Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky (Arensky)

Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a, a piece for string orchestra by Anton Arensky, started out as the slow movement of his String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 35. It was written in 1894, the year after the death of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, in a tribute to that composer. It was based on the theme from the song „Legend: Christ in His Garden“, the fifth of Sixteen Children’s Songs, Op. 54.

Tchaikovsky’s song was originally set to a Russian translation by Aleksey Pleshcheyev of an English poem called „Roses and Thorns“ by the American poet Richard Henry Stoddard.

At the first performance of the quartet, the slow movement was so well received that Arensky soon arranged it as a separate piece for string orchestra, Op. 35a, in which form it has remained among the most popular of all Arensky’s works.

Arensky also made a version of the quartet for the unusual scoring of violin, viola and two cellos.

The Variations are set out in the following sequence: