1872: Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name-Day in A minor

SATURDAY, May 2, 2020

1872: Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name-Day, age 32

There is one movement: Andantino quasi Allegretto (A minor, 50 bars), lasting around 3 minutes in performance.


  • flute, 2 clarinets (in A) + horn (in F), trumpet (in D)
  • strings

Here again we can see the complicated relationship Tchaikovsky had with the Rubinstein brothers. Nicolai was the younger brother, only seven years older. By this time Tchaikovsky  was 32, not longer a student and no longer under the control of the Rubinsteins. But he still seemed to be emotionally attached to them and worried about their opinions. They were powerful men in the educational systems he was linked to, and therefore potentially dangerous. Why did he wrote a piece for Nikolai Rubinstein? How much of it was friendship, and how much was it political? We don’t know, but I’d wager politics played a big role.

What is the right name?

It’s also known as the Serenade in A major, and it is yet again a composition with no opus number, meaning that it was not considered important enough to number until after Tchaikovsky died in 1893. This piece was composed and orchestrated in December 1872 for the name-day celebrations of Nikolai Rubinstein, and it is only a bit more than two minutes long.


flute, 2 clarinets (in A), horn (in F), trumpet (in D), violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.

The celebration…

Students and colleagues at the Moscow Conservatory traditionally celebrated the name-day of the founder of the institution, Nikolay Rubinstein. Tchaikovsky’s manuscript score is dated 1/13 December 1872, and includes a note by Karl Albrecht:

“Serenade, composed by P. I. Tchaikovsky and performed on 6 Dec. 1872 [O.S.] by students of the Conservatory at 6 pm for the name-day of Nikolai Grigoryevich Rubinstein.”

(O.S. refers to the use of the Julian calendar instead of the modern Gregorian calendar.)


It was played in Nikolai Rubinstein’s apartment in Moscow on 6/18 December 1872. Then it was not played again until its public premiere in Moscow on 5 November 1953 by members of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Konstantin Ivanov.


The Serenade was published for the first time in 1961 in volume 24 of Tchaikovsky’s Complete Collected Works, edited by Irina Iordan.

2 thoughts on “1872: Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein’s Name-Day in A minor

  1. Were the Rubinsteins the “traditional” ones – and does this serenade have a more traditional sound? I do not yet trust what my ears hear, but that’s what I think I hear.

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