This is the only one of Tchaikovsky's four fine orchestral suites that did not begin as a projected symphony. It is also the only one with as few as four movements. He was a lifelong admirer of Mozart and sought here to pay tribute to his favorite composer. He started thinking about the music in 1884, but did not actually turn to its composition until 1887.
The four movements are based on a number of lesser-known pieces by Mozart, but strikingly recomposed to the extent that they are wholly consistent with Tchaikovsky's own style and temperament. (Some 25 years after Tchaikovsky's death, his countryman Stravinsky did a similar exercise with Tchaikovsky's music to produce the ballet The Fairy's Kiss, mainly transforming the sound of the older composer's scores into his own.)
The first movement, "Gigue," is based on Mozart's Gigue in C, K. 574. The second, "Minuet," is based on the Minuet in D, K. 355. These are brief, rather straightforward arrangements, rather lightly scored, and retain more of the quality of their originals than is true of the remaining two movements. The third movement, "Preghiera," is an orchestration of Liszt's piano transcription of Mozart's motet Ave verum corpus, K. 618. It is a sonorous and majestic sounding version, notable for its remarkably effective harp part.
The final part, "Theme & Variations," is notably longer than the other three movements combined. It is based on Mozart's Theme and Variations, K. 455, on a theme from Gluck's opera The Pilgrimage to Mecca. The orchestration is again brilliant, a distinct orchestral sound being given to each of the ten variations, chosen in such a way that the orchestration possesses its own dramatic progression.