The Children's Album (Детский альбом), Op. 39 (TH 141 ; ČW 150 to 173), subtitled "24 simple pieces à la Schumann", is a cycle of 24 piano pieces composed between May and July 1878.
Movements and Duration
The 24 pieces are very short, and a complete performance lasts only around 30 minutes :
- Morning Prayer (Утренная молитва)
Andante (G major, 24 bars).
- Winter Morning (Зимнее утро)
Allegro (B minor, 64 bars).
- Playing Hobby-Horses (Игра в лошадки)
Presto (D major, 72 bars).
- Mama (Мама)
Moderato (G major, 36 bars).
- March of the Wooden Soldiers (Марш деревянных солдатиков)
Moderato (D major, 48 bars).
- The Sick Doll (Болезнь куклы)
Moderato (G minor, 42 bars).
- The Doll's Funeral (Похороны куклы)
Adagio (C minor, 48 bars).
- Waltz (Вальс)
Allegro assai (E-flat major, 85 bars).
- The New Doll (Новая кукла)
Allegro (B-flat major, 57 bars).
- Mazurka (Мазурка)
Allegro non troppo, Tempo di mazurka (D minor, 52 bars).
- Russian Song (Русская песня)
Allegro (F major, 30 bars).
- The Accordion Player (Мужик на гармонике играет)
Adagio (B-flat major, 22 bars).
- Kamarinskaya (Камаринская)
Vivace (D major, 49 bars).
- Polka (Полька)
Moderato. Tempo di Polka (B-flat major, 30 bars).
- Italian Song (Итальянская песенка)
Moderato assai (D major, 49 bars).
- Old French Song (Старинная французская песенка)
Molto moderato (G minor, 32 bars).
- German Song (Немецкая песенка)
Molto moderato (E-flat major, 26 bars).
- Neapolitan Song (Неаполитанская песенка)
Andante (E-flat major, 54 bars).
- Nanny's Story (Нянина сказка)
Moderato (C major, 48 bars).
- The Sorcerer (Баба-Яга)
Presto (E minor, 45 bars).
- Sweet Dreams (Сладкая греза)
Moderato (C major, 48 bars).
- Lark Song (Песня жаворонка)
Moderato (G major, 32 bars).
- The Organ-Grinder Sings (Шарманщик поет)
Andante (G major, 32 bars).
- In Church (В церкви)
Moderato (E minor, 52 bars).
The sequence of numbers differs in Tchaikovsky's autograph score, where they appear in the following order: 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 9, 6, 7, 8, 14, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, and 23.
In a letter of 30 April/12 May 1878 to Nadezhda von Meck, the composer wrote: "A while ago I thought that it would not be a bad idea to make a small contribution to the stock of children's musical literature, which is very modest. I want to create a series of little individual pieces just for children, and with an attractive title, like Schumann's" .
Some months before this letter was written, while staying in Florence on 14/26 February, Tchaikovsky told Pyotr Jurgenson that he wanted "to write a number of easy pieces, like Kinderstück" . Evidently, the idea of creating a collection of pieces for young people had not been abandoned by the composer, and after his return to Kamenka in April he decided to begin composition. In the aforementioned letter to Nadezhda von Meck, he informed her: "Tomorrow I shall start work on my collection of miniatures for children".
On 1/13 May the composer wrote to Anatoly Tchaikovsky: "I'm working well and have done rather a lot" . On 4/16 May the sketches for all 24 pieces were ready . Shortly afterwards, Tchaikovsky accepted an invitation from Nadezhda von Meck to stay at her Brailov estate until the end of May/beginning of June, before spending a few days in Moscow; from there he went to spend five days with his friend Nikolay Kondratyev at Nizy, and in mid/late June he called at Kiev, before returning to Verbovka. In the days following his arrival, he began to put the finishing touches to all the pieces written in April and May. The fair copy of the Children's Albumwas begun, it seems, on 13/25 July .
By 20 July/1 August the copying out was completed, and on 21 July/2 August the composer told Nadezhda von Meck that he was working on the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom .
On 29 July/10 August the manuscript of the Children's Album, along with a number of other compositions, was sent to Pyotr Jurgenson in Moscow . In October, after the proofs had been corrected, the album was published .
The Children's Album was published in volume 52 of the Complete Collected Works (1948), edited by Anatoly Drozdov, and in volume 69b of the New Complete Edition of Tchaikovsky's works (2001), edited by Thomas Kohlhase.