Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Souvenir d'un lieu cher Op42 (1878)
Orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov

1. Méditation
2. Scherzo
3. Melodie (Chant sans paroles)

Souvenir d'un lieu cher (memories of a dear place) is a collection of three pieces for violin and piano. The first - Méditation - was written in Clarens in Switzerland in March 1878. Tchaikovsky originally intended it to be the slow movement of his violin concerto, but later replaced it with the more substantial Canzonetta and recast it for violin and piano. The other two movements were composed in May of the same year on the estate of his benefactress, Nadeja von Meck at Brailovo in Ukraine which is the "dear place" of the title. It was published in in May 1879. There is no record of the first performance.

The original manuscript was given to Nadeja von Meck. In an accompanying letter Tchaikovsky wrote "I have left my pieces with Marcel (the estate manager) to give to you. In my opinion, the first of these is the best, but it gave me the most trouble; it is called Méditation and is to be played a tempo Andante. The second is a very brisk scherzo, and the third - Chant sans paroles. On giving these pieces to Marcel I experienced an indescribable melancholy, which stayed with me even as I sat down to write this; until I saw the lilacs still in full bloom, the grass still long, and the roses only just starting to blossom!"

After Tchaikovsky's death an arrangement was made for violin and orchestra by Alexander Glazunov, and was published in 1896. It is in this version that the piece is best known. There is also a version for violin and string orchestra by Alexandru Lascae.

The work is very characteristic of Tchaikovsky's style. It is built on beautiful melodies, with a Russian folk inflection, and contains a variety of contrasting sections. The outer movements are written in a gentle lyrical style, whereas the scherzo is fast and furious creating a mood of stormy anger. The trio section is based on a simple melody with a tinge of sadness about it. The solo part exemplifies Tchaikovsky's mastery of violin writing, using as it does a wide range of timbres and effects.

Tchaikovsky's Souvenir d'un lieu cher was performed on the 4th July 2009 by Mihkel Kerem (violin) with the Portobello orchestra conducted by Anthony Weeden.