Slavonic March, Op. 31

In June 1876 Serbia went to war with Turkey, which was joined by Russian voluntary troops. In Moscow the Russian Musical Society organised a charity concert to raise money for the wounded soldiers. For this occasion the Society commissioned a new work from Tchaikovsky. Premi?red on 17 November 1876, Marche Slave (Slavonic March) triggered a huge outburst of patriotic emotions. One eyewitness reported that after the performance, ‘The rumpus and roar that broke out in the hall beggars description. The whole audience rose to its feet, many jumped up upon their seats: cries of “bravo” and “hurrah” were mingled together. The march had to be repeated, after which the same storm broke out afresh…It was one of the most stirring moments of 1876. Many in the hall were weeping.’Slavonic March is not a march in the traditional sense, but rather, a ten-minute, sonata-form concert piece interspersed with illustrative elements. The original title that appears in the autograph manuscript is Serbo-Russian Marchon Slavonic folk songs on account of the fact that Tchaikovsky used three Serbian melodies for his work. Midway through the Russian national anthem at the time (‘God Save the Tsar’) appears, played by the strings reinforced with trombones, only to return triumphantly before the brilliant coda that ends the work.