    2007 Arte Nova Classics 340290
    2005 Childish Records 10
    2005 Camerata Records 20051
    2004 Moscow Studio Archives 18403
    2003 Urtext 64
    2000 Sonora 22563
    1999 Rus 788034
    1997 Arte Nova 74321 34029-2
    1994 Naxos 550885
    1994 Vox CDX5087
    1994 RCA 61964
    1993 Le Chant du Monde 288034
    1993 Chandos 9098
    1993 Erato 2292-45969-2
    1992 Chandos 8365
    Edenways 5007
    Erato 45632
    Melodiya 1000005
    Manchester 140
    Erato 91843