Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky (Arensky)

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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.[1] It was based on the theme from the song "Legend: Christ in His Garden", the fifth of Sixteen Children’s Songs, Op. 54.[2]

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.[3][4]

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.[1][3]


The Variations are set out in the following sequence:[1]

  • Theme, Moderato
  • Variation I, Un poco più mosso
  • Variation II, Allegro non troppo
  • Variation III, Andantino tranquillo
  • Variation IV, Vivace
  • Variation V, Andante
  • Variation VI, Allegro con spirito
  • Variation VII, Andante con moto
  • Coda: Moderato.