The Kennedy Center

Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34

About the Work

Painting of Tchaikovsky Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
© Peter Laki

A perfect companion piece for the Sérénade, the Valse-scherzo shows Tchaikovsky's lighter side. In the second half of the 19th century, the waltz was all the rage all over Europe (including Russia). Yet no symphonic composer, not even Brahms who was excessively fond of this dance, gave it as wide a range of characters as did Tchaikovsky, who featured it in his symphonies and other works including his operas and, of course, his three great evening-filling ballets. In the Valse-scherzo, the waltz becomes a vehicle for the violin soloist, with abundant double-stops and other virtuoso fireworks. Like the Sérénade, it is in ABA form, with a contrasting middle section where one particular melodic turn strongly anticipates the Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky's next major work. The Valsescherzo is also concerto-like in that it includes an extended cadenza between the middle section and the recapitulation. In the latter, the waltz theme picks up even more momentum than it had the first time, with an even more dazzling flourish added at the end.