It was Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen and Album fur die Jugend that inspired Tchaikovsky to start composition on his Children’s Album in 1878. He dedicated the set to his nephew Vladimir Davidoff (Bobik) who was 7 years old. ‘For a long time I have been saying to myself that it would be a good thing to contribute, within the limits of my powers, to the enrichment of the piano literature for children, which is rather poor. I would like to compose a series of very easy little pieces with attractive titles like Schumann did’ he wrote to his patron Mme von Meck. In less than a week of writing these words he had completed the 24 pieces of his Children’s Album. Like Schumann’s works, there is nothing childlike about the music, rather it displays an adult mind totally understanding of a child’s view of the world, together with a tender nostalgia.
Tchaikovsky’s Op.39 proved so popular that later Russian composers also composed works for children. In the Soviet period Prokofiev composed his Music for Children (1935), wonderfully fresh music far removed from dry didactic texts most children had for piano study. In 1947 Shostakovich composed his Children’s Pieces for his daughter Galina. Rather more closely related to traditional teaching pieces that Prokofiev’s Music for Children, they nonetheless instil rather charmingly the academic notion of a happy ‘major’ and a sad ‘minor’ by inverting it in A Merry Story in E minor, and a Sad Story in G major.
• Recording made in 1991
• Booklet notes