Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33
In this lesson, renowned cellist Alexander Chaushian and his student Kioumarz Kian explore Tchaikovsky's elegant piece, Variations on a Rococo Theme. While a variety of topics are addressed, there are three underlying subjects that are heavily emphasized.
Firstly, Chausian advises Kian to evoke a singing quality in his playing. Secondly, the student is cautioned against rushing through the piece. Lastly, the professor stresses the importance of organizing one's musical ideas in order to better communicate the trajectory of the performance. Matters relating to bowing, fingering, and dynamics are also touched upon in this masterclass for cello.
Playing with more contrast.
Adding a singing quality to the sound.
Organizing musical ideas.
Maintaining the tempo and avoid rushing.
Fingering and bowing techniques.
Variation on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 is a piece for cello composed between 1876 and 1877 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is usually played with a small orchestra. The composer claimed it as one of his best works.
Tchaikovsky was deeply passionate about the classical period, and especially Mozart, which can be heard throughout the whole work. Furthermore, it is a particularly challenging piece for a cello soloist, since the structure is complex and the finale is very demanding and fast-paced.
This oeuvre is dedicated to the cellist Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, who played it first in Moscow in November 1877 and was very well received by the audience. Fitzenhagen went on a tour of Europe and infamously wrote a lot of modifications to the music sheet, even though Tchaikovsky disagreed with most of them.
Aim for excellence! You can improve your skills with expert advice. Download the annotated sheet music of this cello masterclass. Please note that this piece has been annotated in accordance to Alexander Chausian’s feedback and comments.
Winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2002
Regarded as one of the finest cellists, Alexander Chaushian has performed extensively throughout the world as a soloist with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, The London Mozart Players, The Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, The Boston Pops, and The Armenian Philharmonic. He has given highly acclaimed performances in such venues as London’s Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Wigmore Hall, Sala Verdi Milan, Konzerthaus Vienna, Suntory Hall Japan, and more. He performs regularly in festivals throughout the world and is the Artistic Director of the International Pharos Chamber Music Festival in Cyprus and the Yerevan Music Festival in Armenia.
After studying in Armenia, Alexander Chaushian continued his studies in the UK at the Menuhin School and the Guildhall School, London. He then pursued advanced studies at the Hochschule Berlin, graduating with distinction in 2005. He is a laureate prize winner of many international competitions, including the 12th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the ARD Competition in Germany. As an alumnus of Young Concert Artists, New York, he toured extensively in the USA.
Among the many distinguished musicians whom he has collaborated with are Yehudi Menuhin, Julia Fischer, Levon Chilingirian, Yuri Bashmet, Diemut Poppen, François-Frédéric Guy, Emmanuel Pahud. His regular chamber music partner is Yevgeny Sudbin.
Born in Votkinsk, Russia on April 25th, 1840, composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the son of a metalworker and a French immigrant, and the second of six children.
Young Pyotr showed an interest in music early on and, although destined to be a public servant at first, was placed under the care of a professional music teacher by his father shortly after the sudden death of his mother from cholera.
He travelled through Europe extensively and settled in St-Petersburg when he was a young man, to study music at the newly founded conservatory. Tchaikovsky had a very private life that was constantly under scrutiny due to his rising fame. He married a young woman to avoid questions about his sexual orientation, but was very unhappy. By 1878, he began to write music full time after finding a patroness outside Russia and wrote most of his most famous works such as the opera Eugene Onegin, the Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, and the Violin Concerto in D Major. Tchaikovsky grew tired of his busy city life and rented a place in the countryside, where he spent his days walking, reading, and composing music. He died of cholera in 1893 at the age of 53 after drinking unboiled water.
Tchaikovsky's legacy reaches many people thanks to a very emotionally involving and rich musical landscape that keeps seducing audiences all over the world.