The Riddle of Tchaikovsky’s Song Simple Words (op. 60 № 5)

Загадка романса П. И. Чайковского «Простые слова» (op. 60 № 5)

Twelve Romances, Op. 60 dedicated to Empress Maria Feodorovna (1886), is P.I.Tchaikovsky’s most multipart chamber vocal opus. No. 5 Simple Words occupies a special place in it. On the one hand, it belongs to a group of songs, for which Tchaikovsky used his own texts and is singled out by its unusual title. On the other, it is understudied and rarely performed. Furthermore, researchers assess it very differently: they either criticize it or find it perplexing. It pales in comparison with the famous masterpieces of this opus, making the impression of an inset piece. Nevertheless, it raises a number of questions. Who does the protagonist address? From whom does the appeal come? What is its subject? The author of this paper offers his own interpretation. His analysis of the text and the music suggests that in Simple Words Tchaikovsky depicted Emperor Alexander III in the genre of a musical portrait. This may provide clues to a new understanding of this song and of the entire Op. 60 cycle. An authorized copy of Simple Words from the collection of the State Hermitage Scientific Library is published in the Appendix for the first time.


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