This odd collection brings together five innocuous genre pieces with a substantial theme-and-variations set. The first item, known bilingually as "Abend-Träumerei" and "Rêverie du Soir," is a slow, G minor arabesque in 3/4 time, with a lyrical middle section. Next comes a "Scherzo humoristique" in D major, an effervescent piece in 3/8 with a more serious yet improvised-sounding middle section, full of short, obsessively repeated melody fragments that seem to want to burst into a folk song. The third piece, "Feuillet d'Album," is an abbreviated, highly lyrical item simple enough for student pianists; it's in standard ABA form, but the B section is barely discernible from the rest. Fourth is a Nocturne marked Andante sentimentale, a haunting, hesitant soliloquy interrupted by a more flowing midsection. A miniature cadenza leads to a reprise of the first section, now given a much more ornate treatment. Next is a B flat Capriccioso in 2/4 time, which Tchaikovsky originally thought to work into a symphony. The main material is quite poignant, but contrast arrives with the middle section, a jaunty Allegro vivacissimo in D minor.
The sixth piece consists of a modest, expressive 16-bar theme in 3/4 time, followed by 12 variations and a coda. The first variation nudges the theme forward only slightly. The second flows more smoothly under triplets in the right hand. Variation 3 brings outright brilliance to the proceedings, intensified with the bravura staccato chords in Variation 4. The fifth variation is an amorous Andante, but the sixth brings back a staccato snap. The seventh could be the chordal outline of a hymn, while the eighth is an unexpectedly exultant waltz in D minor. Variation 9 turns the theme into a mazurka, complete with miniature cadenza. Variation 10 brings back the theme pretty much intact under florid passagework. The next variation is an exuberant Allegro brillante in the style of Schumann. Variation 12 features a tonic pedal-point in the bass all the way through (looking ahead to a technique Tchaikovsky would employ in a movement of his "Polish" Symphony). The whole thing ends with a virtuosic presto coda, driving toward a final crowd-pleasing crescendo.